15 Gold Medal Facts About the Summer Olympics
Italy's Dorando Pietri winning the marathon at the London Olympics in 1908. He was eventually disqualified for receiving help from the judges.
In 1894 French historian Pierre de Coubertin had an idea – let’s foster international relations through sport – and thus the modern Olympics, based on the original Greek competitions, were born.
Some elements of the new games were updated from Greek tradition (athletes didn’t have to compete in the nude) while others, sadly, remained par for the course (no women or people of colour allowed).
Still, without de Coubertin’s idea, which thankfully grew more inclusive in short order, we wouldn’t have the all of the things the Olympics are known for today. No, I don’t mean doping investigations and Zika virus concerns. I’m talking brilliant feats of athletic achievement accomplished by some of the world’s greatest sportswomen and men.
To celebrate the 2016 Summer Games we’ve dug deep into Olympics history to find 15 of the most interesting “gold medal facts” you can imagine – nuggets of trivia that will make you the toast of any Olympic party.
1. The Ancient Olympics, carried out in honour of Zeus, ran from at least 776 B.C.-393 A.D. when Roman Emperor Theodosius I, adverse to these pagan antics, snuffed out the Olympic flame for a millennia and a half.
6. A number of Olympic sports that appeared in various instalments of the modern games have been discontinued, though some are harder to believe than others, such as tug of war, pistol duels, deer and pigeon shooting and literature and art competitions. Yes, literature and art.
7. Two people in history have medalled in both a sport and an art competition. American Walter Winans won gold in both deer shooting (1908) and sculpture (1912) while Alfréd Hajós of Hungary took home gold in swimming (1896) and a silver in architecture (1924).
8. Sweden’s Oscar Swahn holds the record for oldest summer Olympian ever when he competed in the sport of shooting at the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium at age 72. He won silver, making him the oldest medalist in the Games’ history and, at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden, he became the oldest gold medalist in history when he won for shooting at age 64.
11. Athletics, cycling, fencing, gymnastics and swimming are the only sports to have occurred in every Summer Olympics in the modern age.
12. Bangladesh is the most populous country to have never won a medal at the Summer Olympics.
13. Whether through an athlete competing under the nation’s flag, or someone born in one nation but competing for another, only five countries have fielded competitors at every Summer Olympics: Australia, France, Great Britain, Greece and Switzerland.