The first celebration of the modern Olympic Games attracted athletes from 14 nations, with the largest delegations coming from Greece, Germany, France and Great Britain.
The Games of 1900 were held in Paris as part of the Exposition Universelle Internationale - the Paris World’s Fair. The exposition organizers spread the events over five months and de-emphasized their Olympic status to such an extent that many athletes died without ever knowing that they had participated in the Olympics.
St. Louis Games
The 1904 St. Louis Olympics organizers repeated all of the mistakes of 1900. The Olympic competitions, spread out over four and a half months, were lost in the chaos of a World’s Fair. Of the 94 events generally considered to have been part of the Olympic program, only 42 included athletes who were not from the United States.
The 1908 Olympics were originally awarded to Rome, but were reassigned to London. At the Opening Ceremony, the athletes marched into the stadium by nation, as most countries sent selected national teams.
Held in Stockholm, the 1912 Olympics were a model of efficiency. The Swedish hosts introduced the first Olympic use of both automatic timing devices for the track events and a public address system.
The 1916 Olympics were scheduled to be held in Berlin, but were canceled because of what came to be known as World War I.
In 1921, the International Olympic Committee gave its patronage to a Winter Sports Week to take place in 1924 in Chamonix, France. This event was a complete success and was retroactively named the First Olympic Winter Games.
At the 1924 Games in Paris the Closing ceremony ritual of raising three flags: the flag of the International Olympic Committee, the flag of the host nation and the flag of the next host nation was introduced.
The 1928 Winter Games, hosted by St. Moritz, Switzerland, were the first to be held in a different nation than the Summer Games of the same year.
The Amsterdam Olympics of 1928 were held in an atmosphere of peace and harmony that preceded twenty years of economic uncertainty and war.
The third Winter Olympics, in 1932, were held in Lake Placid, New York State, a town of fewer than 4,000 people. Faced with major obstacles raising money in the midst of a depression, the president of the organizing committee, Dr. Godfrey Dewey, donated land owned by his family to be used for construction of a bobsleigh run.
Because the 1932 Olympics were held in the middle of the Great Depression and in the comparatively remote city of Los Angeles, half as many athletes took part as had in 1928. Nevertheless, the level of competition was extremely high and 18 world records were either broken or equalled.
The 1936 Games were held in the twin Bavarian towns of Garmisch and Partenkirchen. An efficient bus service allowed 500,000 people to attend the final day's events.
The 1936 Olympics, held in Berlin, are best remembered for Adolf Hitler’s failed attempt to use them to prove his theories of Aryan racial superiority. As it turned out, the most popular hero of the Games, was the African-American sprinter and long jumper Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals.
The 1940 Winter Olympics were scheduled for Sapporo, Japan. War with China forced the Japanese to admit, in July 1938, that they would be unable to host the Games. St. Moritz was chosen as an alternative site, but the continuing dispute about ski instructors led the Swiss to withdraw as well.
Despite the fact that the Olympic Games had not been held in either 1940 or 1944 due to World War II, interest in the Games had survived. On short notice, the city of London rose to the challenge and played host to the Games of the XIV Olympiad in 1948.
In 1952, the Olympic Winter Games were finally held in Norway, the birthplace of modern skiing.
The 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki started in spectacular fashion with Paavo Nurmi, then aged 55, entering the stadium with the Olympic flame and lighting the cauldron on the ground. Then, young football players carried the torch up to the top of the stadium tower, where another Olympic cauldron was lit by 62-year-old Hannes Kölehmainen.
The 1956 Winter Olympics, held in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, were most notable for the first appearance by a team from the USSR. The Soviets immediately won more medals than any other nation.
Melbourne / Stockholm
Melbourne won the right to host the 1956 Olympics by one vote over Buenos Aires. Australian quarantine laws were too severe to allow the entry of foreign horses, so the equestrian events were held separately in Stockholm in June.
The 1960 Squaw Valley Games were preceded by a controversy when the organizing committee refused to build a bobsleigh run because only nine nations had indicated an intention to take part. This was the only time that bobsledding was not included in the Olympic programme.
Fifty-four years after Italy had to give up hosting the Olympics, Rome finally got its chance. They made the most of their dramatic history, holding the wrestling competition in the Basilica of Maxentius. Among the other ancient sites that were used were the Caracalla Baths (gymnastics) and the Arch of Constantine (finish of the marathon).
The 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck were threatened by a lack of snow. The Austrian army rushed to the rescue, carving out 20,000 ice bricks from a mountain top and transporting them to the bobsled and luge runs.
The 1964 Tokyo Games were the first to be held in Asia. The Japanese expressed their successful reconstruction after World War II by choosing as the final torchbearer Yoshinori Sakai, who was born in Hiroshima the day that that city was destroyed by an atomic bomb.
At the 1968 Grenoble Games, drug testsfor men and women were introduced.
The choice of Mexico City to host the 1968 Olympics proved to be a controversial one because of the city's high altitude, 2,300m, which meant that the air contained 30% less oxygen than at sea level. Sure enough, the rarefied air proved disastrous to many athletes competing in endurance events.
The 1972 Sapporo Games in Japan were the first to be held outside Europe or the United States. The subject of amateurism stirred controversy when skier Karl Schranz was declared ineligible to compete because he had allowed his name and photo to be used in commercial advertising, but full-time ice hockey players from Communist nations were allowed to compete.
The 1972 Munich Games were the largest yet, setting records in all categories, with 195 events and 7,173 athletes from 121 nations. They were supposed to celebrate peace and, for the first ten days, all did indeed go well. But in the early morning of 5 September, eight Palestinian terrorists broke into the Olympic Village, killed two members of the Israeli team and took nine more hostage.
The 1976 Winter Olympics were awarded to the U.S. city of Denver, but the people of the state of Colorado voted to prohibit public funds from being used to support the Games.
The 1976 Montreal Games were marred by an African boycott to protest the fact that the national rugby team of New Zealand had toured South Africa and New Zealand was scheduled to compete in the Olympics. Women’s events were included for the first time in basketball, rowing and team handball.
The 1980 Winter Games, held in Lake Placid, New York, were filled with impressive performances. The great Swedish skier, Ingemar Stenmark, won both the giant slalom and the slalom. Hanni Wenzel did the same in the women’s races and her nation, Liechtenstein, became the smallest country to produce an Olympic champion.
A U.S.-led boycott reduced the number of participating nations to 80, the lowest number since 1956. Aleksandr Dityatin earned medals in every men's gymnastics event to become the only athlete ever to win eight medals in one Olympics.
In 1984, the Winter Games took place in a Socialist country for the first and only time. The people of Sarajevo gained high marks for their hospitality, and there was no indication of the tragic war that would engulf the city only a few years later.
Although a revenge boycott led by the Soviet Union depleted the field in certain sports, a record 140 nations took part.
Calgary was notable for a number of firsts beginning with the fact that the Winter Games were extended to 16 days, including three weekends. The Alpine events were expanded from three to five with the inclusion of the super giant slalom and the Alpine combined. Team events were added in Nordic combined and ski jumping.
Although the drug disqualification of sprinter Ben Johnson was the biggest story of the 1988 Olympics, the Seoul Games were highlighted by numerous exceptional performances.
The 1992 Albertville Olympic Games were the last Winter Games to be staged in the same year as the Summer Games. Only 18 of the 57 events were held in Albertville itself, while nearby resorts hosted the rest.
Men's basketball was open to all professionals, and the US sent a "Dream Team" that included Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. Gymnast Vitaly Scherbo won six gold medals, including a record four in one day.
In 1986 the IOC voted to change the schedule of the Olympic Games so that the Summer and Winter Games would be held in different years. To adjust to this new schedule, the Lillehammer Games were held in 1994, the only time that two Games have been staged two years apart.
The 1996 Games were given a dramatic start when the cauldron was lit by Muhammad Ali. On 27 July during a concert held in the Centennial Olympic Park, a terrorist bomb killed one person and injured a further 110 people, but the Atlanta Games are best remembered for their sporting achievements. A record-setting 79 nations won medals and 53 won gold.
In 1998 the Winter Olympic Games returned to Japan after 26 years. Snowboarding debuted as an official discipline. Curling was returned to the Olympic Winter programme this time with a tournament for both men and women. For the first time, the men's ice hockey tournament was opened to all professionals and women’s ice hockey was introduced to the Olympic programme.
The Sydney 2000 Games were the largest yet, with 10,651 athletes competing in 300 events. Despite their size, they were well organised, renewing faith in the Olympic Movement.
Salt Lake City
The Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games saw the expansion of the Olympic programme to 78 events, including the return of skeleton and the introduction of women's bobsleigh. Athletes from a record 18 nations earned gold medals.
In 2004 the Olympic Games returned to Greece, the home of both the ancient Olympics and the first modern Olympics. For the first time ever a record 201 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) participated in the Olympic Games.
A record 2,508 athletes from 80 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) competed at the Turin Winter Games, and 26 NOCs took home medals, another record.
The capital of the Middle Kingdom hosted the Games of the XXIX Olympiad. After Tokyo 1964, Sapporo 1972, Seoul 1988 and Nagano 1998, for the fifth time the Games went to Asia, the most populated continent in the world.