Olympics A to Z

We take a look through the alphabet at the modern Games

Last Updated: 22/07/11 3:21pm

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Nadia Comaneci: First gymnast to score perfect 10

Nadia Comaneci: First gymnast to score perfect 10

As we get ever closer to the Beijing Games we count down through the alphabet to highlight some of the key events, names and incidents that have punctuated the modern era.

A is for Athens

On April 6, 1896, King George I of Greece declared the first Olympic Games of modern times open in Athens. The revival of the ancient Olympics attracted about 200 male athletes from 14 countries. The largest delegation, however, came from Greece and the people of Athens greeted the Games with great enthusiasm and interest.

B is for 'Black Power' salute

During the medal presentation ceremony for the 200 metres at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos, gold and bronze medal winners respectively, raised a black-gloved fist and hung their heads when their country's national anthem was played. They were protesting against racial segregation in the US.

C is for Carl Lewis

The American sprinter and long jumper is one of only four athletes to have won nine gold medals and one of only three to have won the same individual event four times.

D is for Daley Thompson

In his first Olympics in 1976, Thompson finished 18th in the decathlon. He was only 18 and the youngest competitor in the event. He won gold in Moscow and returned for a third time in 1984 in Los Angeles where he faced stiff competition from nemesis Jurgen Hingsen of West Germany.

E is for electronic timing

This technology, along with the photo-finish camera, had been used since the Stockholm Games in 1912 but it was not until Mexico City in 1968 that electronic timing was regarded as the official measuring device. Until then, performances were recorded both electronically and manually.

F is for Fanny Blankers-Koen

Francina 'Fanny' Blankers-Koen first made her debut at the 1936 Games as a high jumper. It was at the London Games 12 years later where she etched her name in Olympic history. At age 30 and the mother of two, she won the 100m, 200m, 80m hurdles and anchored the victorious relay team. She was deprived of more medals by a rule limiting women to three individual events in track and field athletics. She is the only woman to have won four gold medals at one Olympics.

G is for gold

Gold, silver and bronze medals were first introduced at the 1904 Games in St Louis. Prior to that, winners were presented a silver medal and an olive branch. The first time medals were hung around the necks of the victors was at the Rome Olympics in 1960. The medals were suspended on a chain of laurel leaves.

H is for Harold Abrahams

Abrahams took gold for Great Britain in the 100 metres at the 1924 Games in Paris, an event recounted in the Academy Award-winning Hugh Hudson film 'Chariots of Fire'.

I is for International Olympic Committee

The IOC is the supreme authority of the Olympic Movement. It chooses the host city and organises both the summer and winter Olympic Games. It oversees the Games, promotes top-level sport and encourages by appropriate means the participation of women in sport.

J is for Jesse Owens

Owens, the grandson of slaves, put Adolf Hitler's theory of Aryan racial superiority to shame at the 1936 Games in Berlin. Owens broke five world records and equalled a sixth in the space of 45 minutes. His long jump world record of 8.13m would stay unbeaten for 25 years. Owen's long jump rival, Germany's Luz Long, publicly befriended him in front of the Nazis.

K is for Kenenisa Bekele

The son of a farmer, Bekele's inspiration was fellow Ethiopian Haile Gebrselassie. In the run-up to the 2004 Athens Games, Bekele broke Gebrselassie's record in the 10,000m and the 5000m. At the Olympics, he ran alongside Gebrselassie, his idol in 10,000m and the Ethiopians took charge midway through. Gebrselassie began to tire and Bekele slowed down to let him catch up. Bekele eventually won, setting an Olympic record in the process.

L is for Lasse Viren

As if doing the 5,000m and 10,000m double twice was not enough, Viren wrote his place in Olympic history in dramatic fashion. During his first final, the 10,000m in 1972, he stumbled and fell just before halfway but got up to win in a world record time.

M is for the Munich massacre

The 1972 Games was the largest to date, but was completely overshadowed after 11 members of the Israel team were killed by Palestinian terrorists who had broken into the Games Village. The Olympics was suspended, but it was to continue 34 hours later in defiance of terrorism.

N is for Nadia Comaneci

The Romanian was the first gymnast to score a perfect 10. The 14-year-old first achieved the feat on the uneven bars in the 1976 Games. She eventually earned the mark seven times in the Games. In the 1976 and 1980 Games she bagged a total of nine Olympic medals.

O is for opening ceremony

This traditionally features artistic displays of dance and theatre of the host country. Over the years, the ceremonies have evolved into the mega event as we know it today. It still, however, follows the rules laid out in the opening ceremony protocol.

P is for Pierre de Coubertin

The Baron, the father of the modern Olympics, was an active sportsman and was convinced that sport was the springboard of moral energy. Bent on reviving the ancient games, De Coubertin launched the IOC on June 23, 1894. Demetrius Vikelas from Greece was its first president.

Q is for quadrennial

The modern Olympic Games has been held every four years from 1896 except for 1916, 1940 and 1944 which were cancelled following the outbreak of the First and Second World Wars respectively.

R is for rings

The emblem of the Olympic Games consists of five interlocking rings (blue, yellow, black, green and red respectively) representing the five continents. The emblem was originally designed by Baron Pierre de Coubertin (see P) in 1913. The rings are depicted against a white background and the six colours were chosen because they appeared on all national flags at that time. The Olympic flag made its debut at the Antwerp Games in 1920 when it was unfurled.

S is for Steffi Graf

The German was only 15 when she won her first Olympic tennis gold in 1984. In 1988, Graf had already won the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon before winning the US Open only a week before the Olympics. She completed a 'Golden Slam' by beating Gabriela Sabatini 6-3 6-3 in the final of the Olympics tennis event.

T is for Tokyo

In ruins after World War II bombings, Japan's remarkable recovery was showcased at the Tokyo Games in 1964. It was the first to be held in Asia and also the last time a cinder track was used for athletics. Yoshinori Sakai was chosen to light the Olympic flame because he was born on August 6, 1945, the day Hiroshima was destroyed by an atom bomb.

U is for under-23

The Olympic football tournament is made up largely of players under the age of 23, making it a tantalising glimpse into what future World Cups may look like.

V is for village

The first semblance of a Games village was at the 1924 Paris Games when organisers built cabins near the Stade Olympique de Colombes to enable athletes easy access to venues. At Los Angeles 1932, male athletes were, for the first time ever, housed in a single village. The women stayed at a luxury hotel, but were brought into the fold in later editions.

W is for World Anti-Doping Agency

WADA, an independent body, came into existence in 1999 as the IOC strengthened their efforts in the fight against drugs. Sweden's Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall was the first athlete to test positive for doping. He lost a bronze medal at the 1968 Mexico Games when he tested positive for excessive alcohol.

X is for Xiang

Liu Xiang stunned the world of athletics when he claimed China's first Olympic gold medal in a men's track and field in the 110m hurdles in Sydney four years ago, equalling Colin Jackson's 11-year-old world record of 12.91secs. A national hero for the 2008 hosts, he also set a new world best of 12.88 in Lausanne in July 2006, though this was recently broken by Cuba's Dayron Robles.

Y is for Yelena Isinbayeva

Russian pole vaulter who became Olympic champion in Sydney eight years ago with a new world record (then 4.91m) and was elected Female Athlete of the Year by the IAAF twice (2004 and 2005). In July 2005, she became the first female pole vaulter to clear the metric barrier of five metres.

Z is for Zatopek

Famed for his tough training methods, Czech athlete Emil Zatopek won four Olympic gold medals, including three at the 1952 Games. Having won the 5km and 10km titles in Helsinki, he decided to compete in his first marathon - and won. Following the Prague Spring of 1968, he was sent to work in a uranium mine after supporting the democratic wing of the Communist party. He died in 2000.
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