The Olympic Principles and Traditions
- Grades: 3–5, 6–8
Over time, the International Olympic Committee, or IOC, has established official symbols, statements, and philosophies that represent the ideals of the Games. These include the Olympic creed, motto, and symbol; the Olympic flame; the athletes' oath; and the Olympic Movement.
The Olympic Creed
The creed, or guiding principle, of the modern Olympic Games is a quote by Baron de Coubertin: "The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well."
The Olympic Motto
The Olympic motto consists of the Latin words Citius, Altius, Fortius, which means "Swifter, Higher, Stronger." The motto, introduced in 1924, is meant to spur the athletes to embrace the Olympic spirit and perform to the best of their abilities.
The Olympic Symbol
The official symbol of the modern Olympic Games is five colored rings linked together. These rings represent the continents of North and South America, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe. They also symbolize the uniting of athletes from all over the world to compete at the Olympic Games. The Olympic flag, first used at the Antwerp Games in 1920, has the Olympic symbol in the center of a white field.
The Olympic Flame
The Olympic flame symbolizes the continuity between the ancient and modern Games. Modern Games are opened officially by runners carrying a burning torch brought from the Temple of Zeus at Olympia. Except where travel by ship or plane is necessary, the torch is carried overland from Greece by a relay of athletes. At the site of the Games, the torch is used to light the flame in a giant torch, or cauldron, which burns for the duration of the Games. The flame was first used at the 1928 Games.
The Athletes' Oath
At the opening ceremonies, an athlete from the host country takes the following oath on behalf of all the athletes: "In the name of all the competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honor of our teams." Like the Olympic symbol, the oath was first used at the 1920 Games.
The Olympic Movement
The Olympic Movement is a philosophy created and promoted by the International Olympic Committee. This philosophy advocates using sport not just as a physical activity but also as a means of educating people.
According to this philosophy, the good sportsmanship, sense of fair play, and respect for fellow athletes that is developed through participation in sports teaches men and women of different races, religions, and nationalities to work peacefully together in competition toward common goals. The Olympic Movement works to expand such lessons beyond the sports arena in the hope of promoting peace and a sense of brotherhood throughout the world.
The most prominent way the IOC promotes the Olympic Movement is through the Olympic Games. But the Movement's ideals are practiced in other ways, including the promotion of environmental issues, fighting drug use among athletes, and providing financial and educational aid.
Like the ancient Greek athlete who won an olive wreath, modern Olympic winners also receive awards. The winner receives a diploma with a gold medal as first-place prize. A diploma and a silver medal are awarded for second place, and a diploma and bronze medal for third place. At the awards ceremony, the three medal winners stand on platforms as their medals are placed around their necks. The national anthem of the gold medalist's country is played, or the Olympic Hymn may be played instead if the winner's country wishes. Athletes placing fourth, fifth, and sixth receive diplomas. Each participant receives a commemorative medal.
The IOC does not recognize any nation as winner of any Olympic Games. Only winning individuals and teams are credited with victory. But newspapers publish tables indicating the numbers of medals won by each country. These figures have been used to stress the leading roles played by countries like the United States and Russia and to emphasize the competition between them.
creed: a formal statement of faith
diploma: a certificate conferring a privilege
motto: a brief statement used to express a principal or ideal
philosophy: an intellectual way of pursuing wisdom
promoting: to advance or advertise
spur: a sharp object used to urge a horse forward; something that is used as an incentive