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Olympic Traditions and Symbols

General Knowledge | 9-12 yrs | Interactive, Learning Pod


The Olympic message according to its founder Pierre de Coubertin says –

“The most important thing about the 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.”

What he is saying here is that getting to the Olympics and getting the opportunity to compete against world class athletes is an achievement in itself. He also says that the lessons you learn about yourself and about life along the way will be more valuable in the long run than the medals you get for winning.


Citius, Altius, Fortius

The motto of the games is different from the creed but is similar in what it says. Citius, Altius, Fortius translates into Swifter, Higher, Stronger. This inspiring string of words is meant to inspire the athletes to compete to the best of their capabilities and always strive to be better.


The Olympic symbol is 5 interlocked circles. The top three rings are blue, black and red, and the bottom two are yellow and green. They represent the continents of the world, grouping the Americas (north and south) into 1 ring and leaving out Antarctica since there are no nations on it and hence no representation at the games. The Olympic flag is a white background with the symbol in the center. The first time it was used was at the Antwerp games in 1920.


The Olympic flame is a tradition that the modern games inherited from its ancient ancestor. In a grand ceremony involving 12 women who represent the Vestal Virgins, the flame is lit at the site of the temple of Zeus in Greece using a fancy magnifying glass. Every games is officially opened only once the Olympic flame is lit. It is kept lit for the duration of the games. Before the flame reaches the stadium, a torch is lit from the temple and travels to every country participating in the games. Except for when the flame has to cross over sea, it is carried by hand.


At the opening ceremony of the games the athletes take an oath to not cheat and respect their fellow competitors. One athlete is chosen to to take the oath on behalf of all athletes as all the teams look on. This was also used for the first time during the Antwerp games in 1920.

This is the verbatim oath the athletes take:

“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.”

The Olympic torch is lit at the site of an ancient statues of the Greek god Zeus. This was actually one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. Can you find out what the other 6 are?

To read and watch more interesting General Knowledge articles and videos, go here.