When the Olympics open in Rio de Janeiro this year, history will have been made. It will be the first time that a South American city has ever hosted the Games, and already some interesting and touching stories have been told.
Near the beginning of the Olympic Torch's journey, the flame was carried by a Syrian refugee through Greece's Eloenas refugee camp. Ibrahim al-Hussein, an electrician who was a competitive sportsman in Syria before losing part of his leg in a bombing, was among the one million migrants who risked their lives crossing to Greece in inflatable boats.
This year, the International Olympic Committee has confirmed that there will be a team of up to 10 athletes forming the Team of Refugee Olympic Athletes (ROA) competing under the Olympic flag. IOC president Thomas Bach explained that the team's formation is intended to send a message of hope to all refugees, wherever they are in the world. Just like the other teams, they will be housed in the Olympic Village and will take part in the opening ceremony. They will enter the stadium as the penultimate team, in front of Brazil, to join 10,500 other athletes from 206 countries to compete in the Games.
Return of two sports to the Games
Golf is being reinstated as an Olympic sport, after 112 years of absence. Men's and Women's tournaments will be played out over 72 holes of individual play, which will be four rounds on four days consecutively. In the event of a tie, tie-breaker rounds will be played.
Rugby Union also makes a return after it was dropped 92 years ago, but in 2016 it will be the faster paced, shorter Sevens version that makes its debut, instead of the traditional 15 a side game. With tournaments for both men and women, this exciting version of the game has already been successfully introduced into the 2014 Youth Olympic programme.
During London 2012, 70,000 volunteers were widely regarded for playing their part in 'making the Games happen'. This year, Rio is recruiting the same number; 50,000 volunteers from within Brazil, and the remaining 20,000 from other countries, notably the U.S., U.K., China and Russia. In Rio, even the taxi drivers (known as taxistas) have been given the opportunity to sign up for free, four month long, online English lessons to help them communicate with international visitors during the Games.
From Athens to Rio
The Olympic flame is doing a 90 day tour of Brazil before it arrives for the opening ceremony on 5th August. The flame itself is a tradition that goes back to the Ancient Games where it would be lit by the sun and kept burning for the duration. The Modern Games, which began in 1896, didn't have a flame until 1928, and it wasn't until 1936 that the Olympic Torch Relay was introduced. Lit at the ancient site in Olympia, and carried to the Olympic stadium in the hosting city, it symbolises the link between the ancient and modern Games.
The Modern Games has come a long way from its inception in 1896. Taking place in Athens, athletes from just 14 nations competed, and it was at this Games where the marathon was run for the very first time. The running event was staged as a 25 mile run from the city Marathon to Athens. This followed in the footsteps of the Greek messenger Pheidippides, who ran the distance from the battlefields of Marathon to communicate a message of victory against the Persians in 490 B.C. According to legend, he collapsed and died after delivering his message. The distance for the event of 26 miles 385 yards was officially set in 1921, based upon the route of the marathon event run during the 1908 London Olympics.
It's not inconceivable that Pheidippides himself, during his lifetime, might even have spectated at some of the events of the Ancient Olympics. The earliest records of the Games date back to 776 B.C., and they were probably being held even earlier than that. Ancient Greek myth has it that Heracles, son of the Ancient Greek god Zeus, founded the Games. By the end of the 6th Century B.C., the Games were being held every four years in Olympia, during a religious festival honouring Zeus. They spanned over 1,000 years, before the Roman Emperor Theodosius I, a Christian, banned pagan events in A.D. 393.
The earliest known event was the 'stade', a 192 metre running race. It wasn't until 724 B.C. that other events - the 'diaulos', close to our 400 metres, and the 'dolichos', a longer distance event, perhaps similar to our 1,500 meters or 5,000 meters events were recorded. The pentathlon, (comprising a running race, long jump, discus, javelin and wrestling) debuted in 708 B.C., with boxing being introduced in 688 B.C. Chariot racing made it into the Games in 680 B.C.
In 2016, some 306 competitions in 42 different sports will be held in the numerous venues in and around Rio.
Some of the most interesting stats altogether in one place.