When did the Olympics start? A deep dive into the history of the Olympics

When did the Olympics start? A deep dive into the history of the Olympics

Helix Odhiambo
updated at April 12, 2023 at 8:25 PM

The Olympics is an exciting and inspiring event in sports, where athletes from different countries compete for gold, silver, and bronze medals. It happens every four years and features a variety of games, including football, gymnastics, swimming, and track and field events. So, when did the Olympics start? Let's explore everything synonymous with the famous tournament.

When did the Olympics start, and where?
The winner of the marathon, Spiridon Louis, on arrival at the stadium, Athens Olympics, in Greece,1896. Photo: EA Picture Library
Source: Getty Images

According to sources, over 2 billion people watched the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing across linear TV and digital platforms. An indication of the importance of the sport to fans globally. So, when and where were the first Olympics held?

History of Olympic games

The event's origin dates back to 776 BC when the first games took place in the summer at Olympia, southern Greece. The Greeks organised the games in honour of their most famous god, Zeus, king of the gods. However, the games were banned in AD 393 by the Romans after conquering Greece in the second century BC. After many years of absence, the event returned in 1896.

When did the Olympics start, and where?

Where were the first Olympics held?
The Panathenaic Stadium, home of the 1896 Games. Photo: Bill Murray
Source: Getty Images

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According to ancient Olympic history, the International Olympic Committee got founded in 1894, following interventions by Pierre de Coubertin. Meanwhile, the first IOC Games occurred in 1896 Summer, in Athens, Greece.

Where were the first Olympics held?

The first official international games took place in 1896 in Athens. The tournament attracted 280 participants from 13 nations competing in 43 events.

Which was the first Olympics event?

The first sports games in the competition in 1896 were track-and-field, swimming, gymnastics, cycling, wrestling, weightlifting, fencing, shooting, and tennis. Today, the Olympics has about 40 sports.

Modern Olympic games
Usain Bolt (2ndL) reacts after crossing the finish line ahead of Justin Gatlin (R), Andre De Grasse (L) and Jimmy Vicaut to win the Men's 100m Final in Rio games on 14 August 2016. Photo: Oliver Morin
Source: Getty Images

Over the years, the world has witnessed athletes participate in various sports in the Olympics. However, they attract different kinds of audiences. Some usually pool millions of people to the screen because of their competitiveness. Here are the most followed games in the quartet event.

  • Gymnastics
  • Tennis
  • Track and Field
  • Swimming
  • Weightlifting
  • Soccer
  • Basketball
  • Ruby 7s
  • Golf

Modern Olympic games

History of Olympic games
Team China competes during the Tokyo 2020 Games at Ariake Gymnastics Centre on 8 August 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Photo: Fu Tian
Source: Getty Images

During the ancient days, the IOC organised only one event before the emergence of the Winter Games. The first Winter event took place in Chamonix (France) in 1924. It was initially called International Winter Sports Week, then rebranded to the 1st Olympic Winter Games in 1926.

During that time, the competition only had six sports; bobsleigh, ice hockey, curling, skiing, skating and the military patrol race. The decision to create a separate winter competition took place at the 1925 IOC session in Prague.

Why were the Olympics held 2 years instead of 4?

The Summer and Winter Olympics took place in the same calendar year for many years. However, in 1986, the IOC voted to change the schedule. Instead, the two events were separated, allowing the Winter games to be featured every two years.

The last time the IOC held the summer and winter events in the same year was in Barcelona (Summer) and Albertville (Winter) in 1992. The decision to have the winter games every two years was to give it more prominence. It also generated more money for the IOC from TV rights.

Covid19 disruption

Why were the Olympics held 2 years instead of 4?
IOC President, Thomas Bach, made a speech during the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Games in Tokyo, Japan, on 23 July 2021. Photo: Maddie Meyer
Source: Getty Images

The 2020 Tokyo Games took place in 2021 due to the spread of covid19 that brought many sporting activities to a halt. It began on 23 July to 8 August 2021. As a result, the Beijing Winter events were also pushed to 2-4 February 2022.

Top 10 greatest Summer Olympics games

The ICO has organised over 32 competitions in more than 20 cities globally. Some produced spectacular performances that left many fans yearning for more action, while others had little entertainment. The London 2012 edition ranks the most entertaining, with a fantastic atmosphere across all sports. Others are Beijing 2008 and Sydney 2000.

Host City




















United States







Los Angeles


United States



South Korea

Summer and Winter games schedule

Many athletes and fans are already looking forward to upcoming games. Paris will host the next edition of the summer events in 2024 and Los Angeles in 2028.

  • Paris 2024 (26 July - 11 August) - Summer
  • Milano Cortina 2026 (6-2 February) - Winter
  • Los Angeles 2024 (14 - 30 July) - Summer
  • Unknown (8-24 February) - Winter
  • Brisbane 2032 (23 July - 8 August) - Summer

When did the Olympics start, and how did it evolve? Well, you now have all the details about the competition. It remains one of the most-anticipated events in sports history as athletes battle for gold, silver, and bronze, and strive to make their countries proud.

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Helix Odhiambo photo
Helix Odhiambo
Helix Odhiambo is an award-winning Kenyan journalist and content creator with over 6 years of experience. In 2016, he won the Goal Blaze Correspondent Award for young writers.