The History of the Olympic Flag and Its Five Rings

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The Olympic flag, and its five rings, was first flown at the 1920 games in Antwerp, Belgium. After that unveiling, the flag has been flown at every Olympic event, both summer and winter, ever since. This symbol is one of the most widely recognized symbols in the word today.

This got me to wondering about the flag and its history.

Pierre de Coubertin

Pierre de Coubertin was a Frenchman; he was a Baron who is considered the father of the modern day Olympics and the founder of the International Olympic Committee. Back in 1896, through Baron de Coubertin's hard work and belief in education and athletics, the Olympic Games were reestablished.

Naturally, the place to hold these games was Athens, Greece, the birthplace of the Olympics. Baron de Coubertin intended for these games to be an international event. And they were! But it wasn't until the 1912 Games in Stockholm, Sweden, that, for the first time, there were athletes representing five continents. One year later, in 1913, Pierre De Coubertin wrote a letter, and on top of the correspondence, he drew what we know today as the Olympic rings. He colored the rings in by hand. From this symbol, Coubertin gave birth to the Olympic flag, a concept he presented to the 1914 Olympic Congress in Paris.

Sadly, World War I prevented the Olympics from being celebrated in 1916. But four years later, the 1920 Games were held in Antwerp, Belgium. Coubertin's flag flew at Antwerp, and has flown ever since.

Meaning of the Olympic Rings

The five rings represented the five continents participating in the Olympic Games (combining North and South America into the continent America). Baron Pierre de Coubertin wanted the Olympic flag to be universally accepted and a symbol that would encourage world unity. The five multicolored rings stand for the five continents where the athletes traveled from to participate in the Games. They are interlocking to prove that all nations can come together and compete against one another in unity. No one specific color refers to one specific continent, but rather, the combination of the five colors on a white background, ensures every nation's flag is represented by at least one color.

The Olympic flag, and its colorful rings, still flies today. Thanks to Pierre de Coubertin, this symbol of the Games will live on long after records are broken and athletes are cheered.

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