When a commodity is taken for granted, it usually does not receive much attention. Unfairly so. Yet, especially the reliable components in our lives ready to be harvested at random if needed, deserve some limelight once in a while. The Olympic Symbol, for instance, has accompanied us since we were children. But do we know who thought it up and what it actually means – apart from being the familiar logo of an international sports event?
The five interlinked rings the Olympic Symbol consists of represent the Olympic Movement, the ties connecting the five continents and their athletes, ambitiously competing against one another every four years. But careful! It is not so that the colour of each of the rings can be attributed to one particular country, as it is often interpreted. When the rings were designed in 1913, the five colours on a white background stood for the colours found in the flags of all nations throughout the world at the time of creation.
„The Olympic Games are a pilgrimage to the past and an act of faith in the future.”
Pierre de Coubertin, French historian and educator and founder of the Olympic movement.
The history of the Olympic Rings
In 1894, the International Athletic Congress was held in Paris at Pierre de Coubertin’s initiative. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was founded in the same year. The first Olympic Games of modern times were performed in Athens, in 1896, and the Olympic flag – as introduced by Pierre de Coubertin at the Paris congress – was adopted in 1914: he had drawn and coloured it by hand.
Are today’s Olympic Games still worthy of this charter?
The Fundamental Principles of Olympism
Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind. Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example, social responsibility and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.
The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity
The Olympic Movement is the concerted, organised, universal and permanent action, carried out under the supreme authority of the IOC, of all individuals and entities who are inspired by the values of Olympism. It covers the five continents. It reaches its peak with the bringing together of the world’s athletes at the great sports festival, the Olympic Games. Its symbol is five interlaced rings.
The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.
Recognising that sport occurs within the framework of society, sports organisations within the Olympic Movement shall have the rights and obligations of autonomy, which include freely establishing and controlling the rules of sport, determining the structure and governance of their organisations, enjoying the right of elections free from any outside influence and the responsibility for ensuring that principles of good governance be applied.
The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Olympic Charter shall be secured without discrimination of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Belonging to the Olympic Movement requires compliance with the Olympic Charter and recognition by the IOC.
Header image courtesy of ©IOC, Lausanne