We are all excited about the 2016 olympic games being held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They will take place from 5th to 21st August this year. Over 10,000 athletes aspire to create history in their respective sports. The olympics are an opportunity for citizens across the world to congregate and cheer on their best athletes. They are held every 4 years in different countries. Also, they are divided into two categories. These are the Summer and the Winter olympic games. There are many facts and figures about these games that will amaze you. Read on to learn 15 things you may not know about the olympics.

1. They began as a religious ceremony

In ancient Greece, the olympic games were a religious celebration in honor of their supreme god Zeus. They were held in this way from 776BC up to 393AD. At the time that this practice was stopped, Christianity had taken root and recognized the olympic games as a pagan celebration. Thus, they were shut down. For centuries, the world remained without the olympic games until a French scholar known as Baron Pierre de Coubertin revived them. He proposed a motion across Europe to revive the games and he was successful when the 1896 olympic games were held in Athens, Greece. We enjoy the olympic games today as a result of his efforts.

2. What is the meaning of the olympic rings?

The international symbol of the olympic games is a group of five interconnected rings. They represent the five major regions of the globe. These are Africa, Europe, Asia, the Americas and Oceana. Each one of the rings has a distinct color. The colors are red, black, yellow, blue and green. The rings were designed by Baron Pierre de Coubertin in 1912. Every national flag in the world has one of the colors in the olympic rings. Thus, they symbolize global unity.

3. The youngest olympic athlete in history

To compete in the olympics today, you have to be at least 16 years old. This rule was created in 1997. Prior to that, younger people could compete in the olympics. The youngest athlete ever was Dimitrios Loundras. A Greek citizen, he participated in the Athens Olympics of 1896. He was a gymnast and won a bronze medal in the games. Young Dimitrios was only 10 years old. He is the youngest olympic athlete to date.

4. The oldest olympic athlete in history

Oscar Swahn is the oldest athlete to compete in the olympics. The Swede won a gold medal for marksmanship in 1908. He was 60 years old. He did not stop there. After the Second World War, Swahn participated in the Antwerp olympics and won a silver medal. He was 72 years old. This was his last appearance at the global games.

5. No shoes required

It takes a lot of effort to run a marathon. You also need to have the right footwear so as to run for 26 miles (42 kilometers). In 1960, the olympic marathon winner was Abebe Bikila. He won a gold medal in the Rome Olympics and did so while running barefoot. He also was the first African ever to win a gold medal. His determination and resilience is admired to date.

6. The first televised olympic event

Today, we enjoy watching the olympics in our television sets at home. We can watch our favorite athletes participate and feel as though we are right there in the stadium with them. In the past, this was not so. Most of the world had to follow the olympics by listening to the radio. Germany distinguished itself by having the world's first televised olympic games. The 1936 Berlin Olympics were televised across the country. Often referred to as the Nazi Olympics, they were broadcasted in black and white. The television feed was only available in Germany because global television had not been invented at the time. Thus, everyone else followed the events by listening to the radio.

7. Are they really gold?

Every athlete in the olympics desires to win a gold medal. It is awarded to those who finish in the first position. Interestingly, this medal is not made of pure gold. For the last 100 years, olympic gold medals have not been made of pure gold. They are actually silver medals plated with gold. Despite their conflicting composition, they still hold immense significance to the athletes who earn them.

8. When the olympics were canceled

In the modern era, the olympics have been canceled a total of 4 times. Each of these times, the reason was war. In 1916, the Berlin Olympics were canceled due to World War 1. The 1940 Helsinki Olympics and the 1944 London Olympics were also canceled due to World War 2.

9. No clothes allowed

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In ancient Greece, olympic athletes competed while naked. Only men were allowed to compete in the games and they had to do so wearing no clothes at all. They also oiled their bodies to honor the gods and to look more masculine.

10. The Summer and the Winter olympics

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The olympic games are divided into the Summer and Winter editions. The Summer olympics are held during the warmer months of the year and are simply referred to as the olympics. On the other hand, the Winter olympics are held during winter. The Summer games are held every leap year while the Winter games are held every 2 years after a leap year. According to this schedule, there is an olympic event every two years.

11. The Rio 2016 Olympics are special

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The Rio 2016 Olympics will be the first time that a country in South America has hosted the games. Rio de Janeiro beat Chicago, Tokyo and Madrid to host this global event.

12. The olympic torch relay

The olympic flame is a major symbol of the games. It is a torch whose origin comes from ancient Greece. According to legend, Prometheus stole fire from the Greek god Zeus. Thus, he was celebrated by lighting a torch and keeping it burning throughout the olympic games. This tradition has been kept until today. In case you have never seen this traditional ceremony, here's a short video!

The olympic torch is lit in Olympia, Greece. After that it is relayed across the world towards the host country. The flame is kept burning through a relay of specially chosen people. This year, the flame will begin its journey on the 21st of April and is expected to arrive in Rio de Janeiro on the 5th of August.

13. The world famous MaracanĂ£ stadium shines again

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Some of the most memorable events of the olympics are the opening and closing events. This year, they will be held at the MaracanĂ£ Stadium. This stadium is famous for hosting the largest number of fans ever to watch a soccer match. Despite having a capacity of 78,000, the stadium hosted 173,000 fans in the final match of the 1950 World Cup.

14. The clubs will swing again

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After an absence that lasted 112 years, golf has returned to the olympics. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to include it this year. Golf was previously played in the 1900 and 1904 olympic games. Golf course architect Gil Hanse designed the olympic golf course in Rio de Janeiro for this year's games.

15. Vinicius is our 2016 olympic mascot

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With yellow and blue colors on his body, Vinicius is the official mascot for the 2016 Rio Olympics. He is a creature that has the features of a cat and a monkey. He can fly and can stretch his limbs and body to staggering lengths. This mascot is named after famous Brazilian musician, Vinicius de Moraes.

The Important Take Away

The olympics are always a center of global attention, fanfare and admiration. The 2016 Rio de Janeiro games are expected to be very entertaining due to the welcoming nature of the Brazilian people. Let these fun facts about the olympics prepare you for the main sporting event of the year!