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Posted by pompos 03/24/2009 @ 19:07

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Commonwealth Games

Commonwealth Games Federation Logo.png

The Commonwealth Games is a multinational, multi-sport event. Held every four years, it involves the elite athletes of the Commonwealth of Nations. Attendance at the Commonwealth Games is typically around 5,000 athletes. The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) is the organisation that is responsible for the direction and control of the Commonwealth Games.

The first such event, then known as the British Empire Games, was held in 1930 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. The name changed to British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1954, to British Commonwealth Games in 1970 and assumed the current name of the Commonwealth Games in 1978.

As well as many Olympic sports, the Games also include some sports that are played mainly in Commonwealth countries, such as lawn bowls, rugby sevens and netball.

There are currently 53 members of the Commonwealth of Nations, and 71 teams participate in the Games. The four constituent countries of the United Kingdom - England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - send separate teams to the Commonwealth Games (unlike at the Olympic Games, where the United Kingdom sends a single team), and individual teams are also sent from the British Crown dependencies - Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man - and many of the British overseas territories. The Australian external territory of Norfolk Island also sends its own team, as do the Cook Islands and Niue, two non-sovereign states in free association with New Zealand.

Only six teams have attended every Commonwealth Games: Australia, Canada, England, New Zealand, Scotland and Wales. Australia has been the highest scoring team for ten games, England for seven and Canada for one.

At the 1930 games, women competed in Swimming and Diving only. In 1934 women competed in some Athletics events also.

A sporting competition bringing together the members of the British Empire was first proposed by the Reverend Astley Cooper in 1891 when he wrote an article in The Times suggesting a "Pan-Britannic-Pan-Anglican Contest and Festival every four years as a means of increasing the goodwill and good understanding of the British Empire".

In 1911, the Festival of the Empire was held in London to celebrate the coronation of King George V. As part of the festival an Inter-Empire Championships was held in which teams from Australia, Canada, South Africa and the United Kingdom competed in events such as boxing, wrestling, swimming and athletics.

In 1928, Melville Marks Robinson of Canada was asked to organise the first ever British Empire Games. These were held in Hamilton, Ontario two years later.

The Commonwealth Games, like the Olympic Games, has also suffered from political boycotts. Nigeria boycotted the 1978 Games in protest of New Zealand's sporting contacts with apartheid-era South Africa, and 32 of 59 nations from Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean boycotted the 1986 Commonwealth Games due to the Thatcher government's attitude towards South African sporting contacts. Boycotts were also threatened in 1974, 1982, and 1990 because of South Africa.

This list shows the total number of athletes, male and female, the number of sports they were selected to compete in, and the number of nations (including dependencies) competing.

1Total including athletes and officials. 2Includes 4 team sports. 3Includes 3 team sports.

1: Aden became South Arabia which left the Commonwealth in 1968. 2: Became Guyana in 1966. 3: Became Belize in 1973. 4: Became Sri Lanka in 1972. 5: Became Ghana in 1957. 6: Left the Commonwealth when handed over to China in 1997. 7: Ireland was represented as a team from the whole of Ireland in 1930, and from the the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland in 1934. The Irish Free State, renamed Ireland in 1937 (but also known by its name in the Irish Eire) formally left the Commonwealth when it declared that it was a Republic on January 1 1949. 8: Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore federated as Malaysia in 1963. Singapore left the federation in 1965. 9: Joined Canada in 1949. 10: Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia federated with Nyasaland from 1953 as Rhodesia and Nyasaland which lasted till 1963. 11: Divided into Southern Rhodesia and Northern Rhodesia in 1953. 12: Competed from 1958-1962 as part of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. 13: Zanzibar and Tanganyika federated to form Tanzania in 1964. 14: Withdrew from the Commonwealth in 2003.

Very few Commonwealth dependencies and nations have yet to take part.

The current regulations state that a minimum of ten and no more than fifteen sports must be included in a Commonwealth Games schedule. There is a list of core sports, which must be included, and a further list of approved sports from which the host nation may choose to include. The host nation may also apply for the inclusion of other team sports to the CGF General Assembly, as the Melbourne organising committee did with basketball for the 2006 Games.

The current core sports consist of athletics, aquatics (swimming, diving and synchronised swimming), lawn bowls, netball (for women) and rugby sevens (for men). These will all remain core sports until at least the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

The approved list of sports also includes archery, badminton, billiards and snooker, boxing, canoeing, cycling, fencing, gymnastics, judo, rowing, sailing, shooting, squash, table tennis, tennis, ten-pin bowling, triathlon, weightlifting, and wrestling. Some of these are often included in the programme, while others, like billiards and sailing, have not yet been included.

There have been a number of exhibition sports. In 1958 there were exhibitions of polo and show jumping, and in 1978 lacrosse appeared as an exhibition sport.

In 2002, the CGF introduced the David Dixon Award for the outstanding athlete of the Games.

There is also a requirement to include some events for Elite Athletes with a Disability (EAD). This was introduced in the 2002 Games.

On 18th November 2006, tennis and archery were added to the list of disciplines for the 2010 Games in New Delhi, bringing the total number of sports to 17. Billiards and snooker were considered but not accepted.

The years, in brackets, show when the sports have appeared at the games.

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Olympic Games

The medal ceremony for the men's team pursuit at the 2008 Games

The Olympic Games are an international multi-sport event established for both summer and winter sports. There have been two generations of the Olympic Games; the first were the Ancient Olympic Games (Greek: Ολυμπιακοί Αγώνες; (help·info)) held at Olympia, Greece. The second, known as the Modern Olympic Games, were first revived in 1895 by the Greek philanthropist Evangelis Zappas, in Athens, Greece.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was founded in 1894 on the initiative of a French nobleman, Pierre Frédy, Baron de Coubertin, and has become the governing body of the Olympic Movement, a conglomeration of sporting federations responsible for the organization of the Games. The evolution of the Olympic Movement during the 20th century forced the IOC to adapt its own vision of the Games in several ways. The original ideal of a pure amateur athlete had to change under the pressure of corporate sponsorships and political regimes.

The modern Olympics feature the traditional Summer and the Winter Games, along with the more recent Paralympic and Youth Olympic Games, each with a summer and winter version. Participation in the Games has increased to the point that nearly every nation on Earth is represented. This growth has created numerous challenges, including political boycotts, the use of performance enhancing drugs, bribery of officials, and terrorism. The Games encompass many rituals and symbols established during its beginning, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Most of these traditions are displayed in the opening and closing ceremonies, and the medal presentations. Despite the current complexity of the Games, the focus remains on the Olympic motto, Citius, Altius, Fortius — "Faster, Higher, Stronger".

There are many myths surrounding the origin of the ancient Olympic Games; the most popular identifies Heracles and his father Zeus as the progenitors of the Games. According to the legend, Zeus held sporting events in honor of his defeat of Cronus and succession to the throne of heaven. Heracles, his eldest son, defeated his brothers in a running race and was crowned with a wreath of wild olive branches. It is Heracles who first called the Games "Olympic" and established the custom of holding them every four years. One popular story claims that after Heracles completed his twelve labors, he went on to build the Olympic stadium and surrounding buildings as an honor to Zeus. After the stadium was complete, he walked in a straight line for 200 steps and called this distance a "stadion" (Greek: στάδιον, Latin: stadium, "stage"), which later became a unit of distance. Another myth associates the first Games with the ancient Greek concept of Olympic truce (ἐκεχειρία, ekecheiria). The most widely held estimate for the inception of the Ancient Olympics is 776 BC. Inscriptions have been found of the winners of a footrace held every four years starting in 776 BC with Koroebus, who became the first Olympic champion. From then on, the Olympic Games quickly became important throughout ancient Greece. They reached their zenith in the 6th and 5th centuries BC. The Olympics were of fundamental religious importance, featuring sporting events alongside ritual sacrifices honoring both Zeus (whose colossal statue stood at Olympia) and Pelops, divine hero and mythical king of Olympia. Pelops was famous for his legendary chariot race with King Oenomaus of Pisatis. The winners of the events were admired and immortalized in poems and statues. The Games were held every four years, known as an Olympiad, and this period was used by Greeks as one of their units of time measurement. The Games were part of a cycle known as the Panhellenic Games, which included the Pythian Games, the Nemean Games, and the Isthmian Games.

Gradually, though, the Games declined in importance as the Romans gained power and influence in Greece. There is conjecture that Roman emperor Theodosius I, in an attempt to re-assert Christianity as the official religion of the Empire, outlawed the Games in 393 AD due to its perceived links with paganism. After the demise of the Olympics, they were not held again for another 1,500 years.

The first significant attempt to emulate the ancient Olympic games was the nationwide L'Olympiade de la République, an Olympic festival held annually, from 1796 to 1798, in Revolutionary France. The competition included several disciplines from the ancient Greek Olympics. The 1796 Games also marked the introduction of the metric system into sport.

In 1850 an Olympian Class began at Much Wenlock, in Shropshire, England. It was renamed the Wenlock Olympian Games in 1859, and continues today as the Wenlock Olympian Society Annual Games. In 1866, a national Olympic Games in Great Britain was organized by Dr. William Penny Brookes at London's Crystal Palace.

Greek interest in reviving the Olympic Games began after the country's independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1829 and was first proposed by poet and newspaper editor Panagiotis Soutsos in his poem "Dialogue of the Dead", published in 1833. Evangelis Zappas, a wealthy Greek philanthropist, sponsored the revival of the ancient Olympic Games. The first modern international Olympic Games was held in 1859 in an Athens city square with participants from Greece and the Ottoman Empire. Later Zappas paid for the complete restoration of the ruins of the ancient Panathenian Stadium so that it could stage two further editions of the Games, one in 1870 and a second in 1875.

French historian Baron Pierre de Coubertin was searching for a reason for the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871). He theorized that the French soldiers had not received proper physical education. In 1890 after attending the Olympian Games of the Wenlock Olympian Society, Coubertin decided that a large-scale revival of the Olympic Games was achievable. Until that time, attempts to create a modern version of the ancient Olympic Games had met with various amounts of success at the local (one, or at most two, participating nations) level.

Coubertin built on the ideas of Brookes and Zappas with the aim to internationalize the Olympic Games. He presented these ideas during the first Olympic Congress of the newly created International Olympic Committee (IOC). This meeting was held from June 16 to June 23, 1894, at the Sorbonne University in Paris. On the last day of the Congress, it was decided that the first multinational Olympic Games would take place two years later in Athens. The IOC was fully responsible for the Games' organization, and, for that purpose, elected the Greek writer Demetrius Vikelas as its first president.

There were fewer than 250 athletes at the first Olympic Games of the modern times. The Panathenian Stadium, restored for Zappas's Games of 1870 and 1875, was refurbished a second time in preparation for this inaugural edition. These Olympics featured nine sporting disciplines: athletics, cycling, fencing, gymnastics, shooting, swimming, tennis, weightlifting, and wrestling; rowing events were scheduled for competition but had to be cancelled due to bad weather conditions. The Greek officials and public were enthusiastic about the experience of hosting the inaugural Games. This feeling was shared by many of the athletes, who even demanded that Athens be the host of the Olympic Games on a permanent basis. The IOC had, however, envisaged these modern Olympics to be an itinerating and truly global event, and thus decided differently, planning for the second edition to take place in Paris.

After the initial success of the 1896 Games, the Olympics endured a struggling period that threatened their survival. The celebrations in Paris in 1900 and St. Louis in 1904 were overshadowed by the World's Fair exhibitions, which were held at the same time frames and locations. The St. Louis Games, for example, hosted 650 athletes, but 580 were originally from the United States. The homogenous nature of these editions was a low point for the Olympic Movement, even though it was in Paris that women were first allowed to compete. The Games rebounded when the 1906 Intercalated Games (so-called because they were the second Games held within the third Olympiad) were held in Athens. The Intercalated Games are not officially recognized as an official Olympic Games, and no later Intercalated Games have been held. These Games attracted a broad international field of participants, and generated great public interest. This marked the beginning of a rise in both the popularity and the size of the Games.

While both figure skating (1908 and 1920 Games) and ice hockey (1920 Games) had featured as Olympic events at the Summer Olympics, the IOC looked upon equity between winter and summer sports. At the 1921 Congress, in Lausanne, it decided to hold a winter version of the Olympic Games. The first Winter Olympics were held in 1924 in Chamonix, France, though they were only officially recognized by the IOC as such in the following year. The IOC made the Winter Games a permanent fixture in the Olympic Movement in 1925 and mandated that they be celebrated every four years on the same year as their Summer counterpart. This tradition was maintained until the 1992 Games in Albertville, France; after that, beginning with the 1994 Games, further Winter Games have been held on the third year of each Olympiad.

In 1948 Sir Ludwig Guttman, determined to innovate new ways to rehabilitate soldiers after World War II, organized a multi-sport event between various hospitals to coincide with the 1948 London Olympics. Guttman's event, known then as the Stoke Mandeville Games, became an annual sports festival. Over the next twelve years, Guttman and others continued their efforts to use sports as an avenue to healing. For the 1960 Olympic Games, in Rome, Guttman brought 400 athletes to compete in the "Parallel Olympics", which became known as the first Paralympics. Since then, the Paralympics have been held in every Olympic year; since the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, the host city for the Olympics has also played host to the Paralympics.

The Youth Olympic Games (YOG) were conceived by IOC president Jacques Rogge, in 2001, and approved by the IOC during the 119th IOC session, held in July 2007 in Guatemala City. The Youth Games will be shorter than their summer and winter Olympic counterparts: the summer version will last twelve days, at most, while the winter version will last a maximum of nine days. The IOC will allow no more than 3,500 athletes and 875 officials to participate at the Summer Youth Games, and 970 athletes and 580 officials at the Winter Youth Games. The sports to be contested will coincide with those scheduled for the traditional senior Games, however with a reduced number of disciplines and events. The host city for the first Summer Youth Games will be Singapore, in 2010, while the inaugural Winter Games will be hosted in Innsbruck, Austria, two years later.

From the 241 participants representing 14 nations in 1896, the Games have grown to 10,500 competitors from 204 countries at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The scope and scale of the Winter Olympics is comparatively smaller. For example, Turin hosted 2,508 athletes from 80 countries competing in 84 events, during the 2006 Winter Olympics. As participation in the Olympics has grown, so has its profile in the international media. At the Sydney Games in 2000, an estimated 3.7 billion viewers watched the Games on television, and the official website generated over 11.3 billion hits.

The number of participating countries is noticeably higher than the 193 countries that are current members of the United Nations. The IOC allows nations to compete that do not meet the strict requirements for political sovereignty that other international organizations demand. As a result, colonies and dependencies are permitted to set up their own Olympic teams and athletes, even if such competitors also hold citizenship in another member nation. Examples of this include territories such as Puerto Rico, Bermuda, and Hong Kong, all of which compete as separate nations despite being legally a part of another country.

French and English are the official languages of the Olympic Movement. The other official language used at each Olympic Games is the official language of the host country. Consequently, every proclamation (such as the announcement of each country during the parade of nations in the opening ceremony) is spoken in these three languages.

The IOC has often been criticized for being an intractable organization, with several members on the committee for life. The leadership of IOC presidents Juan Antonio Samaranch and Avery Brundage was especially controversial. Brundage was president of the IOC for over 20 years. During his tenure he protected the Olympics from untoward political involvement. He was also accused of both racism, for his handling of the apartheid issue with the South African delegation, and anti-Semitism. Under the Samaranch presidency the office was accused of both nepotism and corruption. Samaranch's ties with the Franco regime in Spain was also a source of criticism.

In 1998, it was uncovered that several IOC members had taken bribes from the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. The bribes were intended to insure their votes for Salt Lake City to host the 2002 Games. The IOC started an investigation, which led to four members resigning and six being expelled. The scandal set off further reforms, changing the way host cities are selected to avoid further bribes.

A BBC documentary, which aired in August 2004, entitled Panorama: Buying the Games, investigated the taking of bribes in the bidding process for the 2012 Summer Olympics. The documentary claimed it is possible to bribe IOC members into voting for a particular candidate city. After being narrowly defeated in their bid for the 2012 Summer Games, Parisian Mayor Bertrand Delanoë specifically accused the British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the London Bid Committee (headed by former Olympic gold medalist Sebastian Coe) of breaking the bid rules. He cited French President Jacques Chirac as a witness; Chirac gave guarded interviews regarding his involvement. The issue was never fully pursued. The Turin bid for the 2006 Winter Olympics was also shrouded in controversy. A prominent member of the IOC, Marc Hodler, himself strongly connected with rival Sion, Switzerland's bid, alleged bribery of IOC officials by members of the Turin Organizing Committee. These accusations led to a wide-ranging investigation. The allegations also served to sour many IOC members to Sion's bid and may have helped Turin to capture the host city nomination.

The Olympic Movement uses symbols to represent the ideals embodied in the Olympic Charter. The Olympic rings are the main image of the Movement and one of the world's most recognized symbols. The five intertwined rings represent the unity of the five inhabited continents (with the Americas regarded as a single continent).

The five colored rings on a white field form the Olympic flag. The colors—white, red, blue, green, yellow, and black—were chosen because every nation had at least one of these colors in its national flag. The flag was adopted in 1914, but was first flown only at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium. It is hoisted in each opening ceremony of the Games and lowered at the closure.

The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.

Months before each Games, the Olympic flame is lit in Olympia in a ceremony that reflects ancient Greek rituals. A female performer, acting as a priestess, ignites a torch by placing it inside a parabolic mirror which focuses the sun's rays; she then lights the torch of the first relay bearer, thus initiating the Olympic torch relay that will carry the flame to the host city's Olympic stadium, where it plays an important role in the opening ceremony. Though the flame has been an Olympic symbol since 1928, the torch relay was only introduced in 1936, as part of the German government's attempt to promote its National Socialist ideology.

The Olympic mascot, an animal or human figure representing the cultural heritage of the host country, was introduced in 1968. It has played an important part of the Games since 1980, with the success of Misha, the Russian bear. The mascots of the most recent Summer Olympics, in Beijing, were the Fuwa. They are five creatures that represent the five fengshui elements important in Chinese culture.

As mandated by the Olympic Charter, various elements frame the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. Most of these rituals were established at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp. The ceremony typically starts with the hoisting of the host country's flag and a performance of its national anthem. The host nation then presents artistic displays of music, singing, dance, and theater representative of its culture. The artistic presentations have grown in scale and complexity as successive hosts attempt to provide a ceremony that outlasts its predecessor's in terms of memorability. The opening ceremony of the Beijing Games reportedly cost $100 million, with much of the cost incurred in the artistic segment.

The protocol proceeds with the Parade of Nations, during which most participating athletes march into the stadium country by country. Since the 1928 Summer Olympics, Greece enters first due to its historical status as the birthplace of the Olympics, while the host nation closes the parade. After all national delegations have entered the stadium, the organizing committee president and the IOC president deliver a speech, after which an official representative of the host country declares the Games open. The Olympic Flag is then carried into the stadium and hoisted as the Olympic Anthem is played. The flag-bearers of all delegations circle a rostrum, where one athlete (since the 1920 Summer Olympics) and one judge (since the 1972 Summer Olympics) pronounce the Olympic Oath, whereby they declare they will compete and judge according to the rules. Finally, the Olympic Torch is brought into the stadium and passed on until it reaches the last carrier—often a well-known and successful Olympic athlete from the host nation—who lights the Olympic Flame in the stadium's cauldron.

The closing ceremony of the Olympic Games takes place after all sporting events have concluded. Flag-bearers from each participating country enter the stadium, followed by the athletes without any distinction or grouping by nationality, as opposed to what happens during the opening ceremony. Three national flags are hoisted while the corresponding national anthems are played: the flag of Greece, to honor the birthplace of the Olympic Games; the flag of the current host country, and the flag of the country hosting the next Summer or Winter Olympic Games. The president of the organizing committee and the IOC president make their closing speeches, and the Games are then officially closed. The Olympic Flame is extinguished and, while the Olympic Anthem is played, the Olympic Flag is lowered and carried away from the stadium. In what is known as the Antwerp Ceremony, the mayor of the city that organized the Games transfers a special Olympic flag to the president of the IOC, who then passes it on to the mayor of the city hosting the next Olympic Games. After these compulsory elements, the next host nation briefly introduces itself with artistic displays of dance and theater representative of its culture, a tradition dating back to the 1976 Montreal Games.

After completion of each Olympic event, a medal ceremony is held, where the best three athletes stand on top of a three-tiered rostrum to be awarded their respective medals. After the medals are given out by an IOC member, the national flags of the three medalists are raised while the national anthem of the gold medalist's country plays. Volunteering citizens of the host country also act as hosts during the medal ceremonies, as they aid the officials who present the medals and act as flag-bearers. For every Olympic event, the respective medal ceremony is held, at most, one day after the event's final. A notable exception is the men's marathon: the competition is usually held early in the morning on the last day of Olympic competition and its medal ceremony is then held in the evening during the closing ceremony.

Currently, the Olympic Games program consists of 33 sports, 52 disciplines and nearly 400 events. The Summer Olympics program includes 26 sports with 36 disciplines, while the Winter Olympics program comprises 7 sports with 15 disciplines. Athletics, swimming, fencing, and artistic gymnastics are the only summer sports or disciplines that have never been absent from the Olympic program since 1896. Cross country skiing, figure skating, ice hockey, Nordic combined, ski jumping, and speed skating have always been featured in the Winter Olympics program since 1924. Current Olympic sports, like badminton, basketball, and volleyball, first appeared on the program as demonstration sports, and were later promoted to medal-awarding sports. Some sports that featured in earlier Games were dropped from the program at some point; while many never returned to the Olympic Games—discontinued sports, like golf, polo, and lacrosse—, others were successfully reinstated (archery and tennis).

The Olympic sports are governed by international sports federations (IFs) recognized by the IOC as the global supervisors of those sports. The current list of Olympic IFs comprises 35 federations. The sports administered by recognized IFs but that have never been included on the Olympic program are not considered "Olympic", but can be promoted to such status during a program revision that should occur in the first session following each Games. During such revision, sports can be excluded or included in the program provided a two-thirds majority vote of the IOC membership is achieved. An Olympic sport that was voted out of the program does not lose its status and may be reincluded at a subsequent Games.

The 114th IOC Session, in 2002, limited the Summer Games program to a maximum of 28 sports, 301 events, and 10,500 athletes. Three years later, at the 117th IOC Session, the first major program revision was performed, resulting in the exclusion of baseball and softball from the official program of the 2012 London Games. Since there was no agreement in the promotion of two other sports, the 2012 program will feature just 26 sports. In 2007, during the 119th IOC Session, the number of core sports for the Summer Olympics was raised from 15 to 25, keeping 28 sports as the maximum number. The core sports and potential additional sports are specifically chosen for each Games through a majority vote of the IOC membership.

The ethos of the aristocracy as exemplified in the English public schools greatly influenced Pierre de Coubertin. The public schools subscribed to the belief that sport formed an important part of education, an attitude summed up in the saying mens sana in corpore sano, a sound mind in a sound body. In this ethos, a gentleman was one who became an all-rounder, not the best at one specific thing. There was also a prevailing concept of fairness, in which practicing or training was considered tantamount to cheating. Those who practiced a sport professionally were considered to have an unfair advantage over those who practiced it merely as a hobby.

The exclusion of professionals caused several controversies throughout the history of the modern Olympics. The 1912 Olympic pentathlon and decathlon champion Jim Thorpe was stripped of his medals when it was discovered that he had played semi-professional baseball before the Olympics. He was restored as champion on compassionate grounds by the IOC in 1983. Swiss and Austrian skiers boycotted the 1936 Winter Olympics in support of their skiing teachers, who were not allowed to compete because they earned money with their sport and were thus considered professionals.

As class structure evolved through the 20th century, the definition of the amateur athlete as an aristocratic gentleman became outdated. The advent of the state-sponsored "full-time amateur athlete" of the Eastern Bloc countries further eroded the ideology of the pure amateur, as it put the self-financed amateurs of the Western countries at a disadvantage. Nevertheless, the IOC held to the traditional rules regarding amateurism. Beginning in the 1970s, amateurism requirements were gradually phased out of the Olympic Charter. Eventually the decisions on professional participation were left to the IFs. As of 2004, the only sport in which no professionals compete is boxing, although even this requires a definition of amateurism based on fight rules rather than on payment, as some boxers receive cash prizes from their National Olympic Committees. In men's football (soccer), the number of players over 23 years eligible to participate in the Olympic tournament is limited to three per team.

The 1956 Melbourne Olympics were the first Olympics to be boycotted. The Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland refused to attend because of the repression of the Hungarian uprising by the Soviet Union; additionally, Cambodia, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon boycotted the Games due to the Suez Crisis. In 1972 and 1976 a large number of African countries threatened the IOC with a boycott to force them to ban South Africa and Rhodesia, because of their segregationist regimes. New Zealand was also one of the African boycott targets, due to the "All Blacks" (national rugby team) having toured apartheid-ruled South Africa. The IOC conceded in the first two cases, but refused to ban New Zealand on the grounds that rugby was not an Olympic sport. Fulfilling their threat, twenty African countries were joined by Guyanna and Iraq in a Tanzania-led withdrawal from the Montreal Games, after a few of their athletes had already competed. Taiwan also decided to skip these Games since the People's Republic of China (PRC)—not attending the Games after breaking away with the IOC, in 1958, over the island's political status within the organization—exerted pressure on the Montreal organizing committee to keep the delegation from the Republic of China (ROC) from competing under the such name. The ROC refused a proposed compromise that would have still allowed them to use the ROC flag and anthem as long as the name was changed. Taiwan did not participate again until 1984, when it returned under the name of Chinese Taipei and with a special flag.

In 1980 and 1984, the Cold War opponents boycotted each other's Games. Sixty-five nations refused to compete at the Moscow 1980 Olympics because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. This boycott reduced the number of nations participating to only 81, the lowest number since 1956. The Soviet Union and 14 of its Eastern Bloc partners (except Romania) countered by boycotting the Los Angeles 1984 Olympics, contending that they could not guarantee the safety of their athletes. Soviet officials were quoted as saying that "chauvinistic sentiments and an anti-Soviet hysteria are being whipped up in the United States", this being the reason for not attending the Games. The boycotting nations staged their own alternate event, the Friendship Games, in July and August.

There had been growing calls for boycotts of Chinese goods and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing in protest of China's human rights record and response to the recent disturbances in Tibet, Darfur, and Taiwan. U.S. President George W. Bush showcased these concerns in a highly publicized speech in Thailand just prior to the opening of the Games. Ultimately, no nation withdrew before the Games.

Contrary to its refounding principles, the Olympic Games have been used as a vehicle to promote political ideologies. The Soviet Union, for example, did not participate until the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. Instead, in 1928, the Soviets organized an international sports event called Spartakiads. Other communist countries organized Workers Olympics during the inter-war period of the 1920s and 1930s. These events were held as an alternative to the Olympics, which were seen as a capitalist and aristocratic event. It was not until the 1960 Games that the Soviets emerged as a sporting superpower and, in doing so, took full advantage of the publicity that came with winning at the Olympics.

Individual athletes have also used the Olympic stage to promote their own political agenda. At the 1968 Summer Olympics, in Mexico City, two American track and field athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who finished first and third in the 200 meter sprint race, performed the Black Power salute on the victory stand. The second place finisher Peter Norman wore an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge in support of Smith and Carlos. In response to the protest, IOC President Avery Brundage told the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) to either send the two athletes home or withdraw the complete track and field team. The USOC opted for the former. The photo of the three men on the medal podium has become an iconic Olympic image.

Far from being a thing of the past, interference of politics in the Games still occurs. The government of Iran has taken steps to avoid any competition between its athletes and those from Israel. Evidence of this was seen at the 2004 Summer Olympics when an Iranian judoka did not compete in a match against an Israeli. Although he was officially disqualified for excessive weight, Arash Miresmaeli was awarded US$125,000 in prize money by the Iranian government, an amount paid to all Iranian gold medal winners. He was officially cleared of intentionally avoiding the bout, but his receipt of the prize money raised suspicion.

The Olympics feature individual athletes who compete within a national team, and their motivation to succeed is both personal achievement and national glory. With the increase in global mobility, the athlete's national identity can become blurred. Kristy Coventry, a white Zimbabwean swimmer, spent eight years training for the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics while living in the United States. Her victories in Beijing sparked a wave of national pride that temporarily set aside mounting political and racial tension in Zimbabwe.

In the early 20th century, many Olympic athletes began using drugs to improve their athletic abilities. For example, the winner of the marathon at the 1904 Games, Thomas J. Hicks, was given strychnine and brandy by his coach. As these methods became more extreme, it became increasingly evident that doping was not only a threat to the integrity of sport but could also have potentially fatal side effects on the athlete. The only Olympic death linked to doping occurred at the Rome Games of 1960. During the cycling road race, Danish cyclist Knud Enemark Jensen fell from his bicycle and later died. A coroner's inquiry found that he was under the influence of amphetamines. By the mid-1960s, sports federations were starting to ban the use of performance enhancing drugs, and the IOC followed suit in 1967.

The first Olympic athlete to test positive for the use of performance enhancing drugs was Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall, a Swedish pentathlete at the 1968 Summer Olympics, who lost his bronze medal for alcohol use. The most publicized doping-related disqualification was that of Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, who won the 100 meter dash at the 1988 Seoul Olympics but tested positive for stanozolol. His gold medal was subsequently stripped and awarded to runner-up Carl Lewis, who himself had tested positive for banned substances prior to the Olympics but had not been banned.

In the late 1990s, the IOC took the initiative in a more organized battle against doping, leading to the formation of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in 1999. The 2000 Summer Olympics and 2002 Winter Olympics have shown that this battle is not nearly over, as several medalists in weightlifting and cross-country skiing were disqualified due to doping offenses. During the 2006 Winter Olympics, only one athlete failed a drug test and had a medal revoked. The IOC-established drug testing regimen (now known as the "Olympic Standard") has set the worldwide benchmark that other sporting federations around the world attempt to emulate. During the Beijing games, 3,667 athletes were tested by the IOC under the auspices of the World Anti-Doping Agency. Both urine and blood testing was used in a coordinated effort to detect not only banned substances but also blood doping. While several athletes were barred from competition by their National Olympic Committees prior to the Games, three athletes failed drug tests while in competition in Beijing.

Despite what Coubertin had hoped for, the Olympics did not bring total peace to the world. In fact, three Olympiads had to pass without a celebration of the Games because of war: the 1916 Games were cancelled due to World War I, and the summer and winter games of 1940 and 1944 were cancelled because of World War II. The South Ossetia War between Georgia and Russia erupted on the opening day of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Both President Bush and Prime Minister Putin were attending the Olympics at that time and spoke together about the conflict at a luncheon hosted by Chinese President Hu Jintao. When Nino Salukvadze of Georgia won the bronze medal in the 10 meter air pistol competition, she stood on the medal podium with Natalia Paderina, a Russian shooter who had won the silver. In what became a much-publicized event from the Beijing Games, Salukvadze and Paderina embraced on the podium after the ceremony had ended.

Terrorism has also threatened the Olympic Games. In 1972, when the Summer Games were held in Munich, West Germany, eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team were taken hostage by the terrorist group Black September in what is now known as the Munich massacre. A bungled liberation attempt led to the deaths of the nine abducted athletes who had not been killed prior to the rescue. Also killed were five of the terrorists and a German policeman. Another example of terrorism at the Olympics came during the Summer Olympics in 1996 in Atlanta. A bomb was detonated at the Centennial Olympic Park, which killed 2 and injured 111 others. The bomb was set by Eric Robert Rudolph, an American domestic terrorist, who is currently serving a life sentence at ADX Florence in Florence, Colorado.

The athletes or teams who place first, second, or third in each event receive medals. The winners receive gold medals, which were solid gold until 1912. After 1912 the medals were made of gilded silver and now gold plated silver. Every gold medal must contain at least six grams of pure gold. The runners-up receive silver medals and the third-place athletes are awarded bronze medals. In events contested by a single-elimination tournament (most notably boxing), third place might not be determined and both semifinal losers receive bronze medals. The practice of awarding medals to the top three competitors was introduced in 1906; at the 1896 Olympics only the first two received a medal, first place received silver and second received bronze. Various prizes, including for works of art, were awarded in 1900. The 1904 Olympics also awarded silver trophies for first place. The three medal format was first used at the Intercalated Games of 1906. Since the IOC no longer recognizes these as official Olympic Games, the first official awarding of the three medals came in the London Olympics of 1908. From 1948 onward athletes placing fourth, fifth, and sixth have received certificates, which became officially known as "victory diplomas". In 1984 victory diplomas for seventh and eighth-place finishers were added. At the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, the gold, silver, and bronze medal winners were also given olive wreaths. The IOC does not keep track of overall medal tallies per country, but the media often publish unofficial medal counts. National Olympic Committees also keep track of medal statistics as a measure of success.

The question of which athlete is the most successful of all time is a difficult one to answer. The diversity of the sports and the evolution of the Olympic Games since 1896 complicate the matter. While it may not be the most equitable way to measure success, a list of the most titles won at the Modern Olympic Games by individuals is one way to determine the greatest Olympic athletes of all time.

Host cities are selected six or seven years in advance.By 2012, the Olympic Games will have been hosted by 42 cities in 22 countries, but only by cities outside Europe and North America on 7 occasions. Since the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, the Olympics have been held in Asia or Oceania 4 times, which is a sharp increase compared to the previous 92 years of modern Olympic history. All bids by countries in South America and Africa have failed. The number in parentheses following the city or country denotes how many times that city or country had then hosted the games. The table includes the Intercalated Games of 1906, which the IOC no longer considers an official Olympic Games.

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Games played

Games played (most often abbreviated as G or GP) is a statistic used in team sports to indicate the total number of games in which a player has participated (in any capacity); the statistic is generally applied irrespective of whatever portion of the game is contested.

In baseball, the statistic applies also to players who, prior to a game, are included on a starting lineup card or are announced as ex ante substitutes, whether they actually play or not, although, in Major League Baseball, the application of this statistic does not extend to consecutive games played streaks.

A starting pitcher, then, may be credited with a game played even as he is not credited with a game started, an inning pitched, or a complete game.

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Summer Olympic Games

The opening ceremony of the first Olympic Games in the Panathenaic Stadium.

The Summer Olympic Games or the Games of the Olympiad are an international multi-sport event, occurring every four years, organized by the International Olympic Committee. Medals are awarded in each event, with gold medals for first place, silver for second and bronze for third, a tradition that started in 1904. The Winter Olympics were also created due to the success of the Summer Olympics.

The Games have expanded from a 42-event competition with fewer than 250 male athletes to a 300-event sporting tradition with over 10,000 competitors of both sexes from 205 nations. Organizers for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing expected approximately 10,500 athletes to take part in the 302 events on the program for the Games.

The United States has hosted four Summer Olympics games, more than any other nation. The United Kingdom will have hosted three Summer Olympics games when they return to the British capital in 2012, all of them have been (and will be in) London, making it the first city to hold the Summer Olympic Games three times. Australia, France, Germany and Greece have all hosted the Summer Olympic Games twice. Other countries that have hosted the Summer Olympics are Belgium, Canada, Finland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, the Soviet Union and Sweden. The People's Republic of China hosted the Summer Olympics for the first time in Beijing in 2008. Four cities have hosted two Summer Olympic Games: Los Angeles, London, Paris and Athens. Stockholm, Sweden, has hosted events at two Summer Olympic Games, having hosted the games in 1912 and the equestrian events at the 1956 Summer Olympics—which they are usually listed as jointly hosting. Events at the Summer Olympics have also been held in Hong Kong and The Netherlands (both represented by their own NOCs), with the equestrian events at the 2008 Summer Olympics being held in Hong Kong and two sailing races at the 1920 Summer Olympics being held in The Netherlands.

Five countries—Australia, France, Great Britain, Greece, and Switzerland—have been represented at all Summer Olympic Games. Greece is the only one to have participated under its own flag in all Games. The only country to have won at least one gold medal at every Summer Olympic Games is Great Britain, ranging from one gold in 1904, 1952 and 1996 to fifty-six golds in 1908.

Qualification rules for each of the Olympic sports are set by the International Federation (IF) that governs that sport's international competition.

For individual sports, competitors typically qualify through attaining a certain place in a major international event or on the IF's ranking list. National Olympic Committees may enter a limited number of qualified competitors in each event, and the NOC decides which qualified competitors to select as representatives in each event if more have attained the benchmark than can be entered. Many events provide for a certain number of wild card entries, given to athletes from developing nations.

Nations qualify teams for team sports through continental qualifying tournaments, in which each continental association is given a certain number of spots in the Olympic tournament. The host nation is generally given an automatic qualification.

The modern Olympic Games were founded in 1894 when Pierre Fredi, Baron de Coubertin sought to promote international understanding through sporting competition. He based his Olympics on the Wenlock Olympian Society Annual Games, which had been contested in Much Wenlock since 1850.

The first edition of de Coubertin's games, held in Athens in 1896, attracted just 245 competitors, of whom more than 200 were Greek, and only 14 countries were represented. Nevertheless, no international events of this magnitude had been organized before. Female athletes were not allowed to compete, though one woman, Stamata Revithi, ran the marathon course on her own, saying "f the committee doesn’t let me compete I will go after them regardless".

The 1896 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the I Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event which was celebrated in Athens, Greece, from April 6 to April 15, 1896. It was the first Olympic Games held in the Modern era. Ancient Greece was the birthplace of the Olympic Games, consequently Athens was perceived to be an appropriate choice to stage the inaugural modern Games. It was unanimously chosen as the host city during a congress organized by Pierre de Coubertin, a French pedagogue and historian, in Paris, on June 23, 1894. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was also established during this congress.

Despite many obstacles and set backs, the 1896 Olympics were regarded as a great success. The Games had the largest international participation of any sporting event to that date. Panathinaiko Stadium, the first big stadium in the modern world, overflowed with the largest crowd ever to watch a sporting event. The highlight for the Greeks was the marathon victory by their compatriot Spiridon Louis. The most successful competitor was German wrestler and gymnast Carl Schuhmann, who won four gold medals.

After the Games, Coubertin and the IOC were petitioned by several prominent figures including Greece's King George and some of the American competitors in Athens, to hold all the following Games in Athens. However, the 1900 Summer Olympics were already planned for Paris and, except for the 1906 Intercalated Games, the Olympics did not return to Greece until the 2004 Summer Olympics.

Four years later the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris attracted more than four times as many athletes, including 11 women, who were allowed to officially compete for the first time, in croquet, golf, sailing, and tennis. The Games were integrated with the Paris World's Fair and lasted over 5 months. It is still disputed which events exactly were Olympic, since few or maybe even none of the events were advertised as such at the time.

Numbers declined for the 1904 Games in St. Louis, Missouri, United States, due in part to the lengthy transatlantic boat trip required of the European competitors, and the integration with the Louisiana Purchase Exposition World's Fair, which again spread the event out over an extended period. In contrast with Paris 1900, the word Olympic was used for practically every contest, including those exclusively for school boys or for Irish-Americans.

A series of smaller games were held in Athens in 1906. These were to be the first of an in 1906 to celebrate the "tenth birthday" of the games. The IOC does not currently recognize these games as being official Olympic Games, although many historians do. The 1906 Athens alternating series of games to be held in Athens, but the series failed to materialize. The games were more successful than the 1900 and 1904 games, with over 900 athletes competing, and contributed positively to the success of future games.

The 1908 London Games saw numbers rise again, as well as the first running of the marathon over its now-standard distance of 42.195 km (26 miles 385 yards). The winner of the first Olympic Marathon in 1896 (a male-only race) was Spiridon "Spiros" Louis, a Greek water-carrier. He won at the Olympics in 2 hours 58 minutes and 50 seconds at a distance of 40 km (24 miles 85 yards). The new marathon distance of 42.195 km (26 miles 385 yards) was chosen to ensure that the race finished in front of the box occupied by the British royal family. Thus the marathon had been 40 km for the first games in 1896, but was subsequently varied by up to 2 km due to local conditions such as street and stadium layout. At the six Olympic games between 1900 and 1920, the marathon was raced over six different distances.

At the end of the 1908 marathon the Italian runner Dorando Pietri was first to enter the stadium, but he was clearly in distress, and collapsed of exhaustion before he could complete the event. He was helped over the finish line by concerned race officials, but later he was disqualified and the gold medal was awarded to John Hayes, who had trailed him by around 30 seconds.

The Games continued to grow, attracting 2,504 competitors, to Stockholm in 1912, including the great all-rounder Jim Thorpe, who won both the decathlon and pentathlon. Thorpe had previously played a few games of baseball for a fee, and saw his medals stripped for this breach of amateurism after complaints from Avery Brundage. They were reinstated in 1983, 30 years after his death. The Games at Stockholm were the first to fulfill Pierre de Coubertin's original idea. For the first time since the Games started in 1896 were all continents represented with athletes competing in the same stadium.

The scheduled Berlin Games of 1916 were canceled following the onset of World War I.

The 1920 Antwerp games in war-ravaged Belgium were a subdued affair, but again drew a record number of competitors. This record only stood until 1924, when the Paris Games would involve 3,000 competitors, the greatest of whom was Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi. "The Flying Finn", won three team gold medals and the individual 1,500 and 5,000 meter runs, the latter two on the same day.

The 1928 Amsterdam games were notable for being the first games which allowed females to compete at track & field athletics, and benefited greatly from the general prosperity of the times alongside the first appearance of sponsorship of the games, from Coca-Cola. This was in stark contrast to 1932 when the Los Angeles games were affected by the Great Depression, which contributed to the fewest competitors since the St. Louis games.

The 1936 Berlin Games were seen by the German government as a golden opportunity to promote their ideology. The ruling Nazi Party commissioned film-maker Leni Riefenstahl to film the games. The result, Olympia, was a masterpiece, despite Hitler's theories of Aryan racial superiority being repeatedly shown up by "non-Aryan" athletes. In particular, African-American sprinter and long jumper Jesse Owens won 4 gold medals. The tale of Hitler snubbing Owens at the ensuing medal ceremony is a fabrication. The 1936 Berlin Games also saw the reintroduction of the Torch Relay.

Due to World War II, the Games of 1940 (due to be held in Tokyo and temporarily relocated to Helsinki upon the outbreak of war) were canceled. The Games of 1944 were due to be held in London but were also canceled; instead, London hosted the first games after the end of the war, in 1948.

The first post-war Games were held in 1948 in London, with both Germany and Japan excluded. Dutch sprinter Fanny Blankers-Koen won four gold medals on the track, emulating Owens' achievement in Berlin.

At the 1952 Games in Helsinki the USSR team competed for the first time and immediately became one of the dominant teams. Finland made a legend of an amiable Czech army lieutenant named Emil Zátopek, who was intent on improving on his single gold and silver medals from 1948. Having first won both the 10,000 and 5,000 meter races, he also entered the marathon, despite having never previously raced at that distance. Pacing himself by chatting with the other leaders, Zátopek led from about half way, slowly dropping the remaining contenders to win by two and a half minutes, and completed a trio of wins.

The 1956 Melbourne Games were largely successful, barring a water polo match between Hungary and the Soviet Union, which political tensions caused to end as a pitched battle between the teams. Due to a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Britain at the time and the strict quarantine laws of Australia, the equestrian events were held in Stockholm.

The 1960 Rome Games saw the arrival on the world scene of a young light-heavyweight boxer named Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali, who would later throw his gold medal away in disgust after being refused service in a whites-only restaurant in his home town, Louisville, Kentucky. Soviet women's artistic gymnastics team members won 15 of 16 possible medals. Other performers of note in 1960 included Wilma Rudolph, a gold medalist in the 100 meters, 200 meters and 4x100 meters relay events.

The 1964 Games held in Tokyo are notable for heralding the modern age of telecommunications. These games were the first to be broadcast worldwide on television, enabled by the recent advent of communication satellites. The 1964 Games were thus a turning point in the global visibility and popularity of the Olympics.

Performances at the 1968 Mexico City games were affected by the altitude of the host city. No event was affected more than the long jump. American athlete Bob Beamon jumped 8.90 meters, setting a new world record and, in the words of fellow competitor and then-reigning champion Lynn Davies, "making the rest of us look silly." Beamon's world record would stand for 23 years. The 1968 Games also saw the introduction of the now-universal Fosbury flop, a technique which won American high jumper Dick Fosbury the gold medal. Politics took center stage in the medal ceremony for the men's 200 meter dash, where Tommie Smith and John Carlos made a protest gesture on the podium against the segregation in the United States; their political act was condemned within the Olympic Movement, but was praised in the American Civil Rights Movement.

Politics again intervened at Munich in 1972, with lethal consequences. A Palestinian terrorist group named Black September invaded the Olympic village and broke into the apartment of the Israeli delegation. They killed two Israelis and held 9 others as hostages. The terrorists demanded that Israel release numerous prisoners. When the Israeli government refused their demand, a tense stand-off ensued while negotiations continued. Eventually the captors, still holding their hostages, were offered safe passage and taken to an airport, where they were ambushed by German security forces. In the firefight that followed, 15 people, including the nine Israeli athletes and five of the terrorists, were killed. After much debate, it was decided that the Games would continue, but proceedings were obviously dominated by these events. Some memorable athletic achievements did occur during these Games, notably the winning of a then record seven gold medals by United States swimmer Mark Spitz, Lasse Virén's, of Finland, back to back gold in the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters, defeating American distance great Steve Prefontaine in the former, and the winning of three gold medals by 16-year-old Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut, who, however failed to win the all-around to her teammate Ludmilla Tourischeva.

There was no such tragedy in Montreal in 1976, but bad planning led to the Games' cost far exceeding the budget. The Montreal Games were the most expensive in Olympic history until the 2008 Summer Olympics, costing over $5 billion (equivalent to $20 billion in 2006). For a time, it seemed that the Olympics might no longer be a viable financial proposition. There was also a boycott by African nations to protest against a recent tour of apartheid-run South Africa by a New Zealand rugby side. The Romanian gymnast Nadia Comăneci won the women's individual all around gold medal with two of four possible perfect scores, thus giving birth to a gymnastics dynasty in Romania. Another female gymnast to earn the perfect score and three gold medals there was Nellie Kim of the USSR. Lasse Virén repeated his double gold in the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters, making him the only athlete to ever win the distance double twice.

Following the Soviet Union's participation in the Afghan Civil War, 66 nations, including the United States, Canada, West Germany and Japan, boycotted the 1980 games held in Moscow. The boycott contributed to the 1980 Games being a less publicised and less competitive affair, which was dominated by the host country.

In 1984 the Soviet Union, and 13 Soviet Allies, reciprocated by boycotting the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. These games were perhaps the first games of a new era to make a profit. The games were again viable, but had become more commercial. Again, without the participation of the Eastern European countries, the 1984 Games were dominated by their host country. The game was also the first time Mainland China (People's Republic) participated.

The 1988 Seoul games were very well planned but the games were tainted when many of the athletes, most notably men's 100 metres winner Ben Johnson, failed mandatory drug tests. Despite splendid drug-free performances by many individuals, the number of people who failed screenings for performance-enhancing chemicals overshadowed the games.

On the bright side, drug testing and regulation authorities were catching up with the cheating that had been endemic in athletics for some years. The 1992 Barcelona Games were cleaner, although not without incident. In evidence there was increased professionalism amongst Olympic athletes, exemplified by US basketball's "Dream Team". 1992 also saw the reintroduction to the Games of several smaller European states which had been incorporated into the Soviet Union since World War II. These games also saw gymnast Vitaly Scherbo equal the record for most individual gold medals at a single Games set by Eric Heiden in the 1980 Winter Games, with five.

By then the process of choosing a location for the Games had itself become a commercial concern; allegations of corruption rocked the International Olympic Committee, in particular with reference to Salt Lake City's bid to host the 2002 Winter Olympics. It was also widely rumored that The Coca-Cola Company, a key IOC sponsor, was highly influential in the 1996 Summer Olympics being hosted by its home city of Atlanta. In the stadium in 1996, the highlight was 200 meters runner Michael Johnson annihilating the world record in front of a home crowd. Canadians savored Donovan Bailey's record-breaking gold medal run in the 100-meter dash. This was popularly felt to be an appropriate recompense for the previous national disgrace involving Ben Johnson. There were also emotional scenes, such as when Muhammad Ali, clearly affected by Parkinson's disease, lit the Olympic torch and received a replacement medal for the one he had discarded in 1960. The latter event took place not at the boxing ring but in the basketball arena, at the demand of US television. The atmosphere at the Games was marred however when a bomb exploded during the celebration in Centennial Park. In June 2003, the principal suspect in this bombing, Eric Robert Rudolph, was captured.

2004 saw the Games return to their birthplace in Athens, Greece. Greece spent at least $7.2 billion on the Games, including $1.5 billion on security alone. The games were praised and appreciated for their excellent quality in terms of organization, hospitality, symbolism, the level of the competition and athleticism, and the overall image transmitted worldwide. Although unfounded and wildly sensationalized reports of potential terrorism drove crowds away from the preliminary competitions of first weekend of the games (August 14-15), attendance picked up as the games progressed. Still, a third of the tickets failed to sell. The Athens Games witnessed all 202 NOCs participate with over 11,000 participants.

The 2008 Summer Olympics were held in Beijing, People's Republic of China. Several new events, including the new discipline of BMX for both men and women, were held. For the first time, women competed in the steeplechase. The fencing program was expanded to include all six events for both men and women. Women had not previously been able to compete in team foil or saber events (although women's team épée and men's team foil were dropped for these Games). Marathon swimming events, over the distance of 10 kilometers, were added. In addition, the doubles events in table tennis were replaced by team events. American swimmer Michael Phelps set a record for gold medals at a single Games, with eight, and tied the record of Heiden and Scherbo for most individual golds at a single Games. Another major star of the Games was Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, who became the first male athlete ever to set world records in the finals of both the 100 and 200 metres in the same Games.

London, United Kingdom will hold the 2012 Summer Olympics, making London the first city to host the Games three times. The International Olympic Committee has removed baseball and softball from the 2012 program. However, it may be re-added in programs in later years. The International Olympic Committee has announced that the finalists to host the 2016 Summer Olympics are Chicago, USA; Tokyo, Japan; Madrid, Spain; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

43 different sports, spanning 56 different disciplines, have been part of the Olympic program at one point or another. 28 sports have comprised the schedule for the 2000, 2004, and 2008 Summer Olympics, though baseball and softball have been removed to give a list of 26 for the 2012 Games.

The Summer Olympic Sports or Federations are regrouped under a common umbrella association, called the Association of Summer Olympic Federations (ASOIF).

Note: Although the Games of 1916, 1940, and 1944 had been cancelled, the Roman numerals for those Games were still used because the Summer Games' official titles count Olympiads, not the Games themselves; those Olympiads occurred anyway per the Olympic Charter. This is in contrast to the Roman numerals in the official titles of the Winter Olympic Games, which ignore the cancelled Winter Games of 1940 & 1944; those titles count Games instead of Olympiads.

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Source : Wikipedia