In the early days of the modern Olympiad, medals were awarded for sculpture, music, painting and literature. The founder of the modern Olympics, the Baron de Coubertin himself, won a medal in the poetry event for his poem Ode to Sport, which he submitted pseudonymously in French and German. A few of its lines go, 'O Sport, You are Peace! / You forge happy bonds between the peoples / by drawing them together in reverence for strength / which is controlled, organised and self-disciplined.'
Olympic contests in various artistic categories including Town Planning were held until 1948. The reason they were eventually discontinued was that Avery Brundage, the head of the International Olympics Committee, was concerned that the winners of fine art medals were likely to capitalise professionally on their accolades, and that this would undermine the amateur spirit of the games.
In 1936, the year the USA won silver for Town Planning, the gold medal went to a German, Werner March, for his design of the Olympic Stadium in Berlin. The leading country in the Fine Arts medals table between 1912 and 1948 was Germany, with team GB standing a creditable fourth.
Two people (Walter Winians and Alfréd Hajós) have won Olympic medals in both sport and art competitions. Britain's John Copley was 73 when he took silver in the 1948 engravings and etchings competition, making him the oldest Olympic medallist.
John Gretton is the only person to have won an Olympic Gold medal while serving as an MP – for sailing, in 1900.
If you don't have confidence, you'll always find a way not to win.
London has only ever bid for the Olympics once (2012). The city previously hosted at the request of the IOC.
In 1948 every male athlete in the British Olympic team was given a free pair of Y-fronts.
At the 1904 Olympic marathon, Cuban postman Felix Carvajal stopped occasionally to chat to spectators and pick fruit. He came fourth.
In the ancient Greek Olympics, events included the two-horse chariot race, the mule cart-race (in which the driver sat naked) and the kalpe, in which the driver jumped off his horse at some point during the race and ran alongside it.
During the first day of the games there would be a competition between trumpeters and heralds where the loudest and clearest won. The winners were responsible for crowd control for the rest of the games.
The games were held in Olympia, where the Temple of Zeus was situated, which contained the 13-metre-high Statue of Zeus: one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The figure was slightly stooped; if it could stand up it would crash through the roof, thus giving the impression that no temple could contain the god.
Olympic gold medals are mostly made of silver. The last gold medals that were made entirely out of gold were awarded in 1912. The Olympic medals are designed especially for each individual Olympic Games by the host city's organizing committee. Each medal must be at least 3mm thick and 60mm in diameter. Also, the gold and silver Olympic medals must be made out of 92.5% silver, with the gold medal covered in six grams of gold.
If the gold medals were made out of 18 carat gold, each one would cost around £3,000, i.e. £1.5m or so over the course of the whole competition.
Curling is not a sport. I called my grandmother and told her she could win a gold medal because they now have dusting at the Olympics.
The London Police Force won Gold in the 1908 Olympics in the Tug of War. They beat the US in the final.The US team accused Team GB of wearing illegal spiked boots, so a rematch was made wearing socks. The English team still won.
In the 1980 Olympics the gold and silver medals for pole vaulting were both won by Poles.
The Russian Olympic team arrived 12 days late for the 1908 London Olympics because they were still using the Julian calendar.
At the London 2012 Olympics, 55% of the athletes were found to have tooth decay.
Some athletes at the ancient Greek Olympics engaged in cheating such as bribery, eye gouging, biting & testicle twisting.
Sgt. Gehnall Persson and his Swedish team-mates easily won Gold in the team dressage at the 1948 Olympics - but were stripped of the medal after the French, who came second, spotted Persson wearing a sergeant's cap. Olympic equestrianism was only open to officers and gentlemen. It was an amateur sport and 'other ranks' were considered professionals. Persson had been given a bogus promotion to lieutenant for the duration of the Games, but presumably forgot to change his headgear.
Happy ending, though: the 'gentlemen' rule was dropped, and Persson won Gold at the next two Olympics, as a sergeant.
At the 1900 Olympics in Paris, the Dutch coxed pair got through to the final, but feared that their overweight cox, Hermanus Brockmann, might cost them the Gold. They'd noticed that the French crews were using children as coxes, so they decided to get one of their own. They plucked one from the crowd (a boy who had already been discarded as too heavy by the French, as it turned out), and with him steering the boat they won the Gold. The child was reckoned to be 7-10 years old.
No-one has ever discovered his name, despite decades of searching. After the race, he just vanished back into the crowd (his medal was given to Brockmann).
We reckon that makes him the only anonymous gold medal winner in modern Olympic history - and thus one of the greatest Nobodies of all time.
Croquet was dropped as an Olympic sport after the 1900 games because only one spectator turned up to watch.
In 2000, a 103 year old man returned the official Olympic flag that he stole as a dare after coming 3rd in diving at the 1920 Olympics.
In the 1908 Olympic games in London, a 100m swimming pool was built inside the athletics running track.
In the 1928 Olympics, rower Henry Pearce, stopped during a race to let a family of ducks to cross his path. He went on to win gold.
The French felt that Baron de Coubertin’s modern Olympic games were too British and that he was turning his back on the French way.
The very first recorded Olympic champion was Coroebus of Eli in 776BC, he was a cook and won the one and only event, a ~192m running race.