Olympic Games Symbols


The Olympic Anthem was composed in 1896, its verse being written by Greek poet Costis Palamas and set to music by music composer Spyros Samaras. It was first struck up at the 1896 Olympic games in Athens. It gained official IOC sanction as an Olympic symbol in 1958, at the LV IOC Session in Lausanne.

“Ancient immortal spirit, unsullied father of that which beautiful, great an true, descend, make thyself known and shine here on this earth and below these skies, witness of thy glory.

Illuminate the endeavour wrought in noble contests, in the running race, the wrestling and the throwing. Place a wreath of evergreen branch, creating the body as of iron and worthy.

Vales, mountains and oceans shine with thee like unto a great temple of white and porphyry. To which all peoples hasten to this temple to worship thee, Oh ancient immortal spirit”.

—Costis Palamas


The Olympic Emblem consists of the five interlaced rings and represents the union of the five continents calling upon athletes all over the world to take part in the Olympic Games.


“Citius. Altius. Fortius” Swifter, Higher, Stronger. The Olympic motto addresses itself to all of the members of the Olympic Movement calling upon them to act according to the Olympic Spirit.

Latin: “citius, altius, fortius – communiter”
English: “faster, higher, stronger – together”
French: “plus vite, plus haut, plus fort – ensemble”


Like the emblem, the Olympic flag was conceived by baron Pier de Couberten and presented at the IOC Session in Paris in 1914. Its first appearance at an Olympic tournament was in 1920, at the Antwerp Games. It consists of the five Olympic rings, centrally located against a white background, whose colours are blue, black, red, yellow and green. According to de Coubertin, these colours stand for all the nations in the world, since at least one of the colours on the Olympic flag features on each country’s national flag.


The lighting of the Olympic Flame and the Torch relay were originally held in 1936 on the occasion of the Berlin Olympic Games. Conceived by German academic and National Olympic Committee member Dr. Carl Diem, these ceremonial events were submitted by the same man to the Organizing Committee for the XI Olympic Games for approval and subsequently adopted. Henceforth, the lighting of the Flame has always been carried out at the temple of Hera, at the ancient site of Olympia. From thence, the lit torch travels at the hands of torchbearers until it eventually reaches the host city of the Games. The entrance of the anchor torchbearer into the Olympic stadium of the host city and the igniting of the altar in fact signal the opening of the Games. Since 1936 there have been 16 relays overall, the Sydney Olympics featuring the largest and most prolonged among them, having lasted for a total period of 100 days.


According to Gaston Meyer, the athletes’ oath was first taken at the Athens Intermediate Games in 1906. The oath is recited by an athlete from the host country, who holds the Olympic flag by the tip at one of its corners, surrounded by other athletes who carry the flag.

“In the name of all competitors I promise that we will take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, in the true spirit of sportsmanship,for the glory of the sport and the honour of our teams”.


In the scope of the proceedings of the IOC Session held in the city of Mexico on the 30th of September 1968, it was resolved to propose the introduction of an Olympic oath for officials, whose text was later composed by Lord Killanin.

“In the name of all the judges and officials, I promise that we shall officiate in these Olympic Games with complete impartiality, respecting, and abiding by the rules which govern them, in the true spirit of sportsmanship”.