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Olympic Fever Builds! Seven Things You Didn't Know About The Summer Games

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Jul. 26 2012, Published 7:00 a.m. ET

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By Debbie Emery - Reporter

The torch is lit, the stadium is built and more than 10,000 athletes from around the world are getting dressed in their official uniforms for Friday's opening ceremony.

This year's games will make London the first city to ever host the modern Olympic Games three times  - in 1908, 1948 and 2012 – and in celebration of the 30th games, has compiled a list of seven thing you didn't know about the Summer Olympics.

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7. The Ancient Olympic games originated in the various city-states of Ancient Greece in honor of the God Zeus around 776 BC in the Greek city of Olympia. The traditional competition began as an annual foot race of young women in competition for the position of the priestess for the goddess, Hera. Then the games expanded to running events, a pentathlon (consisting of a jumping event, discus and javelin throws, a foot race and wrestling), boxing, pankration (a martial art that blends boxing and wrestling), and horse-riding events.

History books are unclear as to when the Ancient games officially ended but it is most commonly cited as 393 AD when emperor Theodosius I decreed that all pagan cults and practices be eliminated.

6. Clothing optional! Unfortunately the Greek tradition of athletic nudity isn't acceptable in the modern world, but it was in 720 BC when introduced by either the Spartans or the Megarian Orsippus and adopted as part of the Ancient Olympics.

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5. Interest in reviving the Olympics grew out of the Greek War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1821, and games were sponsored by wealthy Greek-Romanian philanthropist Evangelis Zappas and held in Athens City Square in 1859 but only featured athletes from Greece and the Ottoman Empire. The first modern summer Olympics were later officially held in Athens in 1896 by the newly created International Olympic Committee with 14 nations and 241 athletes competing in 43 events.

4. The most iconic image of the games is the Olympic symbol, which comprises of five intertwined rings - colored red, black, yellow, blue and green - representing the unity of the five inhabited continents of America, Africa, Asia, Australasia and Europe. The specific colors were chosen because every nation had at least one of them on its national flag, and it was first flown in 1920 during the Antwerp, Belgium games and has been featured in every one since.

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3. Soon to be burning brightly in London's Wembley Stadium, the Olympic flame represents the theft of fire from the Greek god Zeus by Prometheus and it was kept alight during the Ancient games. The tradition was revised in 1928, with the torch introduced eight years later during the controversial Summer Olympics in Germany, which was organized by the Nazis, when it was lit by a concave mirror in Olympia, Greece and transported more than 3,187 kilometres by 3,331 runners in 12 days and 11 nights from Greece to Berlin.

While it is traditionally carried on foot, the torch has had an array of colorful modes of transportation over the decades including by dragon boat in Hong Kong, airplane to Helsinki and on horse back when the equestrian events for the Melbourne games were held in Stockholm due to quarantine regulations.

2. By 2016 (when the games will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), the Summer Olympics will have been hosted by 44 cities in 23 countries, but by cities outside Europe and North America on only eight occasions. Rio will mark the first South American location, and as yet no bids from African nations have succeeded. The United States has been the location of four Summer Olympics – more than any other country – in Atlanta, Los Angeles twice and St.Louis.

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1. Directed by Slumdog Millionaire filmmaker Danny Boyle, this year's opening ceremony is rumored to feature live performances by British musicians including Paul McCartney in the Olympic Stadium that is designed to look like rural Britain – with real life farm animals! The location in England's capital city is fitting considering that London was the setting of the first-ever Olympic opening ceremony in 1908.



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