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Olympic Symbols

Olympic Symbols

Olympic rings like these ones at the Sochi Airport are among the most widely recognized symbols in the world. (c) AP Photo

Olympic rings like these ones at the Sochi Airport are among the most widely recognized symbols in the world. (c) AP Photo

French baron, Pierre de Coubertin, not only started the movement to found the modern Olympic Games, but he also designed the Olympic Rings. Coubertin described the Rings and their meaning in the following quote:

“ The Olympic flag […] has a white background, with five interlaced rings in the centre: blue, yellow, black, green and red […]. This design is symbolic; it represents the five continents of the world, united by Olympism, while the six colours are those that appear on all the national flags of the world at the present time. ” (1931) Textes choisis, vol. II, p.470.

Many understood Coubertin’s statement to mean that the rings’ coloration represents each of the nations that competed in the first of the modern Olympic Games. The International Olympic Committee, however, states that the rings do not correspond to a specific nation or continent. Rather, the rings are interlaced to symbolize the universality of the Games; the Olympic Games invite people from around the world to engage in a peaceful and cooperative sporting event.

The three Agitos

The Paralympic Symbol (three Agitos) consists of three elements in red, blue and green – the three colors that are most widely represented in national flags around the world. The three Agitos (from the Latin meaning “I move”) encircling a central point symbolize motion, emphasize the role of the Paralympic Movement in bringing athletes together from all corners of the world to compete. The symbol also emphasizes the fact that Paralympic athletes are constantly inspiring and exciting the world with their performances: always moving forward and never giving up. The previous Paralympic Symbols, which are no longer in use, were based on the traditional Korean decorative component called ‘Tae-Geuk’. According to oriental philosophy, Tae-Geuk refers to the ultimate reality from which all things and values originate. Tae-Geuks started to be used at the 1988 Summer Paralympic Games in Seoul, Korea.

Earlier Olympic symbol. Wikimedia Commons.

With five Tae-Geuks  arranged similarly to the Olympic Rings, in a similar set of five colors, the symbol was not considered distinctive enough and therefore was changed to a three-Tae-Geuk design.

Earlier Olympic symbol. Wikimedia Commons

Until 2003, the three-Tae-Geuk design was used for the Paralympic Symbol. In the same year, after a strategic review process, this symbol was replaced by the current one – the three Agitos.

Paralympic Symbol on London Bridge AP Photo (Sebastian Widmann/dapd)

[Source: International Paralympic Committee Brand Brook, February 2013]

Olympic Oath, Hymn, Motto

In addition to the official logos of the Olympics and Paralympics, there are other significant symbols, such as the oath, hymn and motto. The Olympic Oath states, "In the name of all competitors, I promise that we shall 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 sport and the honor of our teams." Baron Pierre de Coubertin wrote the oath for the athletes to recite at each Olympic Games. During the opening ceremonies, one athlete from the host nation recites the oath on behalf of all the athletes while holding a corner of the Olympic flag. A judge from the host country also speaks the oath, with slightly different wording. The Olympic oath was first taken during the 1920 Olympic Games by Belgian fencer Victor Boin.

The taking of the Paralympic Oath is an important part of the protocol procedures during the Opening Ceremony at the Paralympic Games. After the Paralympic flag has been raised, an athlete from the team of the nation that is organizing the Paralympic Games mounts the official rostrum. He or she holds a corner of the Paralympic flag and raises his/her right hand while reciting the following solemn oath, thereby renewing his/her commitment to a fair competition and the ideals of the Paralympic Movement on behalf of all participants: “In the name of all the competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Paralympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams.” This oath was adapted from the Olympic Oath written by Pierre de Coubertin. [Source: International Paralympic Committee]

Olympic Mascot

The Olympic Mascots are a warm and friendly presence amid the intensity of the world’s most competitive athletic events. The first official Olympic Mascot dates back to the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. Since then, Olympic Mascots have become a main element of the Olympic image. There are three mascots for the Sochi Winter Olympics: the Hare, the Polar Bear and the Leopard. Whereas mascots are usually selected by the local organizing committee of the host city, the Sochi mascots were selected through a contest. The Sochi Organizing Committee allowed first Russians and later internationals to send in drawings of ideas for mascots. The Committee received 24,048 submissions, from which it selected 10. Then, through the televised program “Talismaniya Sochi 2014 – The Final” on February 26, 2011 , the Russian public voted for the three mascots you see in the picture below!

Postal stamp of Sochi Mascots. Credit: Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee

Postal stamp of Sochi Mascots. Credit: Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee

American Citizen Services

  • Information for American Citizens - Sochi 2014