Held every 4 years since 1896, the Summer Olympic Games are organised by the International Olympic Committee and is the world’s biggest multi-sport event. Beginning as a simple 42-event competition with less than 250 male participants, each Olympics now brings together over 10,000 competitors from the world’s 205 nations in a 300-event extravaganza. Despite our size compared to the world’s other nations, Australia has an impeccable history with the Games – we are 1 of only 5 countries to have been represented at all Summer Olympic Games (along with Greece, France, Great Britain and Switzerland) and we are currently the only country in the Southern Hemisphere to host the Games (twice – Melbourne 1956 and Sydney 2000). This of course will all change in 2016 as Rio de Janeiro becomes the first country in South America to host the event.
Every time the Olympics are held, variations are made to the program of events with some sports gaining inclusion, others being modified, and some being dropped completely. For example, at the 2008 Olympics held in Beiijing, BMX was added for both men and women, as was a 10km marathon swim event.
For the London Olympic Games in 2012, the IOC dropped baseball and softball from the schedule but failed to add any new events. The inclusions for 2016 are extremely exciting for many countries, especially Australia, as Rugby Sevens and Golf have been guaranteed status for both Rio 2016 and 2020 in Tokyo.
Australia has been very successful throughout the Games history, winning 138 Gold, 153 Silver and 177 Bronze to rank us 11th on the all-time list (9th if you remove the Soviet Union and East Germany). By far and away our most successful sport is Swimming, having brought in 57 Golds, 60 Silver and 61 Bronze. From an individual perspective, Ian Thorpe is our greatest solo athlete having won 5 Gold, 3 Silver and 1 Bronze, closely followed by 3 other swimmers (Dawn Fraser, Libby Trickett and Murray Rose) and 1 athlete (Betty Cuthbert) with 4 Golds. We’ve also won more than 10 gold medals in each of Athletics, Cycling, Rowing and Sailing, with our highest overall medal tally coming as hosts in 2000 with 58 medals (16 Gold, 25 Silver and 17 Bronze).
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Athletics were the core reason the Olympics first began in 1896, and have consequently been contested in every Olympics since.
Since 1936, basketball has been an Olympic sport in one form or another. The men’s competition has been at every Olympics since its introduction in 1936, and the women’s competition has appeared at every Olympics since 1976.
Despite being included in the first 7 Olympics from 1896 through till 1924, tennis was dropped from the program for 11 of the next 12 games.
Along with athletics, swimming has been one of the consistencies of every modern Summer Olympics. In 2016, there will be 34 Gold medals handed out in the pool – the second highest amount of any sport behind athletics.
Apart from the first Games held in 1896, and the 1932 edition, soccer has been included in every summer Olympics.
In 2009, the International Olympic Committee announced that Rugby Union would be making a return to the Olympic Games in the Rugby Sevens format.