The Olympic rings represent the five continents and all nations united by Olympism. Today, they make up of the most famous and recognised symbols in the world. Did you know that it was a mere 20 years after the re-establishment of the Olympic Games that Pierre de Coubertin presented his emblem to the 1914 Olympic Congress in Paris? While he is remembered for being an educator, historian and founder of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), he was also a talented designer. Read on for the full history of the Olympic rings.

2020 08 18 rings thumbnail

The Olympic motto "Citius, Altius, Fortius", which is Latin for "Faster, Higher, Stronger", was proposed to Pierre de Coubertin by Dominican priest Henri Didon. While this was used at the founding Congress of the IOC calling for the re-establishment of the Games on 23 June 1894, the famous symbol of five interlaced rings appeared only two decades later. Previously, Pierre de Coubertin had designed an emblem depicting an open crown made up of olive branches, reminiscent of the prizes awarded to athletes during the ancient Games. This symbol appeared on the official letterhead.

The introduction of an Olympic flag was discussed by the IOC members in 1910 at their 12th Session in Luxembourg. One of the organisers of the Olympic Games London 1908 and author of the official report, British IOC member Theodore Cook, presented designs for a flag and medals, but they were not accepted. A commission was subsequently set up, but its work did not produce any concrete results.

In 1913, Pierre de Coubertin set to work. He conceptualised a symbol that would be as universal as possible. His design of five interlaced rings was likely inspired by the logo of the USFSA (Union of French Athletic Sports Societies), an organisation in which he had served as Secretary General in the 1890s. Born from the merger of two sports clubs, the USFSA created a badge depicting two interlaced rings.

Read the entire article here