More Sports, Countries, Women: How The Olympic Games Have Come A Long Way

A woman walks on a bridge past a Tokyo 2020 banner ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics (AP)

A woman walks on a bridge past a Tokyo 2020 banner ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics (AP)

The first modern Olympics Games in 1896 had no women participants and just a handful of countries. See how the Games have evolved down the years

After being postponed by a year due to the pandemic and despite continuing opposition in Japan due to fears over Covid-19 safety, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Games is set to get underway later this week on July 23. Among the greatest sporting spectacles on the planet, here’s a look at how the Games has evolved and statistics that stand out.

Tokyo 2020 Will See The Highest Number Of Sports So Far

The Games this year will see competition in five sports that were not part of the programme at the Rio Olympics in 2016. Baseball/softball, karate, skateboard, sports climbing and surfing have been added to this year’s roster. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said that the Organising Committee for the Tokyo 2020 Games proposed the five new sports following steps taken to “give Organising Committees the flexibility to propose new sports for their edition of the Games”.

The Tokyo Games will have athletes compete in 33 sports across 50 disciplines. The total number of events is 339 with 165 men’s events and 156 women’s events along with 18 mixed disciplines. According to the IOC definition a sport is “that which is governed by an International Federation while a discipline is a branch of a sport comprising one or more events”. And an “event is a competition in a sport or discipline that gives rise to a ranking”.

“Thus, skiing is a sport, while cross-country skiing, Alpine skiing, snowboarding, ski jumping and Nordic combined are disciplines. Alpine skiing is a discipline, while the super-G, giant slalom, slalom and combined are events,” the IOC said.

Number Of Women Participants Has Grown

The 1896 Games in Athens had no women participants with a total of 241 men competing for the honours at the first modern edition of Olympics. But by 1900, when the Games were staged in Paris, there were 22 women who were present among the competitors while the number of men had gone up to 975. Cut to 2016 Rio and there were more than 6,000 men and over 5,000 women athletes who had turned up for the Games. The Brazilian city saw the highest number of women participants at an Olympic Games while the largest men’s presence was recorded in Atlanta in 1996, with 6,806 contestants.

Reports say that at Tokyo, several Olympics powerhouse countries are sending contingents with higher presence of women than men. A Times Of India report said that China is sending 298 women athletes as against 133 men while the US contingent would feature 329 women and 284 men. Great Britain, too, will have more women (201) than men (175). The Indian contingent will have 56 women and 71 men.

Number Of Countries Too Has Increased

The 1896 Athens Games had athletes from a total of 14 nations vying for honours, but by 1912 that number had doubled to 28. But the era of mostly ocean liners and land travel meant that the number of participating nations crossed 100 for the first time only in 1968, when Mexico City hosted the Games. As air travel became more common, the number of participating countries, too, increased, although a notable blip came in 1980 when the US boycotted the Games that were hosted in Moscow, with USSR retaliating by skipping the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.

As many as 207 countries and jurisdictions took part in the 2016 Rio Olympics. The number of countries at Tokyo is expected to be 206, including the Refugee Olympic Team. Interestingly, Russian athletes will be representing not their country but the Russian Olympic Commitee after the country was handed a four-year ban in 2019 for systematic doping. So, there will be no Russian flag at the Games although the athletes’ uniforms will feature the country’s colours.

US Is The Country To Beat On The Medals Table

There have been a total of 29 Olympics Games that have been held while the event was cancelled on three occasions, every time due to the World Wars. The US has featured in 27 editions of the Games and has won more gold, silver and bronze medals than any other country/entity.

In fact, the US has led the medals tally at more than half the Games, grabbing the top spot at 17 Olympics. Next is the erstwhile Soviet Union and the Unified Team of former Soviet Union states, which was on top at seven Olympics.

France, Great Britain, Germany and China have had the distinction of leading the medals table once each.

The total medals bagged by India, which has taken part at 24 Olympics Games, is 28 with nine gold, seven silver and 12 bronze medals.

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