6 Things You Didn't Know About The Olympics

On April 6, 1896, the first modern Olympic Games opened in Athens, Greece. The long-lost tradition of ancient Greece were reborn in Athens after 1,500 years of being banned by the Roman Emperor Theodosius I. Here are 6 surprising facts about the Olympic Games that you probably didn't know.


Olympic Champions Haven't Received Solid Gold Medals Since 1912 The last time Olympic champions were awarded solid gold medals was back in 1912. Olympic runners-up can take some consolation in the fact that there isn’t much difference between their silver medals and the gold medals awarded to winners. Medals made with pure gold were last awarded in 1912, and winners today receive medals that are 93 percent silver and 6 percent copper, with just 6 grams of gold.  Interestingly, champions at the first modern Olympics in 1896 received silver, not gold, medal.

The First Olympian To Fail A Drug Test Was Busted For Drinking Beer Olympic drug testing debuted in 1968, and Swedish pentathlete Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall was first to test positive for a banned substance. His drug? Two beers he said he downed to “calm his nerves” before the pistol shoot. The disqualified Liljenwall and his teammates were forced to return their bronze medals. (Fellow pentathlete Hans-Jurgen Todt could have used something to calm down as well. The West German attacked his horse after it balked three times at jumping obstacles.)


Basketball Games Were Played on Soft Terrain When basketball officially debuted at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, games were played on outdoor tennis courts made of clay and sand. During the gold medal game between the United States and Canada, a flood occurred during the second-half which turned the court into a muddy mess that would have stymied even the Dream Team.  With dribbling an impossible task, the waterlogged Americans spent most of the half simply playing catch with the slippery ball to protect their lead. Final score: United States 19, Canada 8.

The 1904 Olympics Featured a Gymnast With a Wooden Leg During the 1904 Games in St. Louis, gymnast George Eyser competed with a wooden leg after being run over by a train. Not only did he compete, but the hometown hero won six medals including three gold medals in the long horse, parallel bar, and rope climbing. He took home silver in the side horse and all-around events and a bronze medal on the horizontal bar.

Only One Athlete Won Gold Medals In Both the Summer and Winter Olympics Edward Eagan was an American boxer and bobsledder who is notable as being the only person to win a gold medal at both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games. Eagan competed as a boxer at the 1920 Summer Olympics in Antwerp, and won the gold medal in the light-heavyweight division.  He went on to win his winter gold medal in the four-man bobsled event at the 1932 Winter Games in Lake Placid. With the win, Eagan became the first, and the last, person to ever win gold in different sports at both the Summer and Winter Olympics.

The Summer Games Used To Last Months While athletes train most of their lives preparing for the Olympics, the current games only last for 16 days. However, the games used to span months, starting in the spring and ending in the fall. The 1908 Summer Olympics in London spanned 188 days, or more than half of the year. The Games opened on April 27 and ended October 31. The 1900 Paris Games spanned more than five months, and the 1904 St. Louis Games and the 1920 Antwerp Games also lasted nearly as long.