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5 Things Most People Don't Know About The Olympic Games

London 2012 is coming soon, and many people are very excited! The long history of the Olympic Games is full of interesting trivia that you can read in-between medal ceremonies.

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1. Some interesting sports were contested at the early Olympic Games

In the first Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, the sports featured were not too out of the ordinary. However, the next two Olympics were held during the World's Fairs in Paris and St. Louis. As a result, some strange competitions were held during these Olympics. These include balloon racing, delivery van driving, obstacle swimming, and live pigeon shooting at Paris 1900, and a sack race, a bow and arrow competition, and a form of croquet at the St. Louis 1904 Games. The line between an "Olympic Sport" and a non-Olympic World's Fair competition was very blurry, and many events are not officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee.

2. The 1956 Summer Olympics were hosted on two separate continents

As Melbourne, Australia, made preparations to host the 1956 Olympic Summer Games, concerns about the equestrian events began to arise. Australia had strict horse quarantine laws, so no horses could be brought from abroad to compete in the Games. Stockholm, Sweden, had hosted the Olympic Games in 1912, and offered to host the equestrian events in June. The "Equestrian Games" had their own opening ceremony and Olympic Flame. The rest of the Olympic events were held that November and December, during the Australian summer. Today, the IOC fully considers the 1956 Olympic Games to be the Melbourne/Stockholm Games.

3. The IOC doesn't count the 1906 Olympic Games

After the first Olympic Games in 1896, there was a lot of interest in continuing the event regularly. However, since the 1900 and 1904 Games were mixed up with the Worlds Fairs in Paris and St. Louis, respectively. The Olympics ended up being stretched out for months along with the World's Fairs. As a result, much of that original enthusiasm faded. The Olympics were saved, however, by the 1906 Intercalated Games in Athens. These Olympic Games were held in an "off" year, and they were much shorter than the previous Games. The IOC no longer recognizes the 1906 events as official Olympic Games, but they probably rescued the struggling Olympic Movement.

4. Athletes have died at the Olympics

While most of the thousands of athletes who compete every Olympiad come home empty-handed, they are certainly luckier than those few who never made it home altogether. Throughout the years, a handful of athletes have had their lives cut short at the Olympic Games. Some deaths were the result of accidents (like Nodar Kumaritashvili, whose 2010 luge crash in Vancouver ended in tragedy). Others died of health problems like heat stroke or blood poisoning (including Francisco Lázaro, whose makeshift wax sunscreen prevented him from sweating during a race, leading him to die of an electrolyte imbalance). Most notably, however, was the Munich Massacre of 1972. Terrorists (pictured above) killed 11 Israeli athletes in the Olympic Village.

5. Commercialization saved the Olympic Games

The financial difficulties of the 1976 Montreal Olympic Summer Games made things difficult for the future of the Games. The Olympic Stadium (pictured above) cost the city a total of $1.47 billion by the time it was paid off in 2006. For those keeping track, this was THIRTY YEARS after the Olympic Games it was designed to host. Unsurprisingly, very few cities wanted to take on the risk of hosting the upcoming 1984 Olympics. Los Angeles was chosen by default after no other city made a bid. Thanks to heavy corporate sponsorship and some cost-cutting, the 1984 Olympic Summer Games actually turned a profit. Cities were once again drawn to host and the Olympics were saved once again.

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