Olympic Games, oldest and most famous international sporting contest. Traditionally for amateurs, it is held once every 4 years. The Olympics probably developed from the ancient Greek custom of holding athletic contests in honor of a god or a dead hero. A list of male champions exists from 776 B.C. The Olympics continued through the Roman period in Greece. Gradually, however, they lost their popular esteem, largely through the growth of cheating. In A.D. 394 they were abolished by decree of the Emperor Theodosius.
In 1894 a French nobleman, Pierre de Coubertin, called a meeting in Paris that led to the first modern Olympic Games, held in Athens in 1896. Thirteen nations sent a total of 285 men, and the Games were effectively revived. Since then the Olympics have been held in different cities once every 4 years, with the exception of the war years 1916, 1940, and 1944. Women first competed in 1912. In 1924 the Winter Olympics were instituted at Chamonix, France.
There are more than 20 Summer Olympics sports, including swimming, basketball, soccer, gymnastics, boxing, weightlifting, yachting, cycling, and equestrian events. Skiing, ice-skating, and ice hockey are among the 7 Winter Game sports. A competitor must be a citizen of the country he or she represents. No more than 3 entries from any country are permitted in each event (4 in the winter games). Only 1 team per country is allowed in team sports.