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The history of the Olympics in 500 words

Here’s everything you need to know about how the Olympics got to the present point.

Olympic rings with the Rainbow Bridge in the background at the Odaiba Marine Park. Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images

We had Olympic Games from 776 BC through 393 AD, but nobody kept score and there were no medal counts. The USA did not participate and NBC did not air them, so did they really count?

Then maybe good guy/maybe weirdo/definite misogynist Pierre de Coubertin brought the games back to help build warriors so France wouldn’t lose another war to Prussia. He formed the International Olympic Committee in 1894, and relaunched the games in Athens in 1896.

14 countries sent 241 athletes, all men, all from Europe except the Americans, with 65% from Greece. They gave out 43 gold medals in nine days. Everyone loved it, so Greek politicians said it should take place in Athens every four years. But de Coubertin decided to take it on the road.

1900 went OK in Paris with 997 athletes, but 1904 was kind of a joke sideshow to the World’s Fair in St. Louis. It went on for five months, only 62 of the 651 athletes weren’t American or Canadian, and Team USA won 78 of the 96 gold medals available. Plus this insanity happened.

In 1908 at London, things started to get more organized. Despite dueling being a real sport (two guys shooting each other with wax bullets), 22 countries competed in 22 sports. It drew good crowds, and the original vision was starting to come together.

Stockholm in 1912 had 28 nations and 2,408 competitors for 102 medals in 14 sports. All but three sports started and ended within a month. The Games were A Thing, and multiple cities were competing to host many years in advance. But that didn’t help in 1916, where everything got canceled due to World War I.

Paris became the first repeat host in 1924, and 3,089 competitors included 135 women. Also the Winter Games started the previous January up the road in Chamonix.

Hitler made the Games a propaganda commercial in Berlin in 1936, and the World Wars he started canceled 1940 and ‘44. The games came back to London in 1948, and helped heal the planet while competing under post-war austerity in Europe.

Melbourne got the games out of Europe and North America for the first time in 1956, and Asia got their first with Tokyo in 1964. Mexico City saw electronic timekeeping and color television for all events for the first time, so everyone saw this in color.

The shooting of 11 Israeli athletes in 1972 by a Palestinian terrorist group overshadowed the sports. The US led a 65-nation boycott of Moscow in 1980, which was so full of doping that 97 world records were set in two weeks. 14 Eastern Bloc countries then boycotted Los Angeles in 1984, and America won everything.

The Berlin Wall fell, and so did the systematic doping from behind the Iron Curtain. Barcelona in 1992 was a massive success, but Atlanta had a terrorist bombing ruin an otherwise terrific 1996.

NBC is in the middle of a $7.75 billion contract to broadcast all games until 2032.