1913:
First public presentation of the
Five Rings Symbol

In the August edition of the Revue Olympique for 1913, Pierre de Coubertin published an article in which he described the emblem and the flag for the 9th Olympic Congress, which should have been held in 1914, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the revival of the Olympic Games, in Paris.

The emblem consisted of five interlaced rings in the colours of blue, yellow, black, green and red, and the Olympic motto "Citius – Altius – Fortius" (Faster – Higher – Stronger) together with laurel leaves.

The development of national flags had been essentially completed at the beginning of the 20th century. Organisations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), institutions and companies had also adopted identifying logos or trademarks.

For the Olympic Movement which he founded, the artistically talented Coubertin designed an open wreath of olive branches, reminiscent of the ancient Games in which the winners were decorated with such a prize. This symbol – later combined with the Olympic motto – was used by Coubertin for the title page of the Revue Olympique and for a vignette with which his official letters were closed.

The IOC emerged strengthened from the 1908 Games in London. Thereafter, there was an increased need to acquire insignia appropriate to the new meaning and recognisable at first sight. A working group was set up, but the proposed model of a flag found no approval.

Then Coubertin designed the five-ring logo, symbolising the five continents of Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania united by Olympism and in which – together with the white flag fabric – the colours of the flags of all then-known nations are to be found. Coubertin was probably inspired by the badge of the Union of French Athletic Sports Clubs, whose Secretary General he had become in 1890. This sports federation had been created following the merger of several clubs and was symbolised by two interconnected rings (or circles).

For the 1914 Olympic Congress, Coubertin had 500 banners produced by a Parisian department store. Officially, the new flag was first hoisted at an event in the Bois de Boulogne. Prior to that, however, Coubertin had allowed Egyptian IOC Member Angelo Bolanachi to display it at the opening of the Chatby Stadium in Alexandria on 5 April 1914. He himself had already used the five rings as a letterhead in July 1913.

The first presentation at the Olympic Games was delayed until 1920 because of the First World War. Starting with the Games in Antwerp, the Olympic flag then flew at all Summer and Winter Games. It is solemnly hoisted at the Opening Ceremony in the main stadium and all other Olympic venues and lowered during the Closing Ceremony.

The Olympic ceremonial also includes the "Antwerp flag" for the Summer Games and the "Oslo flag" for the Winter Games. At the end of the Games, the mayors of the respective hosts hand over these traditional flags to their counterparts from the hosts of the next editions.

The Olympic symbol, which is today one of the world's most famous trademarks, is the property of the IOC, which has the exclusive rights of use. To protect it, in 1981 the so-called Nairobi Treaty was signed, with the signatories obliged to reject any improper and/or unauthorised commercial use.

Gallery

The Olympic Rings
The Olympic Rings
The Olympic Rings
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The Olympic Rings
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The Olympic Rings on Day 9 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbeldon, on August 5, 2012 in London, England.
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More information

Learn more about the Olympic rings
The Olympic symbol – widely known throughout the world as the Olympic rings – is the visual ambassador of Olympism for billions of people. Based on a design first created by Pierre de Coubertin, the Olympic rings remain a global representation of the Olympic Movement and its activity.
Learn more
Pierre de Coubertin
Baron Pierre de Coubertin was only 1,62 metres (5’3”) tall, but by many measures, he was a giant of the 20th century. Born into the French aristocracy on 1 January 1863, he became a champion of the common man, embracing the values of France’s Third Republic—liberty, equality, fraternity—as a young adult.
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Evolution of the IOC

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