The Olympic symbol and other elements of the Olympic Identity

  • What are the Olympic properties?
    • The Olympic properties are:

      • The Olympic symbol (rings)
      • The Olympic flag
      • The Olympic motto
      • The Olympic anthem
      • Olympic identifications (including but not limited to "Olympic Games" and "Games of the Olympiad")
      • Olympic designations
      • Olympic emblems
      • The Olympic flame and torches

      The International Olympic Committee (IOC) owns all rights on the Olympic properties.

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  • What is the meaning of the Olympic rings?
    • The Olympic symbol consists of five interlaced rings of equal dimensions, used alone, in one or in five different colours, which are, from left to right, blue, yellow, black, green and red. The Olympic symbol (the Olympic rings) expresses the activity of the Olympic Movement and represents the union of the five continents and the meeting of athletes from throughout the world at the Olympic Games.

      But watch out, it is wrong to say that each of the colours corresponds to a certain continent! In fact, when Pierre de Coubertin created the Rings in 1913, the five colours combined with the white background represented the colours of the flags of all nations at that time, without exception.

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  • Who created the Olympic rings symbol?
    • The Rings appeared for the first time in 1913 at the top of a letter written by Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games. He drew and coloured the rings by hand.

      In the Olympic Review of August 1913, he explained that "These five rings represent the five parts of the world now won over to Olympism and ready to accept its fertile rivalries. Moreover, the six colours thus combined reproduce those of all the nations without exception."

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  • Can I use the Olympic rings?
    • The Olympic rings are the exclusive property of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). They are a mark protected around the world and cannot be used without the IOC's prior written consent.

      You can send a detailed request to legal@olympic.org which must include the below information:

      • Who is making the request? Name, full address, telephone and/or fax number, e-mail address. Organisation, company, museum or individual.
      • Which content is concerned? (texts, images or films)
      • How will the content be used? Private use (no broadcasting), school work, group activities, exhibition, production/broadcasting

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  • Is it possible to obtain an Olympic flag?
    • The Olympic flag is an Olympic property. Its use is reserved for the Olympic Games. For this reason, it cannot be made available for public use.

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  • What is the Olympic creed ?
    • "The important thing in life is not the triumph, but the fight; the essential thing is not to have won, but to have fought well."


      Inspired by the words of the Bishop of Pennsylvania, Ethelbert Talbot, Pierre de Coubertin first spoke this phrase in a slightly different form at a reception given by the British government on 24 July 1908. It went on to become the Olympic Movement’s creed.

  • What is the Olympic motto?
    • The original Olympic motto is made up of three Latin words :
      Citius - Altius - Fortius. These words mean Faster - Higher - Stronger. 

      On the 20th of July 2021, the Session of the International Olympic Committee approved a change in the Olympic motto that recognises the unifying power of sport and the importance of solidarity. The change adds the word “together” after an en dash to “Faster, Higher, Stronger”. The new Olympic motto now reads in Latin “Citius, Altius, Fortius - Communiter” and “Faster, Higher, Stronger - Together” in English.

      The original motto was first expressed by the Dominican priest Henri Didon in the opening ceremony of a school sports event in 1881. Pierre de Coubertin, who was present that day, adopted them as the Olympic motto in 1894 with the launch of the Olympic Movement. It expresses the aspirations of the Olympic Movement not only in its athletic and technical sense but also from a moral and educational perspective.

      The Olympic motto is an Olympic property.

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  • Who wrote the Olympic anthem?
    • The music for the Olympic anthem was composed by Spiros Samaras, to words by Kostas Palamas, for the first Games in Athens in 1896. Various musical arrangements went on to be played at the opening ceremonies. In 1958, in Tokyo, the IOC Session decided that the Samaras/Palamas composition would be the official Anthem as of the 1960 Games (Squaw Valley and Rome).

      The Olympic anthem is one of the Olympic properties:

  • What is the Olympic flame and the Torch relay?
    • The Olympic flame is the flame which is kindled in Olympia under the authority of the IOC. In the context of the modern Games, the Olympic flame is a manifestation of the positive values that Man has always associated with the symbolism of fire and thus makes the link between the ancient and the modern Games.

      A few months before the opening of the Olympic Games, a flame is lit at Olympia, in Greece. The location recalls the link between the Ancient Olympic Games and their modern counterpart. From there, the Flame is carried for a number of weeks to the host city, mainly on foot by runners, but also using other forms of transport.

      Throughout the Torch relay, the flame announces the Olympic Games and spreads a message of peace and friendship between peoples. The Torch relay ends at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. The final runner (or sometimes runners) enters the stadium and lights the cauldron with the Olympic flame. The Games can then begin!

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      • Reference documents on the Olympic torch relays (Summer / Winter)
  • When was the first Olympic torch relay held?
  • Who chooses the Olympic poster?
    • The official Olympic poster promotes a specific edition of the Olympic Games and is usually selected by the Organising Committee.

      It was not until the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm (Sweden) that an official poster was planned for and executed. Since 1912, host cities have been in charge of organising the promotion and advertising of each edition of the Games

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  • Who is responsible for creating the emblem, the medals' design and the mascot of the Olympic Games?
    • The responsibility of designing the emblem, the medals and the mascot of an Olympic Games or Youth Olympic Games edition lies within its Organising Committee, but approval by the IOC Executive Board is needed to ensure compliance with the Olympic Charter and the requirements set forth in the Olympic Host Contract.

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  • Who is the owner of the properties of one Games edition?
    • For as long as the Organising Committee of the Olympic Games exists, the properties (medals, emblems, mascot…) are the exclusive property of the OCOG. Upon the expiry of this period, all rights in or relating to such emblem, mascot and other marks, designs, badges, posters and objects shall thereafter belong entirely to the IOC.

      Hence, any request related to the use of such properties should be directed to the OCOG directly, if still existing (e.g. Tokyo 2020, Beijing 2022, Paris 2024, Milano Cortina 2026, Los Angeles 2028).

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Olympic documents

Visit the Olympic.org documents repository to find a list of all documents published on this website. This section contains the major reports, studies, publications and information regarding the Olympic Movement.
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Olympic studies

The IOC Olympic Studies Centre is the world source of reference for Olympic knowledge. As an integral part of the IOC, we are uniquely placed to provide the most accurate, relevant and up-to-date information on Olympism.
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