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  • Writer's pictureParisian Niche

Just Another Paris Olympics Post...

It's the 2024 Olympiad time! Over the last two years, we've loved sharing many of France's historical symbols. From the royal fleur de lys to the Napoleonic bee. We've tossed a Tricolore waving, Phrygian Cap wearing, La Marseillaise singing rooster onto a boat to prove Paris' unique Fluctuat Nec Mergitur city motto. (Pretty fun visual, right?!)

All of that rich symbolism brings us to today's topic - the Olympics are coming to Paris (and France!) Let's take a P'Niche peek to learn about France's deep connections with the modern day Olympics / Paralympics Games...

We've parked the P'Niche Travel Machine in the 8th century BC when the Ancient Greek Olympics Games were held every 4 years - with competitions taking place in Olympia, Greece.

While the games were set to honor the Greek god Zeus, this iteration of athleticism lasted until the 4th century AD. Aside from all the competitions, we bet that there sure were a lot of gorgeous caryatids to behold!

These ancient games focused on more than athletics, with a focus on the ability philosophy and the like.

Unlike today's games, women were not able to compete. Welp, ladies - we've come a long way. The IOC has announced that Paris 2024 Olympic/Paralympic Games are the first in history with gender parity among all athletes - Girl Power!

I hear you ask - why did these fun and enriching competitions stop? So glad you asked, you culturally aware P'Nicher!

Fast forward in the P'Niche Time Travel Machine to 393 AD, when Theodosius I (Roman emperor from 379-395) banned the Olympic games as a way to promote the Christian faith, with a focus on one God, rather than the plethora of Greek Gods.

RIP Olympiad. Wait for it...

Enter Baron Pierre de Coubertin.

An avid sports lover, he was known for promoting athletics within the French school system, encouraging healthy competition and drive among the youth.

So fond was he of the Greek games that he set about the reinvent the Olympics, focusing solely on athletics. Known as the Father of the Modern Olympics Games, he went on to co-found (along with Demetrios Vikelas) the IOC (International Olympic Committee), even serving as its second president.

Due to his efforts, the Olympics as we know it today exist. His tenacity and spirit are why French is the official language of the Games, with English only added as a second official language in 1972!

In fact, Baron de Coubertin even has a prize named in his honor. The Pierre de Coubertin Medal, first awarded in 1997, is awarded by the International Olympic Committee to selected athletes who are seen to demonstrate the spirit of sportsmanship at each Olympiad.

Also known as the True Spirit of Sportsmanship Medal, it resonates Coubertin's true feelings of the Olympics, "The important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning, but taking part. Just as in life, what counts is not the victory but the struggle." These words have since been recognized as the "Olympic Creed."

Moving ahead in time and preparing for the first modern Olympics Games (held in Athens in 1896, de Coubertin went on to design the Olympics logo - the rings.

The five rings visualize the union of the five inhabited continents of the world. Athletes come together at the Olympiad from: Africa, The Americas, Asia, Europe, and Oceania.

Rightfully, the second Olympics Games (les Jeux Olympiques or JO in French) was held in Paris lasting from May to October 1900 - in conjunction with the Exposition Universelle (that's the World's Fair to you and me).

Several milestones of this first Parisian hosted Olympiad included: 997 athletes (22 women, Charlotte Cooper taking the Gold medal in tennis singles, merci very much!) from 24 countries, participating in 95 events.

The 1924 Olympiad traveled back to France, with the (still combined) games taking place in Chamonix (winter) and Paris (summer). The Games went to an every 2 year split cycle in 1992 (with the Winter Games hosted in Albertville, France).

This Olympiad also saw the French creation of the "Olympics Village," temporary accommodations for the athletes, which has been implemented in every Games since.

It was in 1992 that the Olympics Games and Paralympics Games came together for the first time. We have to imagine how this would have pleased de Coubertin, who places such emphasis on the journey rather than the destination.

The Agitos (symbol for the PG) is composed of three agitos (stemming from the Latin word agere "I move"). These are colored red, blue, and green, which are the colors most commonly used in national flags around the world, and certainly highlight the PG motto "Spirit in Motion."

And here we are, arriving 100 years forward in the present 2024. Paris is once again hosting (along with other French regions). As you know, P'Niche (and many others) feel - "Paris is a Woman!"

This shines through in the logo - combining three unique symbols - the gold medal, the Olympic flame and Marianne, the living characterization of the French Republic. More on Marianne very soon, so we hope you will subscribe to the Parisian Niche to learn more. In good humor, many people say that within this logo, they see une Parisienne, complete with a chic bob and signature pouty lip. The CHEEK! J'adore...

One more symbol that deserves a mention is the Olympic Flame and Torch relay. The torch, lit in Olympia, Greece, is passed all around the host country, in our case, France.

Before commencing the relay to ten thousand torchbearers (transporting the flame through 64 French territories), and in a glamour that only the French could achieve, the flame was lit by a bevvy of models in sheath gowns, set to look like Greek columns. It was stunning!

And so here we are, days ahead of the Opening Ceremony of the 2024 Olympiad, with the historic event hoping to take place on the River Seine. Fingers Crossed!

From July 26 - August 11 (Olympics) and August 28 - September 08 (Paralympics), you will be in for a true show if athleticism, sportsmanship, and French culture. Not in France? No problem! In the US, you can watch on NBC and Peacock from the comfort of your own home. Get your apéro ready!

So, P'Nicher, looks like Paris (and France) are ready to host a gorgeous Olympics Games! Are you ready to to enjoy as well? Let us know in the comments below et à bientôt!


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