9 Things You May Not Know About the Olympics

London once hosted the Olympics for 187 days

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1. The Winter Olympics didn't exist until 1924, and originally they were held in the same year as the Summer Olympics, a few months apart. In 1994, the system was changed so that the Summer and Winter games take place two years apart. 

2. As a result of the old schedule, it used to be possible to win medals at both the Summer and Winter Olympics in the same year. Only one person ever managed it – the German athlete Christa Luding-Rothenburger, who won gold for speed skating in Calgary and silver for track cycling in Seoul, both in 1988.

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3. Ever seen a horse do a long jump? Believe it or not, the equestrian long jump used to be a thing, making its first – and last – appearance at the 1900 Games in Paris. The winning jump was just 6.10 metres, which pales in comparison to the human long-jump record of 8.95 metres. 

4. The first person ever to win a gold medal at the Olympics was an American, James Connolly, who won the triple jump event in 1896. Connolly was a student at Harvard at the time, and withdrew from the college after they refused to let him take a leave of absence in order to compete in the Games. Years later, Harvard offered him an honorary doctorate, which he declined. 

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5. The longest ever Olympics was held in London in 1908. It began in April and ran until October, clocking in at a mind-boggling 187 days, i.e. more than half a year.

6. The 1936 Olympics were held in Nazi Germany, which understandably sparked a little controversy, with several countries threatening boycotts. Spain actually did boycott the Games, and planned to host its own rival event in Barcelona called the People's Olympiad. It was all shaping up so well… until the Spanish Civil War broke out the day before the event was due to start. 1936 – not a great year for Europe. 

7. Possibly the most adorable Olympic anecdote of all time came out of the 1928 Games in Amsterdam. The Australian rower Henry Pearce stopped his boat midway through the quarter-final, in order to let a family of ducks pass safely in front of him. He went on to win gold, which is probably proof that karma exists. 

8. The first ever Paralympics were held in 1948, soon after the end of World War II, and all of the participants were disabled British veterans. 

9. Back in the day, doves were released during the Olympic opening ceremony to symbolise peace, which sounds lovely. Unfortunately, the dove tradition came to a fairly grisly end at the 1988 Games in Seoul, where several unsuspecting doves perched on the rim of the Olympic cauldron… just as it was being lit. The doves did not make it. So much for peace. 

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