Timeline: Olympics, 1990s - Present Day
From ancient Greece to the present day
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Albertville Winter Games
Germany has reunited and the Soviet Union has broken up. In spite of the accompanying turmoil, the German team and Unified team of former Soviet states remain at the top of the rankings.
Norway sweeps the men's cross-country skiing events, thanks to Vegard Ulvang and Bjorn Daehlie.
The U.S. wins five gold medals, all by female athletes: speed-skater Bonnie Blair, figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi, freestyle skier Donna Weinbrecht, and short track speed skater Cathy Turner.
For the first time in decades, every single nation with an Olympic Committee shows up, even Cuba, North Korea, and South Africa. A record 172 nations participate, represented by 10,563 athletes.
With the door open to professional athletes, the U.S. sends a Dream Team including Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Karl Malone. As expected, they go undefeated.
Carl Lewis wins two more gold medals, bringing his total to eight.
13-year-old Fu Mingxia of China wins the platform diving event, making her the second-youngest person to win an individual gold medal.
World Cup athletes are now allowed to compete in soccer, but only three players over the age of 23 are allowed on each team, effectively making the Olympic event the under-23 championship.
Gymnast Vitaly Scherbo of the Unified Team wins six gold medals in gymnastics.
Cuba wins seven gold medals in boxing, and the first one ever awarded in baseball.
In the end, the Unified Team takes home 112 medals, the United States has 108, and Germany has 82. A total of 64 nations win at least one medal, the highest number yet.Top
Lillehammer Winter Games
These are the only Winter Games to take place two years after the preceding ones.
It's the Tonya and Nancy show in figure-skating. Nancy Kerrigan gets the silver; Tonya Harding gets the notoriety. Ukraine's Oksana Baiul gets the gold.
Vreni Schneider, whose herniated disk had kept her from winning anything in 1992, wins medals in all three alpine skiing events, bringing her total to five.
In speed skating, Norway's Johann Olav Koss wins three gold medals, setting a world record in each event. Dan Jansen finally wins a race, setting a world record in the 1,000m. And Bonnie Blair picks up two more gold medals in the 500m and 1,000m.
Norway, Germany, and Russia are at the top of the final standings.
Muhammad Ali lights the cauldron at the start of the Centennial Games. 179 nations participate; 79 win medals.
A pipe bomb in Centennial Olympic Park kills one person and injures 111, but the Games go on.
America's Michael Johnson wins both the 200m and 400m races; France's Marie-José Perec does the same.
Carl Lewis gets his ninth gold medal by winning the long jump.
Amy Van Dyken of the U.S. wins four gold medals in swimming, while Ireland's Michelle Smith wins three golds and a bronze. Smith is accused of using performance-enhancing drugs; this remains unproven, but she is suspended in 1998 for tampering with a urine sample.
The American women's teams win the first-ever softball and women's soccer events. They also win gymnastics, with the help of Kerri Strug, who nails her second vault despite a sprained ankle.
The United States returns to the top of the standings, followed by Russia and Germany.Top
Nagano Winter Games
A record 2,177 athletes from 72 countries participate.
Snowboarding, curling, and women's ice hockey are introduced.
Austria's Hermann Maier wipes out on the men's downhill, flying through the air and two retaining fences, but wins two gold medals later in the Games.
Masahiko "Happy" Harada redeems himself from his 1994 failures, helping Japan's ski-jumping team win the gold.
Bjorn Daehlie wins three more gold medals in Nordic skiing, boosting his total to twelve medals (eight gold) overall.
15-year-old American figure skater Tara Lipinski becomes the youngest athlete to win a gold medal at the Winter Games.
Ice hockey is open to professionals for the first time, and the Czech Republic wins.
Germany, Norway, and Russia lead the overall rankings.
10,651 athletes (4,069 of them women) from 199 nations participate; the only nation excluded is Afghanistan.
North and South Korea enter the stadium under one flag.
Australian Aboriginal Cathy Freeman lights the cauldron at the start of the game, and goes on to win the 400m race.
British rower Steven Redgrave becomes the first athlete to win gold medals in five consecutive Olympics.
The U.S. softball team defends its title; Michael Johnson does the same in the 400m race.
17-year-old Ian Thorpe of Australia wins four medals (three gold) in swimming, breaking his own world record in the 400m freestyle.
American Marion Jones wins five track medals, three of them gold.
Russian gymnast Alexei Nemov takes home six medals, as he had done in Atlanta in 1996.
Eric "the Eel" Moussambani of Equatorial Guinea is this year's lovable loser, taking 152.72 seconds in the 100m freestyle swim. This is more than twice as long as Pieter van den Hoogenband's gold-winning performance.
There are 165 events for men, 135 for women, and 12 mixed events. Women are excluded from boxing and baseball; men are excluded from synchronized swimming, rhythmic gymnastics, and softball.
The United States, the Russian Federation, and the People's Republic of China lead the medal-winners.Top
Jacques Rogge replaces Juan Samaranch as president of the IOC.
Salt Lake City Winter Games
These Games are controversial starting about three years before they begin, as it is revealed that several IOC members accepted inappropriately large gifts in exchange for voting to hold the Games in Salt Lake City. At least four IOC members resign, as do top Salt Lake City committee officials, in the midst of several investigations, and the IOC pledges to change the way host cities are chosen.
Also controversial is the United States' decision to include, in the Opening Ceremony, a flag that had been at Ground Zero in New York. This is seen by some as contrary to the Olympic spirit.
These Games are also dominated by doping scandals. Spain's Johann Muehlegg and Russia's Larissa Lazutina and Olga Danilova are disqualified due to darbepoetin use; the first two lose gold medals, although all retain medals won before they were tested.
Britain's Alain Baxter similarly loses his bronze slalom medal after a drug test, although the drug detected turns out to be a Vicks inhaler. Unknown to him, it has a different formulation in America than in the UK. A later investigation clears him of all moral guilt, but his medal is not returned.
Russian figure skating pair Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze win the gold over Canadian pair Jamie Sale and David Pelletier. The Canadians protest, the French judge admits to having been pressured to give the Russians a higher ranking, and, in an unprecedented ceremony, the Canadian pair is given gold medals, although the Russians retain theirs.
American Sarah Hughes gives the free-skating performance of a lifetime, nailing two triple-triple combinations and vaulting from fourth-place dark horse to gold medalist. This, too, has some measure of controversy, as a slight change in the judges' placement would have put Russia's Irina Slutkaya ahead, but that protest goes nowhere.
The International Skating Union votes to radically overhaul the scoring system for figure skating and ice dancing in future competitions.
The Canadian men's ice hockey team wins the gold medal, 50 years to the day after the last time they'd done so. Their women's ice hockey team also emerge victorious. In both cases, the Americans take the silver.
Skeleton is an event for the first time since 1948; for a change, John Heaton is not around to compete.
German speed-skater Claudia Pechstein wins two gold medals, taking home a medal in four straight Winter Games. Teammate Georg Hackl gets the silver in luge, becoming the first athlete ever to win five medals in one event. Norway's Ole Einar Bjørndalen wins all four men's biathlon events.
For the first time since 1968, female athletes are not tested for gender. There are 41 men's events, 34 women's events, and 3 mixed events.
Germany, the United States, and Norway end up with the most medals, with Norway taking home the most golds.Top
The Games return to Greece.
At the 2005 Singapore meeting the IOC decided to eliminate baseball and softball from the 2012 Olympics, the first sports to be dropped since polo in 1936.Top
Read highlights from the Torino Winter Games, which occured from February 10–26, and see results by country and event.
Controversy continued around Marion Jones, the 2000 Olympic track star, when she announced her retirement from track and field after pleading guilty to Federal charges of using performance-enhancing drugs. Jones also confessed to making false statements during two government drug investigations. In November, the International Association of Athletics Federation decided that Jones must return all medals and money, including the $700,000 prize money, and forfeit all race results since September 1, 2000. Jones is officially suspended from competition until October 7, 2009.
Beijing Summer Games
Human rights activists and government officials propose boycotting the 2008 Olympics in Beijing due to China's economic and military connections to Sudan, where more than 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been displaced by the civil war.
Concern about Beijing hosting the summer Olympics resurfaced in March 2008 after Chinese police violently cracked down on protests by ethnic Tibetans and Buddhist monks in Lhasa, Tibet.
In April, protests by human rights groups disrupted the Olympic torch progression to Beijing.
Air pollution in Beijing is at least two to three times higher than levels considered safe by the World Health Organization. Medical research by the IOC shows that air pollution will put athletes at risk and may inhibit their performance.
In an attempt to clear air pollution for the Summer Games, Chinese officials called a halt to construction work and quarrying and enforced a 30% emissions reduction for power plants in and around Beijing, effective July 20.
Between March 26 and April 6, Chinese officials arrested 35 members of a criminal ring based in Xinjiang for plotting to kidnap Olympic athletes, journalists, and others. Police found at least 22 pounds of explosives and 8 sticks of dynamite during their raids.
On May 8, 2008, the Olympic torch was carried by climbers to the b.roof of the world,b. reaching the 29,035-foot summit of Mount Everest at 0920 local time. During the ascent, Tibetan women were the first and last to carry the torch.
On May 19, 2008, the Olympic torch relay was suspended during a three-day national mourning period in honor of those who suffered from the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that struck China on May 12, 2008.
On July 23, 2008, authorities announced that peaceful public demonstrations will be allowed in Ritan Park, Beijing World Park, and Purple Bamboo Park during the 2008 Summer Games. Citizens must be approved by the local public security bureau five days before their intended protest.
On Aug. 8, 2008, the 2008 Summer Games commenced in Beijing with music, dancing, and fireworks at the opening ceremony.
The 2008 Summer Games ended on Aug. 24 with the United States, China, and Russia taking home the most medals. Despite skepticism, the Beijing Games were widely praised as a success.
Vancouver Winter Games
February 12, 2010 through February 28, 2010
On Feb. 12, 2010, shortly before the Games began, Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died during a training run after his sled left the track and crashed into a pole. As a result of this tragedy, the start for the course was moved further down the track.
While the United States was the winner in the total medal count with 37, Canada's "Own the Podium" initiative proved successful, as Canada shattered its gold ceiling (in two previous Olympics, host Canada failed to win gold), winning 14 gold medals on home soil--a new record for a host country.
American Shaun White delighted snowboard fans with an unnecessary (he had already clinched the gold), but totally spectacular trick, the "Double McTwist 1260," which showcased not only the athlete's talent, but also the bold attitude that is advancing the sport.
In women's figure skating, Kim Yu-Na blew away the competition with grace and precision, and now proudly sports South Korea's first figure skating gold medal. Canada's Joannie Rochette won not only a bronze medal, but also our hearts as she stepped onto the ice, her legs shaking, to compete only four days after the death of her best friend and mother, Therese.
Apolo Anton Ohno became the most decorated American Winter Olympic athlete of all time, winning three medals, bringing his overall medal total to eight.
See results and highlights of the 2010 Vancouver Games.
London Summer Games
July 27, 2012, through August 12, 2012
July 27, 2012
Some 80,000 people in Olympic Stadium and billions worldwide watched the Opening Ceremony as Britain celebrated its milestones and points of pride, from the Industrial Revolution to its National Health System to Harry Potter, in a high-tech ceremony called The Isles of Wonder directed by Oscar winner Danny Boyle. One of the most talked about events featured stunt doubles for James Bond actor Daniel Craig and Queen Elizabeth jumping from an airplane and parachuting into the stadium.
The 2012 Games were the first in which each of the 205 participating countries sends at least one woman athlete.
July 31, 2012
Michael Phelps won his 19th Olympic medal, becoming the winningest Olympic athlete of all time. He surpassed the record held by Russian gymnast Larisa Latynina.
August 2, 2012
Phelps won his 20th medal, a gold in the 200m individual medley.
August 4, 2012
Phelps ended his Olympic swimming career with another gold medal. He amassed 22 medals in his Olympic career: 18 gold, two silver, and two bronze.
In July and August 2013, Russia's new anti-gay bill sparked international protest and outrage. Athletes throughout the world threatened to boycott the 2014 Olympics in protest. The International Olympic Committee began probing Russia to see how the country would enforce the law during the Olympics. In an effort to do damage control over the controversy, the International Olympic Committee said by late July that it had "received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games."
On July 31, protesters gathered outside the Russian consulate in New York City and called for a boycott of the 2014 Olympics as well as sponsors of the Winter Games by dumping several cases of vodka. On August 10, hundreds gathered in London near the residence of Prime Minister David Cameron and demanded that the government pressure Russia into repealing the law.
On August 1, 2013, Vitaly L. Mutko, Russia's minister of sports, said to R-Sport, a state news agency, that gay athletes were welcome to attend the Winter Olympics in Sochi. However, Mutko pointed out that all athletes participating in the games would be expected to obey the new law and that no athlete or attendee could promote any nontraditional sexual orientation.
On Sunday, December 29, 2013, at least sixteen people were killed in a suicide bombing at a railroad station in Volgograd, a city in southern Russia. Nearly three dozen others were wounded. The following day another suicide bombing took place on a trolley bus in the same city. At least ten people were killed and ten others were wounded.
Both explosions came just six weeks before the Winter Olympics were being held in Sochi, 400 miles away from Volgograd. Never has a host country experienced this level of violent terrorism so close to the Olympic Games. During the Olympics, the government has planned for more than 40,000 law enforcement officials to be on hand at the event.
Sochi Winter Games
Russia's anti-gay laws that banned homosexuality, passed in 2012, became a major concern as gay athletes prepared for the Winter Games. Nations called for boycotts and heads of state chose not to attend in protest. Russia assured the IOC that no athletes would be arrested as long as they "abided by the law." Openly gay Olympians Billie Jean King and Caitlin Cahow were named to the U.S. opening ceremonies delegation.
Russian protest band Pussy Riot used the games to protest Putin and the Russian government. They were attacked by Cossack police while singing their song "Putin Will Teach You to Love the Motherland."
Pyeongchang Winter Games
In December 2017, Russia was banned from competing in the Olympics after several of their athletes were caught doping. 169 Russian athletes were invited to compete independently under the IOC flag.
On January 17, North and South Korea declared a truce. They would march under one flag during the Opening Ceremonies and field a joint women's hockey team.
Tokyo Summer Games
Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the 2020 Summer Olympic Games were postponed until the following year for the safety of athletes and Tokyo citizens. Despite some protests to cancel the games entirely, they proceeded in 2021 (while still retaining the 2020 Olympics branding).
To promote the security and health of the participants, the games were held without any attendees. Only Olympic staff, athletes, and reporters were allowed in the Olympic venues.
Beijing Winter Games
As part of their broader climate diplomacy, China built all of their Olympics facilities to run entirely on renewable energy. This was offset by concerns of some environmentalists about how the games might disrupt the local ecosystem, including the introduction of artificial snow for the ski and snowboard events.
Here are the facts and trivia that people are buzzing about.