Thank you to Harvey Abrams, BS, MAT, Ph.d
The modern Olympic Games are always hosted by a city - not by a country.
The first Olympic Games of the Modern Era were hosted by Athens (Greece).
The most recent Olympic Games were hosted by Sydney (Australia) in 2000.
The next Olympic Games will be hosted by Athens in 2004.
Host Cities and the Calendar known as the OLYMPIAD
The ancient Olympic Games were always in the same place -- OLYMPIA -- a sacred city in western Greece known as ELIS. The Games were a religious event, a FESTIVAL that honoured the Greek God ZEUS. The ancient Games were hosted by the ELIANS who were the guardians of the sanctuary to Zeus. They tried -- and succeeded for a few hundred years -- to be neutral, that is, un-allied to other Greek city-states, similar to modern day Switzerland. But in the fifth century BCE (480 BCE) they allied themselves with Sparta and warred against their neighbours. The Elians lost control of the sanctuary to the Spartans, then to other Greek city-states, then finally to the conquering Romans. In 80 BCE the Roman general Sulla moved the Olympic Games to Rome and only a single race for boys was held at Olympia, the stade race. But then Sulla died and the next Games returned to Olympia in 76 BCE.
The ancient Olympic Games and the modern Olympic Games are QUADRENNIAL, meaning they are held every four years. This four year period of time is known as an OLYMPIAD. To the ancient Greeks it (an OLYMPIAD) was their calendar, a way of designating time. However, this calendar was not used by every Greek city-state and there is great difficulty in studying ancient history because of the calendar and attempts to "date" things. There was no accurate dating system in the ancient era and every civilization used a different calendar system. There were calendars for the Babylonians, Hebrews, Greeks, Romans and many others. The one thing they all had in common was that they were conquered by the Romans. Julius Caesar created the Julian calendar in 46 BCE. Our modern calendar is based upon revisions to the Julian calendar made and instituted by the Catholic Church in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII, known as the Gregorian Calendar. This becomes an issue when trying to date the ancient Greek Olympiads from 776 BCE, which was year "one" of the 1st Olympiad.
To make it very simple -- your birthdate this year would not have been the same date in ancient Greece.
Just as in ancient Greece, the modern Olympic Games are held every four years at the beginning of the Olympiad. The 1st modern Olympiad began in 1896 when Pierre de Coubertin revived the Olympic Games and they were held in Athens. Therefore, these Games are referred to as "The Games of the First Modern Olympiad." More specifically, the Games were held in "year one" of the "first modern Olympiad."
During the early years of the Modern Olympic Movement there was a disagreement over who should host the Olympic Games. The Greek Government wanted the Games in Athens permanently while Pierre de Coubertin, the French "founder" of the Modern Olympic Games, wanted the Games to rotate around the world to major sporting cities. So the Olympic Games of the second Olympiad were held in Paris, France and the Games of the third Olympiad were in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. The Greeks went ahead and scheduled their own Olympic Games in 1906, a tenth anniversary celebration of the 1896 Games. At that time these Games were considered "official," in spite of the calendar - not being a QUADRENNIAL event. From an historical perspective - the 1906 Olympic Games must always be included in Olympic record keeping. They happened -- they cannot be ignored. However, they are not called the Games of the fourth Olympiad -- because the Games of the Fourth Olympiad were held in 1908 in London, England. Is this confusing you? Don't worry -- it was confusing to everyone back then too. The Greek government did not hold any future Olympic celebrations because it was to expensive. The modern Games have continued to be hosted in cities around the world. The Greeks tried to get the 1996 Games because it was the centennial (100th birthday) of the Olympic Games, but the Games were hosted in Atlanta (USA). However the next Olympic Games -- in 2004 -- will be in Athens, Greece.
The ancient Greeks celebrated their Olympic Games without interruption for over 1,000 years, from 776 BCE to 261 CE. Quite remarkable! After the year 261 CE it is unknown what happened to the Games because records are lost. Actually -- they abruptly end, probably because there was an invasion by the Heruli, a barbarian tribe from the coast of what is now southern Russia. Invading in a fleet of 500 ships they devastated Byzantium and Greece before the Romans forced them to retreat. The Elians erected defensive walls with towers around the Olympic sanctuary, but we have no evidence that any celebrations were held.
There must have been something happening at Olympia. It must have remained a religious site to the Greek god Zeus. We know this because in 391 CE the Roman emperor Theodosius I, who accepted the new religion known as Christianity, outlawed all pagan religious festivals throughout the Roman Empire. It is believed that the last Games held at Olympia were in 393 CE. By 395 CE it is known that the great statue of Zeus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, had been removed to a Roman palace in Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Empire, where is was destroyed in a fire in 462 CE. But evidence has been found that there were even later Olympic Games until 425 CE. In 426 CE Theodosius II, grandson of Theodosius I, issued an edict to destroy all pagan temples. The temple of Zeus at Olympia was burned to the ground. Rome itself had already been sacked by Allaric and the Visigoths in 410 CE. The "Dark Ages" had begun. Keep in mind that all these dates have been calculated by historians who have tried to use mathematics to "date" events. To study this problem read more about the history of calendars.
Almost 1500 years had passed when Pierre de Coubertin, of France, organized a revival of the ancient Olympic Games and the first celebration was held in Athens, Greece in 1896. In the first 50 years of the Modern Games they have been cancelled three times. In 1916 the Games were cancelled due to World War I and in both 1940 and 1944 the Games were cancelled due to World War II. In 1980 the United States led a boycott of the Moscow Olympics and in 1984 the Soviets retaliated and led a boycott of the Los Angeles Olympics. Wars, politics, corruption -- these are forces that affect the modern Games as much as they affected the ancient Games. It affects the Host of the Games and it affects the calendar. Although an Olympiad cannot be cancelled because it is a period of time, the Games of an Olympiad can be cancelled. Below is a list of the host cities of the Ancient and Modern Olympic Games with Arabic numbers being used instead of Roman numerals (21st Olympiad instead of XXI Olympiad).
Host cities of the Modern Olympic Games.
1896 - 1st Olympiad - Athens, Greece
1900 - 2nd Olympiad - Paris, France
1904 - 3rd Olympiad - St. Louis, Missouri, USA
1906 - 3rd Olympiad, year 3 - Athens, Greece (sometimes called the "interim Games")
1908 - 4th Olympiad - London, England
1912 - 5th Olympiad - Stockholm, Sweden
1916 - 6th Olympiad - Cancelled - World War I (Scheduled for Berlin, Germany)
1920 - 7th Olympiad - Antwerp, Belgium
1924 - 8th Olympiad - Paris, France
1928 - 9th Olympiad - Amsterdam, The Netherlands
1932 - 10th Olympiad - Los Angeles, California, USA
1936 - 11th Olympiad - Berlin, Germany
1940 - 12th Olympiad - Cancelled, World War II (Scheduled for Tokyo, Japan. Then re-scheduled for Helsinki, Finland & cancelled a 2nd time)
1944 - 13th Olympiad - Cancelled, World War II (London considered, but war continued)
1948 - 14th Olympiad - London, England
1952 - 15th Olympiad - Helsinki, Finland
1956 - 16th Olympiad - Melbourne, Australia and Stockholm, Sweden (Horses were not permitted to be imported into Australia so the Equestrian events were in Stockholm)
1960 - 17th Olympiad - Rome, Italy
1964 - 18th Olympiad - Tokyo, Japan
1968 - 19th Olympiad - Mexico City, Mexico
1972 - 20th Olympiad - Munich, Germany
1976 - 21st Olympiad - Montreal, Canada
1980 - 22nd Olympiad - Moscow, Soviet Union (USSR)
1984 - 23rd Olympiad - Los Angeles, California, USA
1988 - 24th Olympiad - Seoul, South Korea
1992 - 25th Olympiad - Barcelona, Spain
1996 - 26th Olympiad - Atlanta, Georgia, USA
2000 - 27th Olympiad - Sydney, Australia
2004 - 28th Olympiad - Athens, Greece
2008 - 29th Olympiad - Beijing, China
2012 - 30th Olympiad - To be selected in 2004 (New York, Paris, London, and others are bidding)