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File:Antikes Olympia Stadion.JPG|thumb|300px|Stadium at ancient Olympia.]]An Olympiad (, Olympiás) is a period of four years associated with the Olympic Games of the Ancient Greeks. Although the Ancient Olympic Games were established during Archaic Greece, it was not until the Hellenistic period, beginning with Ephorus, that the Olympiad was used as a calendar epoch. Converting to the modern BC/AD dating system the first Olympiad began in the summer of 776 BC and lasted until the summer of 772 BC, when the second Olympiad would begin with the commencement of the next games.By extrapolation to the Julian calendar, the{{#switch: {{#expr: ((2019+775) mod 4)}}|0 = 1st|1 = 2nd|2 = 3rd|3 = 4th}} year of the {{#expr:((2019+779)/4 -.5)round 0}}th Olympiad will begin in (Northern-Hemisphere) mid-summer 2019.A modern Olympiad refers to a four-year period beginning on the opening of the Olympic Games for the summer sports. The first modern Olympiad began in 1896, the second in 1900, and so on (the 31st began in 2016: see the Olympic Charter).The ancient and modern Olympiads would have synchronised had there been a year zero between the Olympiad of 4 BC and the one of 4 AD. But as the Julian calendar goes directly from 1 BC to 1 AD, the ancient Olympic cycle now lags the modern cycle by one year.

Ancient Olympics

An ancient Olympiad was a period of four years grouped together, counting inclusively as the ancients did. Each ancient Olympic year overlapped onto two of our modern reckoning of BC or AD years, from midsummer to midsummer. Example: Olympiad 140, year 1 = 220/219 BC; year 2 = 219/218 BC; year 3 = 218/217 BC; year 4 = 217/216 BC. Therefore, the games would have been held in July/August of 220 BC and held the next time in July/August of 216 BC, after four olympic years had been completed.


The sophist Hippias was the first writer to publish a list of victors of the Olympic Games, and by the time of Eratosthenes, it was generally agreed that the first Olympic games had happened during the summer of 776 BC.{{Sfn | Bickerman | 1980 | p = 75}} The combination of victor lists and calculations from 776 BC onwards enabled Greek historians to use the Olympiads as a way of reckoning time that did not depend on the time reckonings of one of the city-states. (See Attic calendar.) The first to do so consistently was Timaeus of Tauromenium in the third century BC. Nevertheless, since for events of the early history of the games the reckoning was used in retrospect, some of the dates given by later historian for events before the 5th century BC are very unreliable.{{Sfn | Bickerman | 1980 | p = 88}} In the 2nd century AD, Phlegon of Tralles summarised the events of each Olympiad in a book called Olympiads, and an extract from this has been preserved by the Byzantine writer Photius.{{Citation |last=Photius |title=Bibliotheca |publisher=Terlullian |url= |page=97}}. Christian chroniclers continued to use this Greek system of dating as a way of synchronising biblical events with Greek and Roman history. In the 3rd century AD, Sextus Julius Africanus compiled a list of Olympic victors up to 217 BC, and this list has been preserved in the Chronicle of Eusebius.{{Citation |last=Eusebius |title=Chronicle |url= |page=193 |publisher=Attalus}}.

Examples of Ancient Olympiad dates

missing image!
- Relief greek ballplayers 500bC.jpg -
A relief of the Greek Olympiad.
  • Early historians sometimes used the names of Olympic victors as a method of dating events to a specific year. For instance, Thucydides says in his account of the year 428 BC: "It was the Olympiad in which the Rhodian Dorieus gained his second victory".{{Citation |last=Thucydides |title=History of the Peloponnesian War |url= |publisher=Tufts}}.
  • Dionysius of Halicarnassus dates the foundation of Rome to the first year of the seventh Olympiad, 752/1 BC. Since Rome was founded on April 21, which was in the last half of the ancient Olympic year, it would be 751 BC specifically. In Book 1 chapter 75 Dionysius states: "...Romulus, the first ruler of the city, began his reign in the first year of the seventh Olympiad, when Charops at Athens was in the first year of his ten-year term as archon."{{Citation |last=of Halicarnassus |first=Dionysius |title=Roman Antiquities |url= |at=1.75 |publisher=University of Chicago}}.
  • Diodorus Siculus dates the Persian invasion of Greece to 480 BC: "Calliades was archon in Athens, and the Romans made Spurius Cassius and Proculus Verginius Tricostus consuls, and the Eleians celebrated the Seventy-fifth Olympiad, that in which Astylus of Syracuse won the stadion. It was in this year that king Xerxes made his campaign against Greece."{{Citation |first=Diodorus |last=Siculus |title=Historical Library |url= |at=11.1.2 |publisher=University of Chicago}}.
  • Jerome, in his Latin translation of the Chronicle of Eusebius, dates the birth of Jesus Christ to year 3 of Olympiad 194, the 42nd year of the reign of the emperor Augustus, which equates to the year 2 BC.{{Citation |last=Jerome |title=Chronological Tables |url= |at=year 2015 |publisher=Attalus}}.

Start of the Olympiad

An Olympiad started with the holding of the games, which occurred on the first or second full moon after the summer solstice, in what we call July or August. The games were therefore essentially a new years festival. In 776 BC this occurred on either July 23 or August 21. (After the introduction of the Metonic cycle about 432 BC, the start of the Olympic year was determined slightly differently).


Though the games were held without interruption, on more than one occasion they were held by others than the Eleians. The Eleians declared such games Anolympiads (non-Olympics), but it is assumed the winners were nevertheless recorded.

End of the era

During the 3rd century AD, records of the games are so scanty that historians are not certain whether after 261 they were still held every four years. During the early years of the Olympiad, any physical benefit{{clarify|date=June 2018}} deriving from a sport{{example needed|date=June 2018}} was banned. Some winners were recorded though, until the last Olympiad of 393AD. In 394, Roman Emperor Theodosius I outlawed the games at Olympia as pagan. Though it would have been possible to continue the reckoning by just counting four-year periods, by the middle of the 5th century AD reckoning by Olympiads had become disused.

Modern Olympics

{| class = "wikitable infobox sortable"! colspan = 2 | Olympiad !! Start date !! End date !! colspan = 3 | Host of the Games of the Olympiad
1896 Summer Olympics > (1st) style = text-align:right 14 May 1900 style = border-right:none Athens > style = border-left:none 22 px) Greece
1900 Summer Olympics > (2nd) style = text-align:right 1 Jul 1904 style = border-right:none Paris > style = border-left:none France}}
1904 Summer Olympics > (3rd) style = text-align:right 13 Jul 1908 style = border-right:none St. Louis > style = border-left:none 22 px) United States
1908 Summer Olympics > (4th) style = text-align:right 6 Jul 1912 style = border-right:none London > style = border-left:none Britain}}
1912 Summer Olympics > (5th) style = text-align:right 1 Jul 1916 style = border-right:none Stockholm > style = border-left:none Sweden}}
1916 Summer Olympics > (6th) style = text-align:right 14 Aug 1920 style = border-right:none   (plan Berlin style = border-left:none German Empire}} Germany)
1920 Summer Olympics >(7th) style = text-align:right 5 Jul 1924 style = border-right:none Antwerp > style = border-left:none Belgium}}
1924 Summer Olympics > (8th) style = text-align:right 28 Jul 1928 style = border-right:none Paris > style = border-left:none France}}
1928 Summer Olympics > (9th) style = text-align:right 30 Jul 1932 style = border-right:none Amsterdam > style = border-left:none Netherlands}}
1932 Summer Olympics > (10th) style = text-align:right 1 Aug 1936 style = border-right:none Los Angeles > style = border-left:none 22 px) United States
1936 Summer Olympics > (11th) style = text-align:right 20 Jul 1940 style = border-right:none Berlin > style = border-left:none Nazi Germany}} Germany
1940 Summer Olympics > (12th) style = text-align:right;vertical-align:middle 17 Jun 1944 style = border-right:none;vertical-align:middle   (plan Tokyothen Helsinki style = border-left:none Japan}},{{flag|Finland}})
1944 Summer Olympics > (13th) style = text-align:right 29 Jul 1948 style = border-right:none (plan London style = border-left:none Britain}})
1948 Summer Olympics > (14th) style = text-align:right 19 Jul 1952 style = border-right:none London > style = border-left:none Britain}}
1952 Summer Olympics > (15th) style = text-align:right 22 Nov 1956 style = border-right:none Helsinki > style = border-left:none Finland}}
1956 Summer Olympics > (16th) style = text-align:right 25 Aug 1960 style = border-right:none Melbourne > style = border-left:none Australia}}
1960 Summer Olympics > (17th) style = text-align:right 10 Oct 1964 style = border-right:none Rome > style = border-left:none Italy}}
1964 Summer Olympics > (18th) style = text-align:right 12 Oct 1968 style = border-right:none Tokyo > style = border-left:none Japan}}
1968 Summer Olympics > (19th) style = text-align:right 26 Aug 1972 style = border-right:none City of Mexico > style = border-left:none Mexico}}
1972 Summer Olympics > (20th) style = text-align:right 17 Jul 1976 style = border-right:none Munich > style = border-left:none Germany}}
1976 Summer Olympics > (21st) style = text-align:right 19 Jul 1980 style = border-right:none Montreal > style = border-left:none Canada}}
1980 Summer Olympics > (22nd) style = text-align:right;vertical-align:middle 28 Jul 1984 style = border-right:none;vertical-align:middle Moscow >             (now style = border-left:none Soviet Union}}{{flag|Russia}})
1984 Summer Olympics > (23rd) style = text-align:right 17 Sep 1988 style = border-right:none Los Angeles > style = border-left:none United States}}
1988 Summer Olympics > (24th) style = text-align:right 25 Jul 1992 style = border-right:none Seoul > style = border-left:none Korea}} Korea
1992 Summer Olympics > (25th) style = text-align:right 19 Jul 1996 style = border-right:none Barcelona > style = border-left:none Spain}}
1996 Summer Olympics > (26th) style = text-align:right 15 Sep 2000 style = border-right:none Atlanta > style = border-left:none United States}}
2000 Summer Olympics > (27th) style = text-align:right 13 Aug 2004 style = border-right:none Sydney > style = border-left:none Australia}}
2004 Summer Olympics > (28th) style = text-align:right 8 Aug 2008 style = border-right:none Athens > style = border-left:none Greece}}
2008 Summer Olympics > (29th) style = text-align:right 27 Jul 2012 style = border-right:none Beijing > style = border-left:none China}}
2012 Summer Olympics > (30th) style = text-align:right 5 Aug 2016 style = border-right:none London > style = border-left:none Britain}}
2016 Summer Olympics > (31st) style = text-align:right 24 Jul 2020 style = border-right:none Rio de Janeiro > style = border-left:none Brazil}}
2020 Summer Olympics > (32nd) style = text-align:right 26 Jul 2024 style = border-right:none Tokyo > style = border-left:none Japan}}
2024 Summer Olympics > (33rd) style = text-align:right 21 Jul 2028 style = border-right:none Paris > style = border-left:none France}}
2028 Summer Olympics > (34th) style = text-align:right Los Angeles style = border-left:none;border-right:none {{flag|United States}}

Start and end

The modern Olympiad is a period of four years, beginning at the opening of the Olympic Summer Games and ending at the opening of the next. The Olympiads are numbered consecutively from the first Games of the Olympiad celebrated in Athens in 1896. The XXXI Olympiad (i.e. 31st) began on August 5, 2016 and will end on July 24, 2020.Olympic Charter - Bye-law to Rule 6The Summer Olympics are more correctly referred to as the Games of the Olympiad. The first poster to announce the games using this term was the one for the 1932 Summer Olympics, in Los Angeles, using the phrase: Call to the games of the Xth OlympiadNote, however, that the official numbering of the Winter Olympics does not count Olympiads—- it counts only the Games themselves. For example:
  • The first Winter Games, in 1924, were not designated as Winter Games of the VII Olympiad, but as the I Winter Olympic Games.
  • The 1936 Summer Games were the Games of the XI Olympiad. After the 1940 and 1944 Summer Games were canceled due to World War II, the Games resumed in 1948 as the Games of the XIV Olympiad.
  • However, the 1936 Winter Games were the IV Winter Olympic Games, and the resumption of the Winter Games in 1948 was designated the V Winter Olympic Games.Team USA: Olympic Games Chronology {{Webarchive|url= |date=2016-08-09 }}.
Some media people have from time to time referred to a particular (e.g., the nth) Winter Olympics as "the Games of the nth Winter Olympiad", perhaps believing it to be the correct formal name for the Winter Games by analogy with that of the Summer Games. Indeed, at least one IOC-published article has applied this nomenclature as well.WEB,weblink Community Spirit, Nigel, Kendall, International Olympic Committee, 2011-04-08, 2011-06-22, The XXI Winter Olympiad was to be the first 'social media Games'., This analogy is sometimes extended further by media references to "Summer Olympiads". However, the IOC does not seem to make an official distinction between Olympiads for the summer and winter games, and such usage particularly for the Winter Olympics is not consistent with the numbering discussed above.


Some Olympic Committees often use the term quadrennium, which it claims refers to the same four-year period. However, it indicates these quadrennia in calendar years, starting with the first year after the Summer Olympics and ending with the year the next Olympics are held. This would suggest a more precise period of four years, but, for example, the 2001–2004 Quadrennium would then not be exactly the same period as the XXVIIth Olympiad.USOC Quadrennial Congressional Report, June 2009 {{webarchive|url= |date=2011-07-28 }}.

Cultural Olympiad

{{Expand section|date=February 2010}}{{Seealso|Art competitions at the Summer Olympics}}A Cultural Olympiad is a concept protected by the International Olympic Committee and may be used only within the limits defined by an Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games. From one Games to the next, the scale of the Cultural Olympiad varies considerably, sometimes involving activity over the entire Olympiad and other times emphasizing specific periods within it. Baron Pierre de Coubertin established the principle of Olympic Art Competitions at a special congress in Paris in 1906, and the first official programme was presented during the 1912 Games in Stockholm. These competitions were also named the ‘Pentathlon of the Muses’, as their purpose was to bring artists to present their work and compete for ‘art’ medals across five categories: architecture, music, literature, sculpture and painting.Nowadays, while there are no competitions as such, cultural and artistic practice is displayed via the Cultural Olympiad. The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver presented the Cultural Olympiad Digital Edition. The 2012 Olympics included an extensive Cultural Olympiad with the London 2012 Festival in the host city, and events elsewhere including the World Shakespeare Festival produced by the RSC.NEWS,weblink World Shakespeare Festival tickets go on public sale, 10 October 2011, BBC Online, 15 August 2017, The 2016 games' Cultural Olympiad was scaled back due to Brazil's recession; there was no published programme, with director Carla Camurati promising "secret" and "spontaneous" events such as flash mobs.NEWS,weblink Rio 2016: The 'secret' Cultural Olympiad, Lang, Kirsty, Kirsty Lang, 29 July 2016, BBC Online, 15 August 2017,

Other uses

The English term is still often used popularly to indicate the games themselves, a usage that is uncommon in ancient Greek (as an Olympiad is most often the time period between and including sets of games).Liddell, Scott, and Jones, A Greek-English Lexicon, s.v. Ὀλυμπιάς, A. II. 1 It is also used to indicate international competitions other than physical sports. This includes international science olympiads, such as the International Geography Olympiad, International Mathematical Olympiad and the International Linguistics Olympiad and their associated national qualifying tests (e.g., the United States of America Mathematical Olympiad or the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad), and also events in mind-sports, such as the Science Olympiad, Mindsport Olympiad, Chess Olympiad, International History Olympiad and Computer Olympiad. In these cases Olympiad is used to indicate a regular event of international competition for top achieving participants; it does not necessarily indicate a four-year period.In some languages, like Czech and Slovak, Olympiad () is the correct term for the games.The Olympiad (L'Olimpiade) is also the name of some 60 operas set in Ancient Greece.




  • {{citation |first=Elias J |last=Bickerman |title=Chronology of the Ancient World (Aspects of Greek & Roman Life) |year=1980 |publisher=Cornell University Press |location=Ithaca, NY |isbn=978-0-8014-1282-0 |edition=2nd sub}}

External links

{{Time measurement and standards}}

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