A List of Modern Olympic Games

A Yearly Overview of Locations for Olympics Since 1896

Female gymnast competing on balance beam
Robert Decelis Ltd / Getty Images

The Modern Olympic Games began in 1896, 1503 years after the ancient Olympics were abolished. Held every four years — with a few exceptions (during World War I and World War II) — these Games have brought camaraderie across borders and around the world.

The athletes within each of these Olympic Games have undergone hardship and struggle. Some overcame poverty, while others overcame sickness and injury.

Yet each gave their all and competed to see who was the fastest, strongest and best in the world.

Discover the unique story of each of the Olympic Games in the list below.

List of All Modern Olympic Games

1896: Athens. The first Modern Olympic Games took place in Athens, Greece during the first weeks of April 1896. The 241 athletes who competed represented only 14 countries and wore their athletic club uniforms instead of national uniforms. Of the 14 countries in attendance, eleven have officially been declared in awards records: Australia, Austria, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States. 

1900: Paris. The second Modern Olympic Games took place in Paris from May to October 1900 as part of the World Exhibition. The games were riddled with disorganization and were under-publicized. 997 athletes from 24 countries competed. 

1904: St. Louis. The  Games of the III Olympiad were held in St.

Louis, Missouri from August to  September 1904. Due to tensions from the  Russo-Japanese War and complications in getting to the United States, only 62 of the 650 athletes who competed came from outside North America. Only  12-15 nations were represented. 

1906: Athens (unofficial).  Intended to reinvigorate interest in the Olympic Games after the 1900 and 1904 games yielded little fanfare, the Athens Games of 1906 were the first and only "Intercalated Games," which had been meant to exist every four years (between regular Games) and only take place in Athens, Greece.

  The president of the Modern Olympics declared the 1906 Games unofficial after the fact. 

1908London. Originally slated for Rome, the fourth official Olympic Games was moved to London in the wake of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. These games were the first to feature an opening ceremony and considered the most organized yet. 

1912: Stockholm.  The fifth official Olympic Games featured the use of electric timing devices and a public address system for the first time. Over 2,500 athletes competed representing 28 countries. These games are still heralded as one of the most organized to date. 

1916: Not Held. Due to rising tensions of World War I, the Games were canceled. They were originally scheduled for Berlin. 

1920: Antwerp.  The VII Olympiad took place immediately after World War I, resulting in several countries decimated by the war not being able to compete. These Games marked the first appearance of the Olympic flag.

1924: Paris. At the request and honor of retiring IOC president and founder  Pierre de  Coubertin, the  VIII Olympiad was held in his home city of Paris from May to July 1924. The first Olympic Village and Olympic Closing Ceremony marked new features of these Games.

 

1928: Amsterdam. The IX Olympiad featured several new games, including gymnastics for women and men's track and field events, but most notably the IOC added the Olympics Torch and lighting ceremonies to the Games' repertoire this year.  3,000 athletes participated from  46 countries. 

1932: Los Angeles. With the world currently experiencing the effects of the Great Depression, traveling to California for the X Olympiad seemed insurmountable, resulting in low response rates from countries invited. Domestic ticket sales also did poorly despite a small bump from celebrities who volunteered to entertain the crowds. Only 1,300 athletes participated, representing 37 countries.  

1936: Berlin. Without knowing Hilter would rise to power, the IOC awarded Berlin the Games in 1931.  This sparked international debate about boycotting the Games, but 49 countries ended up competing.

These were the first televised games. 

1940: Not Held. Originally slated for  Tokyo, Japan, threats to boycott due to Japan's war-mongering and Japan's concern the Games would distract from their military goal led to the IOC  awarding  Helsinki, Finland the Games. Unfortunately, due to the outbreak of WWII in 1939, the games were canceled altogether.

1944: Not Held. The IOC did not schedule a 1944 Olympic Games because of World War II's continued devastation around the world. 

1948: London. Despite much debate over whether or not to continue the Games after World War II, the XIV Olympiad was held in London from July to August 1948 with a few post-war modifications. Japan and Germany, the aggressors of WWII, were not invited to compete. The Soviet Union, though invited, declined to participate. 

1952: Helsinki. The XV Olympiad in Helsinki, Finland saw the addition of the Soviet Union,  Israel, and the People's Republic of China to countries competing.  The Soviets set up their own Olympic Village for Eastern Bloc athletes and a feeling of "east versus west" mentality permeated the atmosphere of these Games. 

1956: Melbourne. These games were held in November and December as the first Games to take place in the Southern Hemisphere. Egypt, Iraq, and Lebanon protest the Games because of Isreal's invasion of Egypt and the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland boycotted because of the Soviet Union's invasion of Budapest, Hungary. 

1960: Rome. The XVII Olympiad in Rome returned the Games to their origin country for the first time in over 50 years due to the relocation of the 1908 Games.

It was also the first time the Games were fully televised and the first time the Olympic Anthem was used. This was the last time South Africa was allowed to compete for 32 years (until apartheid ended). 

1964: Tokyo. The  XVIII Olympiad marked the first use of computers to keep results of competitions and the first games South Africa was barred from for its racist policy of apartheid.  5,000 athletes competed from 93 countries.  Indonesia and  North Korea did not participate. 

1968: Mexico City. The Games of the XIX Olympiad were marred by political unrest. 10 days before the Opening Ceremony,  the Mexican army shot over 1,000 student protestors, killing 267 of them. The Games continued with little comment on the issue, and during an award ceremony for winning Gold and Bronze for the 200-meter race, two U.S. athletes raised a single black-gloved hand in salute to the Black Power movement, resulting in being barred from the Games. 

1972: Munich. The XX Olympiad is most remembered for the Palestinian terrorist attack that resulted in the death of 11 Israeli athletes. Despite this, the Opening Ceremonies continued a day later than scheduled and 7,000 athletes from 122 countries competed. 

1976: Montreal. 26 African countries boycotted the XXI Olympiad due to New Zealand playing independent rugby games against still-apartheid South Africa in the years leading up to the 1976 Games.  Accusations (mostly unproven) were waged against several athletes suspected of using anabolic steroids to enhance performance.

6,000 athletes competed representing only 88 countries. 

1980: Moscow. The XXII Olympiad marks the first and only Games to take place in Eastern Europe.  65 countries boycotted the games due to the Soviet Union's war in Afghanistan.  An "Olympic Boycott Games" known as the Liberty Bell Classic was held at the same time in Philadelphia to host competitors from those countries who boycotted. 

1984: Los Angeles. In response to the United States' boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games, the Soviet Union and 13  other countries boycotted the Los Angeles-based XXIII Olympiad.  These Games also saw the return of China for the first time since 1952. 

1988: Seoul. Angered that the IOC did not nominate them to co-host the Games of the XXIV Olympiad, North Korea attempted to rally countries in a boycott but only succeeded in convincing allies  Ethiopia, Cuba, and Nicaragua. These Games marked a return to their international popularity. 159 countries competed, represented by 8,391 athletes. 

1992: Barcelona. Because of a ruling in 1994 by the IOC to make the Olympic Games (including Winter Games) occur in alternating even-numbered years, this was the last year both Summer and Winter Olympic Games took place in the same year.  It was also the first since 1972 to be unaffected by boycotts.  9,365 athletes competed, representing 169 countries. Nations of the former Soviet Union joined under The Unified  Team consisting of 12 of the former 15 republics. 

1996: Atlanta. The XXVI Olympiad marked the centennial of the Games' founding in 1896. was the first to occur without government support, which led to a commercialization of the Games. A pipe bomb that exploded in  Atlanta's Olympic Park killed two people, but motive and perpetrator were never determined. A record 197 countries and 10,320 athletes competed. 

2000: Sydney. Praised as one of the best games in Olympic history, the XXVII Olympiad played host to 199 countries and was relatively unaffected by the controversy of any type.  The United States earned the most medals, followed by Russia, China and Australia. 

2004: Athens.   Security and terrorism were at the center of preparation for the XXVIII Olympiad in Athens, Greece due to the rising international conflict in the wake of the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001.  These Games saw the rise of Michael Phelps, who earned 6 gold medals in swimming events. 

2008: Beijing. Despite protest's for host China's actions in Tibet, the XXIX Olympiad continued as planned. 43 world and 132 Olympic records were set by 10,942 athletes representing 302 National Olympics Committees (countries organized into one represented "team"). Of those who competed in the Games, an impressive 86 countries medaled (earned at least one medal) at these Games. 

2012: London.  Becoming the hosts with the most, London's XXX Olympiad marked the most times a single city has hosted the Games (1908, 1948 and 2012).  Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time with additions from the year totaling 22 career Olympic medals. The United States earned the most medals, with China and Great Britain taking second and third place. 

2016: Rio De Janeiro. The XXXI Olympiad marked the first competition for new entrants  South Sudan, Kosovo and the Refugee Olympic Team.  Rio is the first South American country to host the Olympic Games.  Instability of the country's government, pollution of its bay and a Russian doping scandal-marred preparation for the Games. The United States earned its 1,000th Olympic medal during these games and earned the most of the XXIV Olympiad, followed by Great Britain and China. Brazil finished 7th overall.

2020: Tokyo. The IOC awarded Tokyo, Japan the XXXII Olympiad on September 7, 2013. Istanbul and Madrid were also up for candidacy. The games are scheduled to begin July 24 and end August 9, 2020.