The Colors of the Olympic Rings
The Olympics are one of the most recognized (and protected) brands in history. The signs, songs, and symbols of the Modern Olympic games stir the emotions of people on every continent. And while competition is at the heart of the Games, the design of the Olympic symbols was driven by a spirit of unity.
Considered the father of the Olympic Games, Pierre de Fredy, Baron de Coubertin was a French educator, historian and founder of the International Olympic Committee. A bit of a polymath, the modern Olympic Games are the international spectacle that they are because of Pierre de Coubertin and his dedication to uniting people through sport.
What do the rings mean?
The 5 rings might be the most well known symbol in the world. But what do they actually stand for? And how were the colors chosen? Created in 1912 by Pierre de Coubertin the five interlocking rings originally represented the 5 world continents: Africa, Asia, America, Europe and Oceania. Laurel or olive wreaths were popular decorative elements in the 19th century and were said to be handed over by goddesses of victory. It is expected that these wreaths and the goddesses of victory were inspiration for the ring motif. This symbol of interlocking rings was meant to symbolize the union of the five continents of the world coming together to watch as their best athletes compete at the Olympic Games.
The 6 colors of the olympic symbol
Coubertin says in an April 1927 issue of Messager d’Athenes:
“The great Olympic flag is hoisted up the same pole that it is to remain on for the duration of the Games. It was criticized when I designed it. Today everyone likes it. It is white, as you know with five interlinked rings, blue, yellow, black, green, red, representing the five parts of the world united in Olympism.”
Officially debuted at the Games of the VII Olympiad in Antwerp in 1920, the rings also represented all 6 color combinations of every country’s flags without exception (in regard to the year 1913).
Although no ring is meant to symbolize a continent or country exactly, the combination of them covers all countries. On it’s debut, Coubertin stated in August 1912’s edition of Olympique:
“…the six colors (including the flag’s white background) combined in this way reproduce the colors of every country without exception. The blue and yellow of Sweden, the blue and white of Greece, the tri-colors of France and Serbia, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, America, Germany, Belgium, Italy and Hungary, and the yellow and red of Spain, are placed together with the innovations of Brazil or Australia, with old Japan, and with new China. Here is a truly an international symbol.”
The rings today
It is to be noted that the colors are not intended to refer to a continent specifically, more so represent each possible combination of participating countries’ flags. If you ignore the varying shades of blue, red, green and yellow seen across modern flags, the colors in the rings still don’t quite cover all countries’ colors today. The orange tone that is seen in flags of countries such as Bhutan, Armenia and Sri Lanka is not one of the 5 colors of the Olympic Rings. Considering the symbol’s creation in 1913 was over 100 years ago, it is incredible the relevance the symbol still carries, and the power of the 6 combined colors.
Find even more information on the Olympic Rings here