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The Top 10 Most Popular Olympic Sports

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Badminton didn't make the list.

For lots of reasons, the Tokyo 2020 (+1) Olympics are like no prior Olympics.

Empty bleachers, COVID testing, travel restrictions. The drama off the field threatens to eclipse the on-field excitement.

And yet, some things never change. For instance, the most popular event is still gymnastics. From floor exercises to the vault, team and individual gymnastics is traditionally the number one crowd-pleaser. (Yes, even more popular than badminton).

Here are the Top 10 Most Popular Olympic Events, courtesy of S2 Sports Show:

1. Gymnastics

2. Swimming

3. Track and field

4. Water sports

5. Volleyball (beach and field)

6. Basketball

7. Soccer

8. Tennis

9. Weightlifting

10. Rugby

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Fun Facts About the Olympics

Nobody really knows when or why the Olympics started.

“The first documented proof of the Olympics is from the year 776 B.C., when the Olympic Games were organized at Olympia in ancient Greece,” according to the DreamsTime website. “However, most people consider that these were already happening for around 500 years at that time. They were held presumably every four years, during a religious event worshiping Zeus.”

Here are some other fun Olympic facts:

  • The first Olympics lasted only one day. The athletes participated in the nude.
  • The Olympic rings logo was sketched by hand on a piece of paper by Pierre de Coubertin in 1913. They represent the five inhabited continents of the world.
  • The first Summer Olympic Games was held in 1896 in Athens.
  • Only 14 countries participated in that event: teams from 11 European countries joined Australia, Chile and the USA.
  • Currently more than 200 countries compete in the Olympics.
  • Motorboat sailing, hot air ballooning, pistol dueling, and tug of war all used to be Olympic sports.
  • From 1921 to 1948, painters, sculptors, architects, writers, musicians and other artists were participants in the Olympics. They competed for medals by creating works of art related to the sporting feats they were witnessing.
  • In the 2012 London Games, a total of 165,000 towels were used by the athletes.
  • The games have been cancelled (not just postponed) three times – during the two World Wars.
  • The flame is lit in Athens and remains lit 24/7.
  • An unlit Olympic torch has been taken into space several times.
  • Pigeon shooting was an Olympic event in 1900 but was never brought back in future games.
  • The first official Olympic mascot was a dachschund named Waldi, who debuted in 1972 in Munich.

Sources: DreamsTime,, National Geographic Kids

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