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The Olympic Oath

At the start of each Olympics, every athlete promises to play fairly and obey all of the Olympic rules. One athlete from the host country takes this oath at the opening ceremony on behalf of all athletes.

Ancient judge

Above: A foul play is observed.
Detail from a Greek amphora, c. 520-500 BC.

The Athletes' Oath
Holding a corner of the Olympic flag, the chosen athlete repeats the oath:

"In the name of all competitors, I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules that govern them, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honor of our teams."

Written by Baron de Coubertin, the athletes' oath was first taken at the 1920 Antwerp Games in Belgium.

The Olympic Creed
A judge from the host country recites the Olympic creed, which appears on the scoreboard during the Opening Ceremony:

"The most important thing in the Olympic games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well."

Baron de Cobertin adopted this creed after hearing it from the bishop of central Pennsylvania, Ethelbert Talbot, when he spoke at a service for Olympic athletes during the 1908 London Games. Although there have been many permutations of this basic message throughout the history of the Games, the creed above, which was introduced at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, is still used today.

Ancient Oaths
The oaths of the modern Olympic games are the legacy of a ceremony introduced in antiquity. The ancient Games opened with the taking of the oaths, the first official ceremony. The event took place in front a statue of Zeus Horkios (Zeus of the Oaths). A sacrifice was offered and the athletes swore that they had trained properly (for the prescribed 10 months) and that they would obey the rules of the Games. Interestingly, their trainers, and even father and brothers, would join them in similar oaths. Finally, the Hellanodikes (ancient judges/officials) swore to judge fairly and without bias.

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