• 1896
    Athens
    Greece

    The first modern Summer Games were held in Athens, the home of the ancient Olympics. Fourteen nations took part, with Greece winning the marathon race in their home country.

    The National Archives’ collections on the modern Olympics begin here, with dispatches from the Minister in Athens.

    We also hold images of sporting events and advertising posters from this time.

  • 1900
    Paris
    France

    The second modern Summer Games took place during the Exposition Universelle, France’s World’s Fair. Sporting events took place over five months as part of the Fair, which became the main focus.

    Women also competed in the modern Olympic Games for the first time.

    The National Archives holds records relating to the Paris Exhibition, as well as images of athletes from this time.

    7 records available

    • Paris Exhibition monumental entrance, 1900.
      COPY 1/448 f332
      Paris Exhibition monumental entrance, 1900. COPY 1/448 f332Preview
    • David Billington, champion swimmer, 1900-1.
      COPY 1/455 (396)
      David Billington, champion swimmer, 1900-1. COPY 1/455 (396)Preview
    • John Arthur Jarvis, amateur swimmer and Olympic gold medallist, 1902.
      COPY 1/455 (381)
      John Arthur Jarvis, amateur swimmer and Olympic gold medallist, 1902. COPY 1/455 (381)Preview
    • Paris Exhibition, the luminous palace, 1900.
      COPY 1/448 f328
      Paris Exhibition, the luminous palace, 1900. COPY 1/448 f328Preview
    • Paris Exhibition, entrance and grounds, 1900.
      COPY 1/168 (208)
      Paris Exhibition, entrance and grounds, 1900. COPY 1/168 (208)Preview
    • Paris Exhibition, old Paris, 1900.
      COPY 1/448 f330
      Paris Exhibition, old Paris, 1900. COPY 1/448 f330Preview
    • C F Barden, cyclist, 1897.
      COPY 1/428 (163)
      C F Barden, cyclist, 1897. COPY 1/428 (163)Preview

    Additional resources

    See more information about the 1900 Olympics on the following websites:

  • 1904
    St Louis
    United States

    Gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded for first, second and third place for the first time in 1904.

    As in Paris, the Games were not the main focus of the 1904 Olympics, as they were held over four and a half months during the Saint Louis World's Fair.

    The National Archives holds records related to the St Louis Exhibition, as well as sporting illustrations from the time.

    3 records available

    • Cook's Tours St Louis Exposition, 1904.
      COPY 1/221 (243)
      Cook's Tours St Louis Exposition, 1904. COPY 1/221 (243)Preview
    • Racing cyclists, artist M Dorothy Hardy, 1904.
      COPY 1/218 (435)
      Racing cyclists, artist M Dorothy Hardy, 1904. COPY 1/218 (435)Preview
    • Tennis, artist Tom Browne, 1904.
      COPY 1/216 (119a)
      Tennis, artist Tom Browne, 1904. COPY 1/216 (119a)Preview

    Additional resources

  • 1908
    London
    United Kingdom

    The 1908 Games were held in London at short notice, having originally been planned for Rome. For the first time, a special stadium was built to host the Games.

    The marathon race was organised so that the finish line was below the royal box in the stadium.

    The National Archives holds a selection of photographs of the Games, as well as plans for the marathon race.

  • 1912
    Stockholm
    Sweden

    All five continents took part for the first time in the 1912 Games. It was delivered efficiently using the latest technology of the time, including photo finishes and a public address system.

    The National Archives holds records relating to the communications costs of the 1912 Olympics.

    1 record available

    • Post Office records; transmission of telegrams about the Stockholm Games.
      T 1/11533
      Post Office records; transmission of  telegrams about the Stockholm Games. T 1/11533Preview

    Additional resources

    Find out more on The National Archives' website:

    What were your ancestors up to around this time?

    See more information about the 1912 Olympics on the following websites:

  • 1916
    Berlin (Cancelled)
    Germany

    Following the outbreak of the First World War, the Berlin Summer Games were cancelled.

    The National Archives holds many images of the First World War, as well as records relating to British Army participation in the riding team for the planned Summer Games in Berlin.

    5 records available

    • Interim report of Olympic Games Committee on British Army team participation.
      WO 33/3060
      Interim report of Olympic Games Committee on British Army team participation. WO 33/3060Preview
    • German signal code book, pp4-5, 1914.
      ADM 137/4156
      German signal code book, pp4-5, 1914. ADM 137/4156Preview
    • 'Old and new rates of pay', First World War poster.
      ADM 1/8331
      'Old and new rates of pay', First World War poster. ADM 1/8331Preview
    • Squadron RFC and RAF, 1916.
      AIR 1/169/15/160/5/24
      Squadron RFC and RAF, 1916. AIR 1/169/15/160/5/24Preview
    • 'The Navy Wants Men' First World War poster.
      ADM 1/8331
      'The Navy Wants Men' First World War poster. ADM 1/8331Preview

    Additional resources

  • 1920
    Antwerp
    Belgium

    These were the first Games after the end of the First World War, awarded to Belgium to honour victims of the war and acknowledging the suffering of the Belgian people. The Olympic flag bearing the iconic five rings was raised and doves were released as a symbol of peace.

    The National Archives holds a record related to the disposal of surplus government property and accommodation of British representatives in Antwerp.

    1 record available

    • Use of Antwerp camp for accommodation of British representatives.
      MUN 4/5962
      Use of Antwerp camp for accommodation of British representatives. MUN 4/5962Preview

    Additional resources

    Find out more on The National Archives' website:

    What were your ancestors up to around this time?
  • 1924
    Paris
    France

    Fourty four national Olympic Committees took part in the Games in 1924, a major success for Paris the second time around following the Games in 1900. The Games had become a popular major event by this time, topped off with the first formal closing ceremony.

    The National Archives holds a selection of records related to the 1924 Paris Olympics, including British Army participation and the attendance of Prince Henry at the Games.

  • 1928
    Amsterdam
    Netherlands

    The Amsterdam Olympic Games saw the first lighting of the Olympic flame. The Opening Ceremony was led by Greece, with the host nation last, a tradition which has continued ever since.

    The number of female competitors increased in 1928 and Asian competitors gained medals for the first time.

    The National Archives holds records related to the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, as well as records generally related to Amsterdam for this period.

    3 records available

    • Norwegian interest in events surrounding the 'Italia' expedition; appreciation of British successes at Games.
      FO 371/13299/4053
      Norwegian interest in events surrounding the 'Italia' expedition; appreciation of British successes at Games. FO 371/13299/4053Preview
    • Wrestling trials; facilities for police competitors.
      MEPO 2/3760/215
      Wrestling trials; facilities for police competitors. MEPO 2/3760/215Preview
    • Metropolitan Police Athletic Association; invitation to accompany British team to Amsterdam.
      MEPO 2/3760/217
      Metropolitan Police Athletic Association; invitation to accompany British team to Amsterdam. MEPO 2/3760/217Preview

    Additional resources

    Find out more on The National Archives' website:

    See more information about the 1928 Olympics on the following websites:

  • 1932
    Los Angeles
    United States

    The 1932 Olympics took place during the Great Depression and fewer countries and athletes took part than in the previous Games. However, the standard and achievement of participants was high, with Mildred Ella 'Babe' Didrikson setting new world records for 80m hurdles and javelin. Despite the economic depression, a grand stadium was built attracting huge crowds of spectators.

    The National Archives holds a selection of records related to the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.

    2 records available

    • Application to represent Nigeria in the 1932 Olympics and request for financial assistance.
      CO 583/184/5
      Application to represent Nigeria in the 1932 Olympics and request for financial assistance. CO 583/184/5Preview
    • Metropolitan Police participation in 1932 Games, consideration of application.
      MEPO 2/3760/297
      Metropolitan Police participation in 1932 Games, consideration of application. MEPO 2/3760/297Preview

    Additional resources

    Find out more on The National Archives' website:

  • 1936
    Berlin
    Germany

    The Nazi regime attempted to use the 1936 Games for propaganda purposes, including white racial superiority. This attempt failed. The most popular athlete of the Games was African American Jesse Owens, winning four gold medals in sprinting, relay and long jump.

    The National Archives holds a selection of records related to the 1936 Berlin Olympics, from the exploitation of Olympics for Nazi propaganda and the persecution of Jews, to the extent of participation and exclusion of various parties.

  • 1940
    Tokyo/Helsinki (Cancelled)
    Japan/Finland

    The 1940 Summer Games was cancelled following the start of the Second World War in 1939. This had been due to take place first in Tokyo, Japan and then in Helsinki, Finland.

    The National Archives’ collections on the cancelled Olympics include proposals for Helsinki and the sale of British horses for use in the Games.

  • 1944
    London (Cancelled)
    United Kingdom

    The 13th modern Summer Games, due to be held in London, were cancelled during the Second World War.

    The National Archives’ collections on the cancelled 1944 Games cover the burial of the heart of the founder of the modern Olympics, and proposals to host the Games in London or Athens.

    4 records available

    • Burial of heart of Baron de Coubertin and Greek proposal to hold 1944 Games at Athens.
      FO 370/551/2857
      Burial of heart of Baron de Coubertin and Greek proposal to hold 1944 Games at Athens. FO 370/551/2857Preview
    • Diadem.
      AIR 23/8569
      Diadem. AIR 23/8569Preview
    • Proposal to hold 1944 Games in London.
      FO 370/551/7896
      Proposal to hold 1944 Games in London. FO 370/551/7896Preview
    • Second World War damage to buildings at Wimbledon Station from flying bomb attack, 16 July 1944.
      AIR 20/4376
      Second World War damage to buildings at Wimbledon Station from flying bomb attack, 16 July 1944. AIR 20/4376Preview

    Additional resources

  • 1948
    London
    United Kingdom

    The 1948 Summer Games were held in London at short notice. Despite rationing continuing in the UK, the Games were hailed as a success and triumph over hardship.

    These were the first Games to be shown on television, for the lucky few who then owned TV sets of their own.

    The National Archives’ collections on the 1948 Games are extensive, covering planning, hosting, accommodation and financial arrangements.

  • 1952
    Helsinki
    Finland

    The 1952 Games were held in Helsinki, following the earlier cancellation in 1940.

    Israel and the Soviet Union competed in the Games for the first time, with particularly successful performances by Soviet women gymnasts. Women competed alongside men in equestrian mixed events for the first time.

    The National Archives’ collections on the 1952 Games include records on Soviet and Chinese representation at the Games.

    3 records available

    • Anglo-Finnish sports relations; proposal for 250 Hungarians to attend Games.
      FO 371/100495
      Anglo-Finnish sports relations; proposal for 250 Hungarians to attend Games. FO 371/100495Preview
    • Reviews of Soviet press: covering happenings at the Games in USA, Britain, Europe and...
      FO 371/100898
      Reviews of Soviet press:  covering happenings at the Games in USA, Britain, Europe and... FO 371/100898Preview
    • Discussions with Lord Burghley on Chinese representation; admission of Chinese Communists...
      FO 371/99371
      Discussions with Lord Burghley on Chinese representation; admission of Chinese Communists... FO 371/99371Preview

    Additional resources

    See more information about the 1952 Olympics on the following websites:

  • 1956
    Melbourne/Stockholm
    Australia and Sweden

    The Games were hosted in the Southern hemisphere, in Melbourne, for the first time.

    Strict quarantine laws meant that foreign horses could not be brought in to Australia to compete, so equestrian events were held in Stockholm, Sweden.

    The National Archives holds historical images of Melbourne.

    2 records available

    • Bourke Street, Melbourne, 1899.
      COPY 1/440(i)
      Bourke Street, Melbourne, 1899. COPY 1/440(i)Preview
    • Melbourne from GPO Tower looking East, 1901.
      COPY 1/450 (424)
      Melbourne from GPO Tower looking East, 1901. COPY 1/450 (424)Preview

    Additional resources

    See more information about the 1956 Olympics on the following websites:

  • 1960
    Rome
    Italy

    The Rome Summer Games made the most of ancient sites and history including the Basilica of Maxentius, Caracalla Baths and triumphal arch of Constantine.

    Paralympic athletes joined the Games in the same city for the first time and Rome is now recognised as the first Olympic and Paralympic Games.

    The Olympics of 1960 saw the first major appearance of the boxer Cassius Clay, who later changed his name to Muhammad Ali and became one of the best-known boxers of all time.

    The National Archives’ collections include coverage of the Games, participation, naming of Republic of Ireland, and involvement of Korea and Formosa.

  • 1964
    Tokyo
    Japan

    Tokyo was the first Asian nation to host the Games. The Olympic flame was carried by Yoshinori Sakai, who was born on 6 August 1945, the same day the atomic bomb exploded in Hiroshima, as a symbol of peace and to honour the victims.

    The first Olympic fair play trophy was awarded to the Swedish yachtsmen after they abandoned the race to help rescue two fellow competitors whose boat had sunk.

    The National Archives’ collections covering the Tokyo Games include publicity operations, participation of North and South Korea, and German and colonial representation.

  • 1968
    Mexico City/Tel Aviv
    Mexico and Israel

    The 19th modern Summer Games were held in Mexico City, Mexico and Tel Aviv, Israel. Mexico declined the invitation to host the Paralympics, due to technical difficulties, and Israel stepped in to host. The 1968 Paralympics saw 750 athletes from 29 countries competing.

    Meanwhile, the high altitude in Mexico City saw new world records in short distance events, with poorer performances in endurance races.

    The National Archives’ collections on the Games cover participation, government assistance and grants, sporting and cultural aspects, and Rhodesian participation.

  • 1972
    Munich/Heidelberg
    Germany

    The 20th modern Summer Games were the largest to date at the time, but were overshadowed by terrorist attacks by the Black September Group who held hostage and killed the team representing Israel. The Games were paused then resumed, to honour those who lost their lives and to continue the spirit of the Olympic movement.

    The National Archives’ collections range from records on financial arrangements and participation in the Games, to coverage of the terrorist attacks on athletes representing Israel.

  • 1976
    Montreal/Toronto
    Canada

    The 1976 Games included major achievements by Alberto Juantorena of Cuba winning both the 400m and 800m, along with seven perfect scores in gymnastics from Nadia Comeneci of Romania. The Paralympics included 40 countries with 1,657 athletes.

    Some countries withdrew from the Games in protest at the participation of South Africa and the then Apartheid regime, as well as the fact that New Zealand rugby had toured in South Africa.

    The National Archives’ collections cover planning of the Games.

    3 records available

    • Plans for 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Quebec.
      FCO 13/656
      Plans for 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal, Quebec. FCO 13/656Preview
    • Quebec from the Citadel, 1885.
      COPY 1/69
      Quebec from the Citadel, 1885. COPY 1/69Preview
    • Timber from Canada poster, artist Frank Newbould.
      CO 956/225
      Timber from Canada poster, artist Frank Newbould. CO 956/225Preview

    Additional resources

  • 1980
    Moscow/Arnhem
    Soviet Union and Netherlands

    The 22nd modern Summer Games were held in Moscow, Soviet Union and Arnhem, Netherlands. There was a boycott, led by the United States, in protest at Soviet invasion of Afghanistan the year before.

    The Paralympics was hosted at the Papendal National Sports Centre in Arnhem, having originally been due to take place in Russia; 42 countries took part with a total of 1,973 athletes.

    The National Archives’ collections range from government policy on the Games relating to Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, to coverage of the Games, Cabinet conclusions, official and ministerial Olympic groups and participation.

  • 1984
    Los Angeles/New York/Stoke Mandeville
    United States and United Kingdom

    For the first time, the Olympics was hailed as a financial success and Los Angeles became a model for future Games. The Paralympics were held in both New York, USA and Stoke Mandeville, UK.

    The National Archives’ collections on Los Angeles 1984 covers the Games and Cultural Olympiad, along with the proposal to hold the 1984 Games in London Docklands. We also hold historical images of New York.

    5 records available

    • Proposed 1984 Olympic Games in London Docklands.
      AT 60/102
      Proposed 1984 Olympic Games in London Docklands. AT 60/102Preview
    • Brooklyn Bridge New York, 1885.
      COPY 1/69
      Brooklyn Bridge New York, 1885. COPY 1/69Preview
    • New York looking south, 1885.
      COPY 1/69
      New York looking south, 1885. COPY 1/69Preview
    • Broadway New York, 1885.
      COPY 1/69
      Broadway New York, 1885. COPY 1/69Preview
    • Elevated, railway New York, 1885.
      COPY 1/69
      Elevated, railway New York, 1885. COPY 1/69Preview

    Additional resources

    Find out more on The National Archives' website:

  • 1988
    Seoul
    South Korea

    Despite boycotts by some countries including North Korea and Nicaragua, the 1988 Games was widely thought to provide the impetus for South Korea to move towards democracy.

    The 1988 Paralympics were the largest and best facilitated so far, giving opportunities for a new generation of Paralympic athletes to compete in the main Olympic venues.

    The National Archives holds records relating to the bid to host the 1988 Games and Cultural Olympiad in Britain.

    3 records available

    • Proposed hosting of the 1988 Olympic Games in Britain.
      AT 60/156
      Proposed hosting of the 1988 Olympic Games in Britain. AT 60/156Preview
    • London bid for 1988 Olympic Games: development of facilities.
      AT 60/161/1
      London bid for 1988 Olympic Games: development of facilities. AT 60/161/1Preview
    • Sedan chair Seoul, Korea, W Meakin, 1907.
      COPY 1/514 (66)
      Sedan chair Seoul, Korea, W Meakin, 1907. COPY 1/514 (66)Preview

    Additional resources

    Find out more on The National Archives' website:

    See more information about the 1988 Olympics and Paralympics on the following websites:

  • 1992
    Barcelona
    Spain

    Following political changes including the end of Apartheid and the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Olympic Games had no boycotts for the first time since 1972.

    The 1992 Games saw a controversial reduction in the number of Paralympic athletes and events, though some believed that this raised the level of competition with different abilities competing together. There were outstanding performances from Paralympic athletes in many events including swimming and athletics.

    The UK also applied to host the 1992 Olympics in Birmingham, but was unsuccessful. The National Archives holds a record related to the bid and the proposed ‘Birmingham Olympic Express’.

    1 record available

    • British Rail and the Birmingham Olympics bid for 1992: the Birmingham Olympic Express.
      AN 18/235
      image Preview

    Additional resources

    Find out more on The National Archives' website:

  • 1996
    Atlanta
    United States

    Atlanta saw all recognised National Olympic Committees represented at the Games for the first time. The opening ceremony saw boxing legend and former Olympic champion Muhammad Ali light the Olympic flame.

    A terrorist bomb exploded on 27 July at the Centennial Olympic Park, killing two people and injuring many others.

    The National Archives does not yet hold open access records relating to the 1996 Games. Details of these records will be made published in our latest document releases as they become available.

  • 2000
    Sydney
    Australia

    The Sydney Games were a symbol of the need to reconcile and respect the Aboriginal populations of Australia, with Cathy Freeman lighting the Olympic flame. Freeman went on to win the 400m race.

    New additions to the programme this year included triathlon and taekwondo. The well organised events in Sydney were applauded as celebrations of Olympic sporting and cultural values.

    The UK also applied to host the 2000 Olympics, but was unsuccessful until 2012.

    The National Archives' collections cover the UK's bid to host the Olympics in Manchester, as well as historical images of Sydney.

    3 records available

    • Correspondence relating to Manchester's bid to host the Games.
      INF 12/1210/1
      Correspondence relating to Manchester's bid to host the Games. INF 12/1210/1Preview
    • Sydney Australia, 1876.
      COPY 1/33
      Sydney Australia, 1876. COPY 1/33Preview
    • Sydney from Milson's point, 1901.
      COPY 1/450 (425)
      Sydney from Milson's point, 1901. COPY 1/450 (425)Preview

    Additional resources

    Find out more on The National Archives' website:

  • 2004
    Athens
    Greece

    In 2004, the Games returned to the birthplace of the modern and ancient Olympics. Almost four billion people had access to the television broadcasts of the Games and a record 201 nations competed.

    World records and sporting achievements were exceeded in sports including swimming, cycling and canoeing.

    The National Archives holds records related to Sport and 2004 Games in the UK Government Web Archive. See these archived websites on the right.

    2 records available


    Additional resources

  • 2008
    Beijing/Hong Kong
    China

    The 29th modern Summer Games were held in Beijing, China, with equestrian events in Hong Kong. Famous for the iconic ‘bird’s nest’ stadium and spectacular synchronised opening and closing ceremonies, the 2008 Games broke new records of sporting achievement.

    The National Archives holds records related to the 2008 Games in the UK Government Web Archive. See these archived websites, along with old photographs of Beijing (then known as Peking) on the right.

    8 records available

    • Great Britain China Centre
      Great Britain China Centre archived websiteView website
    • Temple of Heaven, Peking, photograph, W Meakin, 1907.
      COPY 1/514 (37)
      Temple of Heaven, Peking, photograph, W Meakin, 1907. COPY 1/514 (37)Preview
    • China-Britain Business Council
      China-Britain Business Council archived websiteView website
    • British Council
      British Council archived websiteView website
    • Offering to the gods, Peking, Herbert G Ponting, 1907.
      COPY 1/507 (186)
      Offering to the gods, Peking, Herbert G Ponting, 1907. COPY 1/507 (186)Preview
    • Beijing 2008 (homepage only)
      Beijing 2008 archived website (homepage only) View website
    • Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Beijing handover
      Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Beijing handover archived websiteView website
    • Street in Peking, W Meakin, 1907.
      COPY 1/514 (18)
      Street in Peking, W Meakin, 1907. COPY 1/514 (18)Preview

    Additional resources

    See more information about the 2008 Olympics and Paralympics on the following websites:

  • 2012
    London
    United Kingdom

    The 30th modern Summer Games is held in London, UK. London is the first city to host the Games for a third time. Sporting and cultural events are taking place right across the UK from the largest venues to the smallest community celebrations.

    The National Archives is building a collection of archived websites around London 2012, the activities surrounding the event and its impacts across the UK.

    These records are available online in the UK Government Web Archive and viewable on the right, showing the development of the Games and Cultural Olympiad as it happens.

    See more on various activities happening across the UK in 2012.

    5 records available

    • 2012 Games and Cultural Olympiad
      2012 Games and Cultural Olympiad archived websiteView website
    • London Organising Committee
      London Organising Committee archived websiteView website
    • Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, Annual report 2012
      Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, Annual report 2012View website
    • Museums, Libraries and Archives Council 'Setting the Pace'
      Museums, Libraries and Archives Council 'Setting the Pace'View website
    • Department of Culture, Media and Sport Legacy Action Plan
      Department of Culture, Media and Sport Legacy Action PlanView website

    Additional resources

    See more information about the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics on the following websites: