Why Are The Olympics Held Every Four Years?

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Every four years, millions of people around the world gather to watch the Olympic Games. But why are they held every four years? It turns out there’s a fascinating history behind this tradition. Let’s take a look. 

Why Are The Olympics Held Every Four Years?

The Ancient Greeks began holding athletic competitions in honor of Zeus over 2,700 years ago. The games were held once every four years at Olympia—the site of the original Olympics—and became known as the Olympiad. This was later shortened to “Olympics” and used as the name of the modern games. 

The Olympics were considered so important that wars would cease during their occurrence—a concept known as “Olympic Truce”—so participants could travel peacefully to Olympia without fear of attack or harm.

At first, only men could compete at Olympia; women couldn’t participate until much later. Athletes also competed in the nude, and events ranged from running and javelin throwing to chariot races and wrestling matches. 

Modern Day Olympics

Emperor Theodosius I eventually abolished the ancient Olympics in 393 CE because they were seen as too pagan-oriented. But in 1894, Baron Pierre de Coubertin revived them with help from other sports enthusiasts who wanted to see a modern version of these ancient games take place again.

These new Olympics featured men and women competing in many different sports, including swimming, gymnastics, weightlifting, basketball, boxing, and more. And thus began the tradition of holding these events every four years that continues today.


The first exception was in 1916, when the games were canceled due to World War I. They were also canceled in 1940 and 1944 due to World War II. In those cases, the games were rescheduled for the following year. More recently, the 2020 Summer Olympics were postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


The Olympics have certainly come a long way since their inception over two millennia ago. Although much has changed since then, the tradition of holding these games every four years has remained intact throughout all these centuries.

So the next time you wonder why the Olympics are held every four years, remember: it’s a tradition with roots all the way back to ancient Greece.