How Gold is a Gold Medal and is Princess Anne a Man? All your Important Olympic Questions Answered


With only 11 days to go until the opening ceremony, Olympic fever is about to hit the capital. The definition of Olympic fever varies greatly depending on whom you ask. For some it is the thrill and excitement of watching the world’s greatest athletes come to what is arguably the world’s greatest city to put on the greatest show on Earth. For others it is the sickly, sweaty warmth of a Piccadilly Line carriage crammed with the additional 260,000 visitors expected to join us later next week.

But whether you are looking forward to the Games and to maybe being inspired to hit the gym and burn some calories, or whether you think you’ll probably lose enough body weight roasting at a summery 40◦C several hundred metres underground, one thing that I am certain of is that there are some important Olympic questions that remain unanswered. Not the obvious ones like when did London last hold the Games or will the competitors be competing naked, But the ones that everyone is really asking such as how old was the youngest Olympian, what were Baron de Coubertin’s thoughts on the fairer sex and is Princess Anne a man?

So, to celebrate the countdown until the Opening Ceremony we’ve put together 11 pieces of trivia – one for every day of the countdown, that aim to fill you in on these all important details and hopefully plump up your Pub Quiz scores for the rest of the year.. Start taking notes.


1   This year London will be hosting athletes in a purpose built Olympic Village that includes, among other features, longer beds for taller athletes such as rowers and basketball players. Whilst this will be converted into 2,800 homes after the Games, the first Olympic village was a series of temporary wooden huts for the 1924 Paris Games. By far the strangest accommodation provided however was for the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid where a high security prison was used to house competitors.


2   The difference in age between the oldest and youngest medal-winning Olympians is a whopping 60 years, the eldest being Swedish shooting star Oscar Swahn at 72 and the youngest Danish swimmer, Inge Sorensen who was 12.


3   Princess Anne is the only British royal to have competed in the Olympics, placing 24th at the 1976 Montreal Games.  She was the only competitor that year that was not subjected to a sex test as organisers felt that it would have been ‘inappropriate’ and that it was ‘inconceivable’ that she could be a man. You heard it here first.


4   The first event of the 2012 games is the first round of the women’s football which takes place this Wednesday, two days before the Opening Ceremony, in Cardiff.


5   The main Olympic stadium, which has a capacity of 80,000, is the lightest, most environmentally-friendly design ever, containing less than 10,000 tonnes of steel


6   2012 will be the first Games at which there will be female Boxing Events. Saudi Arabia will also be sending its first female competitors to the Games. Things have come a long way from the first Modern Games in 1896 when Baron de Coubertin, the founder of the IOC, said that he felt the inclusion of female events would be ‘impractical, uninteresting and unaesthetic’, a view that is broadly contested by many of those with tickets to the Beach Volleyball events.


7   There were also no Gold Medals at the first games, with winners instead being awarded with Silver and runners up with Bronze.


8   The ArcelorMittal Orbit Tower (the red twisty thing that looks like the most dangerous roller-coaster ever), despite being 22m taller than the Statue of Liberty, was put together by just three men, with more than 60% of the material used being scrap.


9   The two Olympics mascots Wenlock and Mandeville, described in their official biographies as being ‘two drops of steel from a steelworks in Bolton’, take their names from two places connected to the Games.  Much Wenlock was the location of a forerunner of the Olympics Games and Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire staged the earliest Paralympic Games.


10   Gold medallists in London this year won’t really be winning Gold at all. Instead they will be winning medals made up on 1.34% Gold, 92.5% Silver and 6.16% Copper.  So in actual fact a Gold Medal is not very Gold at all.


11   And finally, encouraging an air of optimism, Great Britain is the only nation to have won at last one Gold Medal at every Modern Summer Games. Certainly not an achievement to be sniffed at.