Olympic Day

Olympic and Paralympic Day
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On Olympic and Paralympic Day, how both Games intersected over time

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The annual Olympic Day, first held in 1948 to celebrate the rebirth of the Olympic Games dating to June 23, 1894, is now known in the U.S. by a new name — Olympic and Paralympic Day.

It’s the latest move toward inclusion by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. The USOPC changed its name last June to include the Paralympic movement.

“The decision to change the organization’s name represents a continuation of our long-standing commitment to create an inclusive environment for Team USA athletes,” USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland said at the time. “Paralympic athletes are integral to the makeup of Team USA, and our mission to inspire current and future generations of Americans. The new name represents a renewed commitment to that mission and the ideals that we seek to advance, both here at home and throughout the worldwide Olympic and Paralympic movements.”

The Olympics and the Paralympics are separate entities. There is an International Olympic Committee and an International Paralympic Committee. But both Games intersected in many ways since 1960, when Rome became the first city to host both the Olympics and Paralympics in the same year.

Start with the word “Paralympic,” derived from the Greek preposition “para” (beside or alongside) and the word “Olympic.”

Since 1992, every Olympic host city also held the Paralympic Games. In most cases, the same venues hosted Olympic and Paralympic events, the most visible difference often the Paralympic Agitos logo in place of the Olympic rings.

A total of 34 athletes competed in both the Olympics and the Paralympics. That includes one American, Marla Runyan, who won Paralympic titles in the 100m, 200m, 400m, long jump and pentathlon in classifications for visual impairment before making the 2000 and 2004 Olympic teams in the 1500m.

Brazilian Joaquim Cruz is among those most synonymous with the Olympic and Paralympic movements. Cruz won the 1984 Olympic 800m, then in retirement became a guide runner and coach for the U.S. Paralympic track and field team.

Olympians and Paralympians train together. Most notably, Jessica Long and Michael Phelps for a time were in the same group under Bob Bowman. Long is the second-most decorated U.S. Paralympian in history with 23 medals. Together, Long and Phelps own 51 medals from the Games.

The Tokyo Games will mark the first for which Olympians and Paralympians will receive the same prize money from the USOPC for medals — $37,500 for gold, $22,500 for silver and $15,000 for bronze — increasing Paralympic payouts as much as 400 percent.

NBC’s TV coverage of the Paralympics nearly doubled for the Winter Games from 2014 to 2018. In all, NBC aired 250 hours across TV and digital platforms from PyeongChang.

MORE: Which athletes are qualified for the U.S. Olympic team?

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History of Olympic Day

Sochi 2014
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If you follow Olympians or Olympic enthusiasts on social media, you’ve likely noticed that June 23 is Olympic Day.

How did June 23 come to be known as Olympic Day?

The date of June 23, 1894, is considered by many the birthdate of the modern Olympic Movement. That’s when Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin organized the beginnings of the International Olympic Committee at the Paris International Congress at the Sorbonne.

The first modern Olympics were held in Athens two years later.

Here’s how the IOC described Coubertin’s vision:

“Why did I restore the Olympic Games? To ennoble and strengthen sports, to ensure their independence and duration, and thus to enable them better to fulfil the educational role incumbent upon them in the modern world.” Coubertin is also the author of the famous phrase which characterises the Olympic Games: “The important thing in life is not the triumph, but the fight; the essential thing is not to have won, but to have fought well.”

Coubertin would go on to be the second IOC president, from 1896 to 1925. His heart was buried in Olympia, Greece.

Coubertin did not live to see Olympic Day, which was not established until 1948. The first Olympic Day saw nine nations host ceremonies to celebrate the rebirth of the Olympics (the U.S. was not originally one of them but is now).

Olympic Day grew into a worldwide event not only commemorating the Olympic Movement, but also promoting fitness and sportsmanship.

Olympic Day runs began in 1987. This year, a 5.2km run was held at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, followed by the unveiling of a statue of Coubertin.

“Part of Coubertin’s genius was adapting the values of Olympism  to the modern world — but he didn’t just hand us these ideas written in stone — part of his genius was to understand that we must constantly renew ourselves and update the Olympic vision,” IOC president Thomas Bach said. “Olympic Day is one of those occasions to show how we can remain relevant.”

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