What Is the Meaning of the Linked Rings on the Olympic Symbol?


Quick Answer

The five linked rings on the Olympic symbol stand for the five continents that participate in the Olympics: Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America (considered as one continent) and Australia/Oceania. The colors of the rings do not signify individual continents, however. Instead, they represent an amalgamation of the colors appearing on the national flags of all the countries that participated in the Olympics as of 1912, when the flag was designed.

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Full Answer

Pierre de Coubertin, who was one of the founders of the modern Olympic games, designed the Olympic flag with the symbol of the five rings in 1912. He pointed out at the time the significance of the color choices. The countries of Sweden, Greece, France, England, the United States, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Hungary, Spain, Brazil, Australia, Japan and China all had their national colors represented in the five rings. Because of this, de Coubertin belived the Olympic rings were the first truly international symbol. Although the Olympic handbook stated for some years that individual colors represented specific continents, this claim was removed in 1951, because there was no indication that de Coubertin ever intended this interpretation. For de Coubertin, the interlocked rings represented a sense of wholeness and continuity.

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