What Is the Olympic Oath?

The Olympic Oath is an oath of sportsmanship and fair play sworn by one athlete representing the host country prior to every official Olympic Games since 1920. By swearing the oath, competitors vow to respect all the rules that govern the Olympic Games and abide by them in the true spirit of sportsmanship.

While only one athlete speaks the oath, all of the competitors are expected to abide by it. While the ancient games in Greece included a similar tradition, the first modern athlete to recite the oath was Belgian fencer Victor Boin in the 1920 Antwerp games. A ceremony usually accompanies the oath, serving as the beginning of the Olympic spectacle as well as an oath of fair play. Authorship of the oath is credited to Baron de Coubertin.

Referees and judges have their own version of the oath called the Olympic Creed, which is also spoken by only one individual from the host nation but binding to all officials. In it, referees vow to impartially judge the Olympic spectacle and affirm that it is the struggle to compete, not who wins or loses, that ultimately matters. The current Olympic Creed was first sworn in 1972. Prior to that date, the basic message was the same, but the wording varied slightly from year to year.