The modern Olympics were revived in 1896 after an absence of nearly two millennia. Since then the number of Olympic athletes by year has greatly expanded.
The Olympics are an event that takes place every four years upon which the best athletes in the world congregate to represent themselves and their nations in various sporting events. It’s currently split between Summer and Winter Olympics that alternate every two years.
The ancient Olympics were a legendary spectacle. From at least 776 BC to at least 393 AD, the games were held every four years in Greece.
The Olympics also served as a religious festival which brought scores of Greeks to spectate. All free Greek males were allowed to participate, though women could not compete.
The Roman Emperor Theodosius I ordered the closure of all pagan festivals in 393 AD. The Olympic games were included in this due to the pagan religious festival aspect of it.
The 1896 Olympics were the first in the modern era and held in Greece as the ancient Olympics had been. It came to be after a colossal effort that faced many setbacks. Ultimately 14 nations participated and 241 athletes competed in the inaugural event.
Number of Olympic Athletes by Year
The highlighted chart above shows the growth in the number of athletes in subsequent Olympics over 24 year periods. It’s worth noting the 1940 and 1944 Olympics were actually cancelled, due to the prevalence of World War II.
In addition, the Summer and Winter Olympics used to be held during the same year up until 1992. Afterwards they moved to alternate every two years as is common now, with another Winter Olympics in 1994.
The 2016 Rio Olympics featured 11,238 athletes from 207 countries, which was a record number of athletes. Sadly due to the prevalence of COVID-19, the 2020 Olympics to be held in Tokyo were postponed until 2021.