The latest incarnation has only been around for a little more than one century.
They were started in 1896 by a French educator and sportsman, Pierre de Coubertin, who was inspired by the games held in ancient Greece.
In their original heyday, from about 776 B.C. until A.D. 393, the Olympics drew athletes from more than 100 Greek cities.
The games were abolished by the Roman emperor Theodosius I.
A Christian, he apparently objected to them because of their pagan origins and ceremonies.