The history of the Olympic Rings goes back the first part of the 20th century. They were created when the Olympic flag was designed by Baron de Coubertin in 1913. The Olympic rings are now recognized worldwide as the official symbol of the Olympic Games.
For the design of the Olympic flag, Coubertin drew five rings of different colors: blue, yellow, black, green and red. The rings were interlocked together and represented athletes from all nations. Because the games were delayed by World War I, the Olympic flag featuring the five rings wasn’t flown the first time until the games in Belgium in 1920. Although unity at the Olympic games seems a given today, at the time, international unity was a novel idea. National pride was high and there was tension between countries. The Olympic rings were a brave statement of the possibility of international unity.
In 1951, the official Olympic handbook was updated. The older version said that each color of the rings represented a particular continent: black for Africa, blue for Europe, green for Australia, yellow for Asia and red for the Americas. The update was made to show Coubertin's original intention. The number of rings did represent the five continents but he did not assign a particular color to any continent. Instead, he said the five colors of the flag were drawn from the national flags all over the world: blue from Greece and Sweden, yellow and red of Spain, the red of China and Japan and the tricolors found in the American, French, English and German flags, as well as those from other countries. His choice of colors for the Olympic rings was an acknowledgement of the national pride that was popular at the time.