A true honour for any country, the Summer Olympic Games began officially in Athens in 1896 and has captured nations ever since. Whether a budding Olympian or seasoned sports fan, it’s hard not to feel swept up by the Olympic magic and feel proud of the commitment the athletes have to their craft and country.
As Tokyo 2020, or 2021 however way you see it, begins, we’re looking back at Olympics gone by, and dreaming of travelling to these iconic cities once more.
Of course it wouldn’t be an Olympic top ten without mentioning where it all began, even before the official I Olympiad. From wrestling to weightlifting and cycling to swimming, there were just 9 events and 14 nations that took part, with Greece taking home 46 medals, 10 gold, with the US beating them to 11 gold. We stay in Athens on our Classic Greece tour, with a day trip to the historic city, as well as a day in fascinating Olympia.
This year’s host also makes a top spot on many bucket lists: Tokyo. A long awaited Olympics in unique circumstances, we can’t wait to be cheering on the athletes come July 23. On our Japan tour, our adventure begins in Tokyo, with a few days to explore this captivating city. Just steps apart but with their own distinct character, everyone is sure to find their favourite district in lively Tokyo. Between manicured gardens and high-speed trains, postcard-perfect mountains and mechanical robots, holy shrines and hot springs, this beautifully balanced destination makes for a culture clash like no other.
Possibly the most romantic of Olympic cities, Paris is set to invite Olympians in 2024, having last hosted in 1900. It was the first Olympic Games to feature female athletes, where Hélène de Pourtalès of Switzerland became the first woman to compete and the first female Olympic champion. At Riviera, you can explore with us by either city break or cruise, as part of the Seine, Paris & Normandy sailing. The Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Champs Élysées, Sacré-Coeur – it’s a city which exudes culture and always seems to capture you under its spell.
With much planning to be done to pull together such an incredible event, Los Angeles are already pinned to host the 2028 Summer Olympics. It will be the first Summer Games to be held in the United States since the Atlanta 1996, with LA last holding the torch in 1984. Los Angeles is our first stop on the California & the Golden West tour, where we see the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Sunset Strip and Santa Monica.
The iconic Olympic rings symbol was not designed by Baron Pierre de Coubertin until 1912 and so this would now have been a renowned symbol by Antwerp 1920. Hosting the Olympics over 100 years ago, Antwerp is one of our stops on the Bruges, Medieval Flanders, Amsterdam & the Dutch Bulbfields river cruise. At its heart is the captivating main square – the Grote Markt – dominated by ornately gabled guildhouses, the Renaissance town hall and opulent Brabo Fountain.
The same year that Queen Elizabeth II took the throne, Helsinki hosted the 15th Olympiad. They had initially been chosen to host the 1940 Summer Olympics, which were then cancelled due to World War II. We visit this historic city on the Helsinki, Tallinn & Riga tour, experiencing the highlights with a local guide before time to explore. Surrounded by lush forests and vast, picturesque parks, both Central Park and Kaivopuisto Park offer stunning views overlooking the sea.
An ever-popular choice for our wonderful spring cruises, Amsterdam were the Olympic host nation in 1928, known to the Dutch as the Olympische Zomerspelen 1928. There are three river cruise itineraries, including one solo, on which you can enjoy this stunning city. Discover moored houseboats, quirky bridges, cobbled streets lined with tall, narrow merchants’ houses, gabled civic buildings and homes of famous former residents such as Rembrandt, the greatest Dutch Golden Age artist, and Anne Frank, whose diaries tell a poignant tale of life under the Nazis.
Many may remember the 1960 Rome Olympics, where by now 83 nations took part, with 150 events and 17 sports. Holding sway over much of the ancient world for 500 years, Rome was the greatest empire of its time. On our incredible Rome: Ancient & Baroque tour, be inspired by the moments that shaped the Rome we know today, with a walking city tour as well as a full day to uncover Ancient Rome with an expert.
1980 saw Moscow host the Summer Olympic games, the first to be staged in Eastern Europe. It was a controversial time in history, with the political tensions of the Soviet–Afghan War causing the US and 66 other countries to decline their invite. In turn, the Soviet Union did not attend the 1984 games in LA. On our Moscow and St Petersburg tour, top of any visitor’s list is the extraordinary Kremlin complex, three cathedrals, great palaces, the Senate, the remarkable Treasury plus several grand squares and towers. Equally recognisable are St Basil’s Cathedral with its amazing multi-coloured domes, plus the monumental Red Square.
Rio de Janeiro
Many who support Team GB will remember Rio as their proudest moment, where the athletes took home 67 medals, 27 of which were glittering gold. Known locally as the Jogos Olímpicos de Verão de 2016, they were the first Olympic Games to be held in South America. We head here on day 7 of our South America Highlights tour, perfectly located right on Copacabana beach. Over the next couple of days we take in the breath-taking highlights of Christ the Redeemer, Tijuca Forest National Park and Sugarloaf Mountain.
Which is your favourite event to watch in the Olympics? Will you be tuning in to Tokyo 2020?