So, what’s behind the tattoo that every year during the Olympics we see on different parts of the bodies of the athletes who participate in the Olympic Games?
We have to go all the way back to the 1988 Seoul Olympics, when Chris Jacobs, a freestyle swimmer with the U.S. team, decided to get a tattoo after winning three medals. He went for the Olympic rings unwinding during a Hawaiian pit stop after the games, the New York Times reported in 2012.
“Family and friends see the tattoo as special, unique and something for which we should be proud,” Jacobs told the Washington Post at the time. “The reaction from other Olympians tends to be fairly consistent, most appreciating the idea, with the greatest amount of time spent deciding on the best part of their body to display the work.” The five-ring tattoo caught on with U.S. swimmers and soon with just about every other sport.
Olympic rings tattoos aren’t for everyone, though. In fact, if you ask most Olympians, they’re only for people who have actually competed in the actual Olympics. That’s what makes them special– having an Olympic tattoo makes you part of a club to which everyone wants to belong. Some might opt not to get that tattoo, but for many it’s a permanent reminder of the incredible amount of work it takes to earn the right to being called an Olympian. Even some fundamentalists believe the tattoo should only be allowed for those that win the gold medal in their category, such as Argentinean hockey player Juan Manuel Vivaldi, who won the gold medal with his team in Rio 2016.