The Cullinan I, a.k.a. the "Star of Africa"
Fun Facts About the Cullinan Diamond
Sir Thomas Cullinan holding the rough, pre-cut diamond
The giant Cullinan is one of the most famous and the largest diamond in the world. The Cullinan weighed a massive 3,106 carats as a rough diamond crystal. The rough diamond was 10 cm long, 6 cm high and 5 cm thick.
- The Cullinan Diamond was named after Thomas Cullinan (later Sir Thomas) who was a South African businessman. Thomas Cullinan was a successful Johannesburg building contractor and amateur geologist. Thomas became interested in the area because of the alluvial diamonds that were being found in nearby stream.
- The Cullinan diamond was discovered at the Premier Diamond Mine in 1905. Mr. Frederick Wells, the superintendent of the Premier Mine found the crystal when he was making a routine inspection of the mine, eighteen feet below the ground. Frederick Wells received 3,500 pounds as a reward.
- The Cullinan was sold to the Transvaal government for £150,000 who presented it to King Edward VII on his 66th birthday on November 9th, 1907.
- King Edward VII entrusted Abraham and Joseph Asscher, of the famous Royal Asscher Diamond Company in Amsterdam, with cutting the giant stone which was finally finished in 1908.
- The Asscher brothers studied the giant sized rough diamond for three months before making the final decision of where the diamond should be cut.
Joseph Asscher preparing to cut the Cullinan Diamond
On February 10, 1908 Joseph Asscher prepared himself for the greatest responsibility of his life – the cleaving of the giant Cullinan rough diamond. The tension, pressure and stress on Joseph Asscher can hardly be imagined. He was responsible for cutting the biggest and most expensive diamond in the world and a mistake in this task would, literally, cost a fortune.
- Joseph Asscher placed the cleaving blade at the prearranged point of the diamond and struck the blade with his hammer. To his horror the cleaving blade broke. Thankfully, the diamond was unharmed. A special, extra large, cleaving blade was obtained. The second attempt was understandably even more tense than the first. Failure was unthinkable. Joseph Asscher struck the rough diamond again but this time it split perfectly into three large sections. These sections were closely studied and then divided into nine principal diamonds and approximately 100 smaller ones.
- The Premier Diamond mine in South Africa, where the Cullinan diamond was found, is situated on an ancient diamond-bearing kimberlite pipe. The pipe is a carrot-shaped volcanic neck originating from great depths within the Earth and is the largest in South Africa.
- Diamonds are formed when extreme heat and extreme pressure cause carbon atoms to crystallize forming diamonds approximately ninety miles under the earth’s surface. Diamonds reach the surface of the earth via volcanic pipes, or channels.
The Olympic Flame burns brightly during the Opening Ceremony
Fun Facts About the Olympics
- The early Olympic Games were celebrated as a religious festival from 776 B.C. until 393 A.D., when the games were banned for being a pagan festival (the Olympics celebrated the Greek god Zeus).
- In 1894, a French educator Baron Pierre de Coubertin, proposed a revival of the ancient tradition, and thus the modern-day Olympic Summer Games were born.
- Opening day of the first modern Olympic Games was in Athens, Greece on April 5th, 1896.
- Women were first allowed to participate in 1900 at the second modern Olympic Games.
- The first opening ceremonies were held during the 1908 Olympic Games in London.
- During the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, the procession of athletes is always led by the Greek team, followed by all the other teams in alphabetical order (in the language of the hosting country), except for the last team which is always the team of the hosting country.
- Created by Pierre de Coubertin in 1914, the Olympic flag contains five interconnected rings on a white background.
The Olympic Flag
- The five Olympic rings represent the five major regions of the world – Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceana, and every national flag in the world includes one of the five colors, which are (from left to right) blue, yellow, black, green, and red. The colors of the rings were chosen because at least one of them appeared on the flag of every country in the world.
- The Olympic flag was first flown during the 1920 Olympic Games.
- In 1921, Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games, borrowed a Latin phrase from his friend, Father Henri Didon, for the Olympic motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius (“Swifter, Higher, Stronger”) to be used as the Olympic motto.,
- Pierre de Coubertin wrote an oath for the athletes to recite at each Olympic Games. During the opening ceremonies, one athlete recites the oath on behalf of all the athletes. The Olympic oath was first taken during the 1920 Olympic Games by Belgian fencer Victor Boin.
- The Olympic Oath states, “In the name of all competitors, I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules that govern them, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honor of our teams.”
- Pierre de Coubertin got the idea for the Olympic Creed from a speech given by Bishop Ethelbert Talbot at a service for Olympic champions during the 1908 Olympic Games. The Creed reads: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”
- The Olympic flame is a practice continued from the ancient Olympic Games. In Olympia (Greece), a flame was ignited by the sun and then kept burning until the closing of the Olympic Games.
The ceremonial lighting of the Olympic Flame
- The flame first appeared in the modern Olympics at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam.
- The flame itself represents a number of things, including purity and the endeavor for perfection.
- In 1936, the chairman of the organizing committee for the 1936 Olympic Games, Carl Diem, suggested what is now the modern Olympic Torch relay. The Olympic flame is lit at the ancient site of Olympia by women wearing ancient-style robes and using a curved mirror and the sun. The Olympic Torch is then passed from runner to runner from the ancient site of Olympia to the Olympic stadium in the hosting city. The flame is then kept alight until the Games have concluded. The Olympic Torch relay represents a continuation from the ancient Olympic Games to the modern Olympics.
- The Olympic Hymn, played when the Olympic Flag is raised, was composed by Spyros Samaras and the words added by Kostis Palamas. The Olympic Hymn was first played at the 1896 Olympic Games in Athens but wasn’t declared the official hymn by the IOC until 1957.
- The last Olympic gold medals that were made entirely out of gold were awarded in 1912.
- The Olympic medals are designed especially for each individual Olympic Games by the host city’s organizing committee. Each medal must be at least three millimeters thick and 60 millimeters in diameter. Also, the gold and silver Olympic medals must be made out of 92.5 percent silver, with the gold medal covered in six grams of gold.
- Host Greece won the most medals (47) at the first Olympic Summer Games in 1896.
- James B. Connolly (United States), winner of the hop, step, and jump (the first final event in the 1896 Olympics), was the first Olympic champion of the modern Olympic Games.
- The winter Olympic Games were first held in 1924 (in Chamonix, France), beginning a tradition of holding them a few months earlier and in a different city than the summer Olympic Games.
- Beginning in 1994, the winter Olympic Games were held in completely different years (two years apart) than the summer Games.
- Norway has won the most medals (263) at the Winter Games.
- The United States has won more medals (2,189) at the Summer Games than any other country.
- Up until 1994 the Olympics were held every four years. Since then, the Winter and Summer games have alternated every two years.
- The first Olympics covered by U.S. television was the 1960 Summer Games in Rome by CBS.
- No country in the Southern Hemisphere has ever hosted a Winter Games.
- Three continents – Africa, South America, and Antarctica – have never hosted an Olympics.
- A record 202 countries participated in the 2004 Olympic Summer Games in Athens.
- Only four athletes have ever won medals at both the Winter and Summer Olympic Games: Eddie Eagan (United States), Jacob Tullin Thams (Norway), Christa Luding-Rothenburger (East Germany), and Clara Hughes (Canada).
- Speed skater Bonnie Blair has won six medals at the Olympic Winter Games. That’s more than any other American athlete.
- Nobody has won more medals at the Winter Games than cross-country skier Bjorn Dählie of Norway, who has 12.
- Larrisa Latynina, a gymnast from the former Soviet Union, finished her Summer Olympic Games career with 18 total medals—the most in history.
- In order to make the IOC an independent organization, the members of the IOC are not considered diplomats from their countries to the IOC, but rather are diplomats from the IOC to their respective countries.
- When choosing locations for the Olympic Games, the IOC specifically gives the honor of holding the Games to a city rather than a country.
- The United States Olympic Committee established the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame in 1983 to recognize outstanding American Olympic athletes, however, a plan to build a hall has been suspended due to lack of funding.
- The first marathon: In 490 BCE, Pheidippides, a Greek soldier, ran from Marathon to Athens (about 25 miles) to inform the Athenians the outcome of the battle with invading Persians. The distance was filled with hills and other obstacles; thus Pheidippides arrived in Athens exhausted and with bleeding feet. After telling the townspeople of the Greeks’ success in the battle, Pheidippides fell to the ground dead. In 1896, at the first modern Olympic Games, held a race of approximately the same length in commemoration of Pheidippides.
- During the first several modern Olympics, the marathon was always an approximate distance. In 1908, the British royal family requested that the marathon start at the Windsor Castle so that the royal children could witness its start. The distance from the Windsor Castle to the Olympic Stadium was 42,195 meters (or 26 miles and 385 yards). In 1924, this distance became the standardized length of a marathon.
- Because of World War I and World War II, there were no Olympic Games in 1916, 1940, or 1944.
- Tennis was played at the Olympics until 1924, then re-instituted in 1988.
- In 1960, the Winter Olympic Games were held in Squaw Valley, California (United States). In order to bedazzle and impress the spectators, Walt Disney was head of the committee that organized the opening day ceremonies. The 1960 Winter Games Opening Ceremony was filled with high school choirs and bands, releasing of thousands of balloons, fireworks, ice statues, releasing of 2,000 white doves, and national flags dropped by parachute.
- Though Russia had sent a few athletes to compete in the 1908 and 1912 Olympic Games, they did not compete again until the 1952 Games.
- Motor boating was an official sport at the 1908 Olympics.
- Polo was played at the Olympics in 1900, 1908, 1920, 1924, and 1936.
- The word “gymnasium” comes from the Greek root “gymnos” meaning nude; the literal meaning of “gymnasium” is “school for naked exercise.” Athletes in the ancient Olympic Games would participate in the nude.
- The first recorded ancient Olympic Games were held in 776 BCE with only one event – the stade. The stade was a unit of measurement (about 600 feet) that also became the name of the footrace because it was the distance run. Since the track for the stade (race) was a stade (length), the location of the race became the stadium.
- An Olympiad is a period of four successive years. The Olympic Games celebrate each Olympiad. For the modern Olympic Games, the first Olympiad celebration was in 1896. Every four years celebrates another Olympiad; thus, even the Games that were cancelled (1916, 1940, and 1944) count as Olympiads. The 2004 Olympic Games in Athens was called the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad.
- The Summer Olympic sports are archery, badminton, basketball, beach volleyball, boxing, canoe / kayak, cycling, diving, equestrian, fencing, field hockey, gymnastics, handball, judo, modern pentathlon (shooting, fencing, swimming, show jumping, and running), mountain biking, rowing, sailing, shooting, soccer, swimming, synchronized swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, track and field, triathlon (swimming, biking, running), volleyball, water polo, weightlifting, and wrestling.
- The Winter Olympic sports are alpine skiing, biathlon (cross-country skiing and target shooting), bobsled, cross-country skiing, curling, figure skating, freestyle skiing, ice hocky, luge, Nordic combined (ski jumping and cross-country skiing), skeleton, ski jumping, snowboarding, and speed skating.
VIDEO: “The Olympic Hymn” by Spyros Samaras
VIDEO: “The Olympic Anthem”, a.k.a, “Bugler’s Dream” by Leo Arnaud
Madame Tussaud's, London
Amazing Facts About Madame Tussaud and her Wax Museum
- Madame “Marie” Tussaud (born Anna Maria Grosholtz in Strasbourg, France) was an artist known for her wax sculptures and the wax museum she founded in London.
Madame Tussaud - Self Portrait
- Her father, a soldier named Joseph Grosholtz, was killed in the Seven Years’ War just two months before Marie was born.
- Her mother, Anne-Marie Walder, took her to Bern where she moved to work as a housekeeper for Dr. Philippe Curtius. There she took the Swiss nationality.
- Curtius was a physician, and was skilled in wax modelling, which he used to illustrate Anatomy. Later, he started to do portraits. Tussaud called him uncle.
- Curtius moved to Paris in 1765, starting work to set up a cabinet de cire . In that year he made a waxwork of Louis XV’s last mistress, Madame du Barry, a cast of which is the oldest work currently on display.
- In 1767, Tussaud and her mother joined Curtius and also moved to Paris.
- The first exhibition of Curtius’ waxworks was shown in 1770, and attracted a big crowd. In 1776, the exhibition moved to the Palais Royal and, in 1782, Curtius opened a second exhibit, the Caverne des Grands Voleurs, a precursor to the later Chamber of horrors, on Boulevard du Temple.
- Curtius taught Tussaud the art of wax modelling; she showed a lot of talent and started to work for him.
- In 1778, she created her first wax figure, that of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
- Madame Tussaud was imprisoned during the French Revolution and made death masks of executed nobles
- She eventually inherited Phillippe Curtius’ wax exhibition and for the first time took her exhibition on tour in the British Isles in 1795.
- Madame Tussaud’s Wax Exposition in London debuted on April 26th, 1928.
- Before modern times when news was communicated largely by word of mouth, Madame Tussaud’s exhibition was a kind of traveling newspaper providing an insight into international events and bringing people face to face with people in the headlines.
- It takes six months, more than 250 precise measurements and photographs, 2,400 lbs of wax and $45,000 to make each of Madame Tussaud’s wax portraits.
- Each strand of hair is inserted individually, taking approximately five weeks to complete each head.
- Two maintenance teams inspect and primp each figure daily before the museum opens.
- To add authenticity to the portraits at Madame Tussaud’s New York, many artifacts have been donated from the celebrity or purchased from auctions.
- All portraits have their hair washed and make-up retouched regularly.
- All celebrities’ vital statistics are kept confidential, despite repeated requests from the public and media.
- Because wax shrinks, was figures are made two percent larger than the real life subjects they portray.
- Dating back to the early 1900, members of the British Royal Family have routinely participated in sittings for portraits by Madame Tussaud’s. This tradition continues today, including a sitting with Diana, Princess of Wales just months before she died.
- More than 500 million people worldwide have visited a Madame Tussaud’s, that’s more than the population of North America and Australia combined.
- Currently, over 2.5 million people a year visit Madame Tussaud’s, mingling with celebrities of all types, from sports heroes like Muhammad Ali to Hollywod celebrities like Marilyn Monroe to models like Naomi Campbell and politicians like Bill Clinton.