The US Olympic team’s logo only has 13 stars for a simple legal and logistical reason

Simone Biles, Olympic Logo

Amid all the patriotic cheers for Team USA Olympians in Rio, some have questioned the patriotic accuracy of the logo for the U.S. Olympic Team. Specifically, many people are wondering why the logo only has 13 stars.

The comments in social media circles have ranged from simple curious ity to snark (e.g. “Hey Team USA, it has been a while since we had just 13 states!”)

Well, it turns out there is a simple logistical, and legal, reason for the logo.

When designing the logo back in 2010, it was determined that in many uses of the logo (clothes, caps, merchandise, etc.), the flag would be so small that it would be impossible to make it look good with 50 stars, that aesthetically, it would look like a mess.

“We use the 13-star, which is an official American flag, on our logo because of sizing,” Lisa Baird, the USOC’s chief marketing officer recently told the Chicago Tribune.

Many people have also been wondering, if Team USA is going to use a 13-star flag, why not use the Betsy Ross flag with the stars in a circle?

There is a simple reason for that also – the flag shown in the Team USA logo is still a legal flag of the United States of America.

While not as famous as the Betsy Ross flag, the flag with the stars in the 3-2-3-2-3 pattern was actually the first official flag of the U.S. beginning in 1777, according to USHistory.org. It was used until 1795 when two stars were added for Vermont and Kentucky.

But what is important to note is that even as stars are added to the flag, older versions remain official U.S. flags and can still be used in accordance with the U.S. flag code. Kevin Keim, co-author of “A Grand Old Flag: A History of the United States Through its Flags,” explained to the Chicago Tribune.

“One can fly a 13-star flag and it still deserves the same respect that people would give to the American flag with 50 stars,” Keim said.

So there it is. Team USA is using a legal U.S. flag, one that is simply easier to use in small form than one with 50 stars.

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Here’s how steeplechase – the wackiest event in track and field – came to get its name and water jumps

Olympic Steeplechase

The second week of the Olympics are underway in Rio, meaning swimming and gymnastics have given way to track and field (“athletics” to most non-Americans). And while most track and field events are fairly straightforward – run this distance as fast as you can; throw this object as far as you can – one event in particular stands out for its sheer weirdness. This would be the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

The casual fan of the Olympics may, understandably, wonder what’s going on with the steeplechase: what are these massive barriers doing on the track, and why are the runners jumping over them? Why is there a water pit? And why, really, is this silly race called the steeplechase?

Allow us to explain.

Like many track and field events, the steeplechase’s origins can be traced back to United Kingdom. Runners, as they were apparently wont to do, would often race each other from one town’s church steeple to the next. The steeples were chosen because they were easy to see from long distances, leading to the name “steeplechase.”

The countryside would also require runners to jump over various barriers over the course of their race. These included stone walls and small rivers. When the race was modernized, the walls were simulated with hurdles and the rivers and creeks were simulated with the water pit.

According to the IAAF, the modern 3,000-meter steeplechase track event – with the barriers and the water pit – first originated at Oxford University in the mid-19th century. It was then included in the English Championship in 1879. In the Olympics, men have raced the steeplechase since 1920, while the women, somewhat shockingly, only first raced it at the Olympics in 2008 in Beijing.

Today, the race features five barriers: four hurdles plus the barrier before the water pit. For the men, those barriers are 36 inches, and for the women they are 30 inches. The water pit, meanwhile, is 12 feet long for both.

Often you’ll see runners land one foot on the top of the barrier to propel themselves over it, though many elite runners just clear the whole thing altogether. Wipeouts are all too common, especially in or around the water.

Here’s an example of what can happen if you don’t properly traverse the water pit:

Rolanda Bell of Panama falling head first into the water obstacle during the women's 3000 metres steeplechase heats at the 15th IAAF World Championship

It’s a quirky race, to be sure, but it’s also a sneakily fun one.

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