Olympics Free Bets & Betting Offers

Olympics ringsThe Olympic Games are one of the biggest and most iconic celebrations of sport in the world. In this article, we will focus primarily on what is often referred to as the “summer Olympics”, though we will also touch upon the winter Games too. With over 200 teams taking part, this is a global extravaganza that is right up there with the football World Cup in terms of its importance.

We will take a closer look at betting on the Olympics, the options available and how it works. We will look at how Olympic betting has grown in recent years, what sports and markets are offered and also, as the Games approach, we’ll highlight any betting offers that might be available. We will also give a brief overview of the event itself, looking at some of the weirdest and most wonderful sports to have featured over the years, or that you might fancy a punt on!

Olympic Betting Articles, Stats & Facts

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Can You Bet on the Olympics?

Paris Olympics 2024
BreizhAtao / Bigstockphoto.com

The Olympic motto is Citius, Altius, Fortius, meaning “faster, higher, stronger”, and the Games have seven values, including friendship, respect and courage. People talk of the “Olympic ideals” and with all this virtuous behaviour, and what has been called the “branded purity” of the event, some may feel that gambling and the Games should not go together. Thankfully for those who like having a flutter, however, such people are wrong: you can indeed have a bet on both the winter and summer Olympics!

Until fairly recently betting on the Games was relatively small-scale and low key but over the past decade or so it has become more and more popular. It will probably never be as big a gambling event as the Premier League, the Cheltenham Festival, or football and horse racing more generally but we can expect more markets than ever for the 2024 event in Paris.

It is not just the UK where interest in betting on the Olympics is growing. Indeed, a report by the American Gambling Association suggested that 20 million Americans planned to place bets during the 2020 Tokyo Games (which, naturally took place in 2021!). Forbes reported that “nearly as many people who bet on the Super Bowl, the biggest money betting event in the US” had planned to bet on the Olympics.

Part of the appeal, from a betting perspective, of the Games, is that they are multi-disciplinary. The Summer Olympics typically span about 30 sports, with 32 on the programme for Paris 2024, but it can vary slightly. There are hundreds of different events included overall with many sports offering several events (athletics, for example, is classified as one sport). This means they appeal to a wide range of people and fans of many different disciplines. Whatever the numbers though, and whatever the sport or country, the answer is yes, you most certainly can (in nations where gambling is legal) bet on the Olympic Games. And of course that includes the UK.

What Can You Bet On?

Olympic swimming

Back in 2012, and certainly in the Olympic Games before London, there were relatively limited markets. You could certainly bet on marquee events such as the men’s 100m, whilst some bookies might have offered specials on how Team GB would perform, as well as many of the events where Britain had a decent medal prospect. In the decade since then, more and more UK bookies have been offering more and more markets across just about every sport.

At the time of writing, we are mid-cycle, in other words between Games. The 2022 winter contest took place more than a year ago, whilst we still have well over 12 months until Paris 2024. As such, no major betting sites have any Olympic odds available right now.

However, we know from looking backwards and simply due to experience, that there is likely to be a huge array of Olympic markets for 2024 and for all future Games. The chances are that every single sport will be covered by at least one site. As with sport in general, the less popular, niche events, will have fewer options than the most popular ones. Even so, if you think you have a hot tip for the taekwondo, a brilliant bet for the BMX, or wonderful wager for the weightlifting, finding a bookie to accept it should be simple enough.

Olympic Markets

Olympic medals
fifg / Bigstockphoto.com

What you can bet on varies very much according to the sport and discipline. In addition, there are often lots of novelty/special wagers available. However, as a general, broad guide, you can expect to find the following main options.

Outright Betting

By far the most popular bets on the Olympics are the outright markets, which are essentially a wager on which individual or team will the gold medal. If a bookie offers any bet at all for an event, it is likely to be this one. In many disciplines, there will be a strong and clear favourite, however, others will be far more open and unpredictable, potentially giving you the chance to land a winner at big odds. Golf is certainly a good option for the latter.

To Win a Medal

Whilst all of the focus may be on medals of one colour only, making the podium is an incredible achievement. Most athletes would be over the moon with a medal of any colour and if you want to play things a little safer than opting for someone to win their event, backing them to win a medal is a good option. You may also have the option to back them specifically for a silver or bronze medal too.

Specials

There are a number of common specials-style bets that are likely to be offered at the Olympics. These include bets, such as which nation will win the most golds, who will do best out of a certain defined group of countries, or team-based specials such as whether a particular nation will get over or under a certain number of golds or total medals.

Bookies may offer far stranger or more specific bets as well depending on the event, such as a diver or gymnast obtaining a perfect score or how many medals a particular swimmer will win. They might offer bets on whether a particular world record will be broken, or how many over the whole Games, or indeed pretty much anything else they can think of.

Match & Round Betting

In events that have individual matches and rounds, such as football and boxing, to name just two, you will usually find all the normal markets for that sport offered, i.e. those that would be offered on non-Olympic tournaments in that sport. This is especially the case in the later stages of the tournament. So, for Olympic football, if France play Brazil in the final, for example, you can expect to find hundreds of markets available, as you would with a big clash in the Premier League or the Champions League.

The same applies to sports, such as hockey, rugby sevens, tennis, table tennis, boxing and more. So, for example, in tennis, you will be able to bet on the score in sets for each game, whilst in rugby there might well be options for total points or the winning margin.

Summer Olympics & Winter Olympics

Skii jumping
DR studio / Bigstockphoto.com

The games that most people, certainly in nations like the UK that have not historically excelled at winter sports, consider to be the Olympics, is the summer Games. GB are getting better and better at sports such as skiing and snowboarding. However, interest from both a sporting and a betting perspective is far higher when it comes to the “main” Games.

Even so, betting on the winter showpiece is also becoming more popular. You can bet on the Winter Olympics in pretty much the same way you can with the summer version. You might find that some of the most unusual sports have very little, if any, coverage from bookies. However, for the most popular disciplines, and especially where GB has a medal hope, you will find that UK-facing bookies have a good selection of markets, including most, if not all, of the ones we mentioned in the preceding section.

Schedule of the Games

The Games take place every four years (barring disruption by irritating things like war and pandemics!), with the Summer and Winter Olympics alternating every two years. So, for example, since the London Olympics of 2012, the following Games have taken place:

  • 2014 Sochi (Winter)
  • 2016 Rio (Summer)
  • 2018 Pyeongchang (Winter)
  • 2020 Tokyo (Summer – held in 2021 due to the global health issues at the time)
  • 2022 Beijing (Winter)

We will then move on to Paris in 2024, Milan (Cortina d’Ampezzo) in 2026 and Los Angeles in 2028. The host for the 2030 winter event is yet to be decided but we do already know that Brisbane in Australia will be the host city for the 2032 Games.

How Is the Olympic Host Chosen?

Olympic countdown clock in London
Olympic countdown clock in London (ArtMediaWorx / Bigstockphoto.com)

The host has normally been chosen around seven years in advance but there are moves to extend this in order to allow the host nation and city even more time to fully prepare. Welcoming thousands of athletes and millions of fans, plus preparing the many and varied stadia and facilities that are needed, is a huge task.

The selection and bidding process itself usually lasts for around two years and consists of two phases. First a city must earn the right to bid and it does this through its own National Olympic Committee (NOC). If, for example, Birmingham and London decided they both wanted to host a future Olympiad, the British committee would choose which would go forward, as only one city from each NOC can bid.

Pre-applications are then made to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Here the prospective host must explain how they will meet several key criteria, including assurances they will comply with the Olympic Charter. The IOC then select from this group a number to proceed to the candidature phase.

At this point, a far more detailed, complex and thorough proposal to host is put forward. An IOC commission will then view and analyse these, vising the cities in question, inspecting facilities, quizzing local officials, making sure the Games can be funded and so on. The inspection commission then submits a report and full list of candidates to the General Session of the IOC, a meeting held outside any of the possible host nations.

The members at this General Session then vote on who will host the Olympics and whilst the process can be controversial, it has proved less so than the football World Cup’s equivalent.

Most Unusual Events at Olympics

Breakdancing

When most people think of the Olympics they might imagine the 100m sprint, the 1500m, or, depending on their interests, the action in the swimming pool, the cycling velodrome, or perhaps the boxing ring. In terms of the winter jamboree, ice skating, skiing and snowboarding might spring to mind. But how about breaking?

Breakdancing

Breaking, perhaps better known as breakdancing, is perhaps the most unusual (from a mainstream sporting perspective) addition to the Paris Games in 2024. 16 B-Boys and 16 B-Girls, as the entrants will be called, will battle it out in one-on-one dances, with a men’s and women’s gold medal at stake. It promises to be spectacular, mesmerising and hugely impressive and should be all the better for having some Olympic purists choking on their toast.

Demonstration Sports

However, breaking is far from the weirdest or most wonderful sport to appear at the Games over the years. Oh, no. If we include events that have been included as demonstration events as well, there really have been some magnificently odd “sports” included at the Games. A demonstration sport is one that is included as an exhibition event to promote the sport, and does not offer medals. It is not uncommon for such sports to be included fully, with medals awarded, at future Olympics.

The ancient Indian sport of kabaddi, the national sport of Bangladesh, was included as a demonstration sport at the 1936 Summer Games. Baseball has been featured as a demonstration sport several times, most recently at the 1988 Seoul Olympiad. Baseball, popular in nations, such as Japan, Canada, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, was included as a medal sport in several subsequent Games (though not in 2012, 2016 or 2024). It is likely to feature as a full medal event once again in LA in 2028.

Dueling was a demonstration sport in 1908 (London), with men firing pistols at dummies, whilst lacrosse, korfball, pelota and Australian rules football have all featured in this way. Among the strangest to actually serve up medals has been horse long jump (and high jump) at the 1900 Paris Olympics, whilst tug of war, cricket, croquet and pelota were also full events at those Games.

1900 also saw live pigeons shot, with a cash prize on offer. Even then this was hugely controversial and so the results have been expunged from IOC records. However, the outcry about the event led to the US banning live pigeon shooting, with clay pigeons subsequently introduced.

In truth, the 1900 Games were something of an exception as they were held as part of the 1900 World’s Fair. This meant that many events were held that were not truly part of the Games and were not up to Olympic standards. Even so, some still class these as “Olympic” sports, either as demonstration events or test ones. The IOC has never passed definitive judgement on the matter, so with regards to 1900 one could argue that kite flying, pigeon shooting, fishing, pigeon racing, boules and even firefighting have taken place at the Olympic Games.

Hurling

Of sports to feature at other Games and for which medals were awarded, hurling is one of the stranger ones. This appeared at the 1904 Games only, with the US taking gold. Roque, a variant of croquet, also made its sole appearance that year in St Louis, the US completing a clean sweep of the medals. That is less impressive than it sounds though – only four people took part and all were from the US!

Of course, what is considered strange or unusual is to a large extent in the eye of the beholder and changes over time. Paris is set to see artistic swimming, the aforementioned breaking, climbing, freestyle BMX, skateboarding and surfing feature. Even more established sports, such as dressage (horsey dancing, surely!), badminton, water polo, modern pentathlon, beach volleyball and handball all have something slightly bizarre about them when you really stop and think about it.

To some, these new and unusual sports undermine and debase the Olympics, whilst others argue they are precisely what make the Games so special. Others simply think they provide more betting options to enjoy … now we think it’s time to go and brush up on our breakdancing knowledge!