But the Olympics were really only a staging post in a much more fundamental reshaping of the Chinese capital.

On blog.esllibrary.com, I found "Olympics" is a singular:

Decision time:

We at ESL Library decided to go with “the Olympics” + singular verb and “the Olympic Games” + plural verb. Basically, “the Olympics” is a collective noun like team or United States, and usually takes a singular verb. “Games,” on the other hand, is a plural noun that should take a plural verb. It’s possible to consider “the Olympic Games” as a collective noun, but “the Olympic Games is...” just doesn’t sound right to me. “The Olympic Games are...” sounds much better!

  • 3
    Take your pick: books.google.com/ngrams/…
    – TimR
    Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 12:17
  • The blog shows how variable the definition of "Olympics" can be. For example, the author writes "each Olympics" at one point, apparently implying that the Olympic Games held in 2016 (for example) constituted "one Olympics." But Olympics can also refer to the entire series.
    – David K
    Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 13:17
  • 6
    The key phrase is "we decided". ESL Library is one group of people. Other groups have decided different things, or just flip-flop on a whim. So the premise of the question is flawed (though the question itself may have value regardless). Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 15:19

2 Answers 2


The word Olympics is plural. It's also a shortened expression of the Olympic Games.

The history of the games is discussed on the official website:

Olympia, the site of the ancient Olympic Games, is in the western part of the Peloponnese which, according to Greek mythology, is the island of "Pelops", the founder of the Olympic Games. Imposing temples, votive buildings, elaborate shrines and ancient sporting facilities were combined in a site of unique natural and mystical beauty. Olympia functioned as a meeting place for worship and other religious and political practices as early as the 10th century B.C. The central part of Olympia was dominated by the majestic temple of Zeus, with the temple of Hera parallel to it.

The authors of the article you referenced are free to use whatever style they choose, but I would argue that they are in the minority.

  • That is the first result of searching "Olympics plural" :D
    – Zhang
    Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 0:46
  • Does that mean that it should be the Olympic's, given that it's a contraction? I'm only half kidding, but I'm definitely going to start using that to the people in my life irritated by misplaced apostrophes.
    – Yann
    Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 6:46
  • Is gymnastics plural too?
    – TimR
    Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 12:16
  • 2
    @Yann just because it is a contraction does not imply an apostrophe. The plural of "games" goes to the word "Olympics". It is not like "it's" where the letters of the following word, "is" or "has", is dropped. It is not that the letters "game" are dropped here. Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 12:49
  • 2
    @LightnessRacesinOrbit “These games were ...” is plural. If it were singular, it would read “This games was ...”. Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 17:14

"We at ESL library decided to go with..."

I don't think you can really take such a decision as an authoritative source.

As they say "Olympics" is a collective or, more precisely, uncountable noun. Their mistake is a lack of awareness that uncountable nouns, despite their name, can still either be singular (eg rice, equipment, research) or plural (jeans, police). The Olympics are of the latter group.

  • 5
    Jason Bassford's answer is quite correct, but this answer is better. "The United States" is a phrase that is similar. "The United States" can refer to the singular collective (and so "is" would be appropriate), or as a pluralistic group (so the word "are" would be appropriate). "The United States of America are 50 states that have a governor, two federal senators, and other common characteristics." Also, "The United States is a country of 50 states. Each of these states unite to a large country, but still have their own individual actions."
    – TOOGAM
    Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 13:21
  • 2
    This is the better answer. Language is (perhaps regrettably) fluid. "The olympics" is now used to refer to the singlular grouping of many games. But, thanks to that pesky "s" on the end, the grammatical rules are much more complicated to apply.
    – JBH
    Commented Aug 9, 2018 at 17:36

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .