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Olympic Games

1st MODERN GAMES
ATHENS, GREECE | April 6th - 15th, 1896


Athens, GRE


Athens 1896

ATHENS, GREECE
GAMES OF THE Ist OLYMPIAD

April 6 - 15, 1896

Mascot - none

14 countries, 311 athletes - 230 Greek (no women)

9 sports, 43 events

Opening - King George Ist of Greece

Torch lit by - none

Assigned during the 1st IOC Session 1894

Standing proud: Spyridon Louis, the first and symbolic marathon champion of the modern Olympic era. The modest shepherd was revered in Greece, and went on to feature as flag-bearer to the Greek delegation in 1936.

THE RENAISSANCE OF THE OLYMPIC GAMES: During the 19th century many initiatives were taken to introduce the practice of sport into the educational system, to create sports associations and organize large-scale competitions. Here and there, and naturally first in Greece, attempts were also made to restore the Olympic Games. But it was Frenchman Baron Pierre de Coubertin who succeeded in putting this great idea into practice. Convinced of the educational virtues of sport and full of enthusiasm, he put everything in place to revive the Olympic Games. Pierre de Coubertin was fascinated in particular by the scale and beauty of the archaeological discoveries made in Greece in 1880. In June 1894, in his capacity as general secretary of the Union of French Societies of Athletic Sports, he convened a congress at the Sorbonne in Paris. The eighth item on the agenda of this meeting was the study of the "possibility of reviving the Olympic Games". Another article suggested the creation of an international Olympic committee responsible for implementing this project. At 31, Pierre de Coubertin, having fought for a long time for the introduction of sport at schools, saw the triumph of his second great idea. Coubertin had initially proposed that the first Games should be held in his home city of Paris in 1900. However, the first Games took place in Greece in 1896. Given that Olympia was remote and undeveloped, the Games were awarded to Athens.

The rebirth of the Games

The first Session of the IOC was held in Paris on 23-24 June 1894. It was during the first Session that the city of Athens was selected for the Games of the I Olympiad. The inauguration of the first Games of the modern era, opened by King George I at the foot of the Acropolis on April 5, 1896, was a huge relief for baron Pierre de Coubertin. Greece's instability and economic stature, due to numerous conflicts, proved almost insurmountable obstacles.

However, a wealthy Greek architect from Alexandria, George Averoff, donated a gift of one million drachma and in a matter of 18 months a superb white marble stadium, able to hold 60,000 people, was constructed. Many of the events, including the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, were held in a reconstructed Panathinaiko Stadium, which was originally built in 330 B.C. Baron de Coubertin's dream of reinventing the Games was one he had coveted since 1892 - two years later the official announcement was made and Athens chosen as the site. Baron Pierre de Coubertin invited countries from all over the world to attend the first of the new Olympics in Athens.

The revival of the ancient Olympics attracted athletes from 14 nations, with the largest delegations coming from Greece, Germany and France. Officially it was announced that 311 athletes - 230 Greeks - took part in the Games, 81 of them from 12 other countries on 3 continents (Australia, Denmark, Hungary, Austria, France, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Great Britain, Sweden, Chile, Germany and the United States), but the total figure was distorted by the number who competed in more than one event. Later estimates have given the true total of competitors as close to 175. Nine sports and 43 events were included in the program between April 6 - 15: athletics, cycling, fencing, gymnastics, wrestling, swimming, weightlifting, tennis and shooting (rowing and sailing were also planned but were canceled because of bad weather). The Games lasted 10 days, the shortest Olympics of the modern era.

However, one event, the 100m freestyle for sailors, was not at all international. In fact, it was restricted to members of the Greek navy who competed in the open sea. Most of the foreign athletes paid their own way, and there were no standards of eligibility. Some of the competitors, in fact, were tourists who just happened to be visiting Greece at the time and decided to enter on the spur of the moment. Germany and France had the largest representation, with 19 athletes each, followed by the United States with 14. There were no national teams as such, but the Boston Athletic Association brought a contingent of athletes, as did the German Gymnastics Society, the Union of French Athletic Associations, and the British Athletic Association.

There were no gold medals in 1896 and only the first two finishers in each event received prizes: A silver medal and a crown of olive branches for first place, a bronze medal and crown of laurel for second. On April 6, 1896, the American James Connolly won the triple jump to become the first Olympic champion in more than 1500 years. An American Harvard law student, James Brendan Connolly, became the first Olympic champion of the modern era on the first day of the Games, winning the triple jump with a leap of 13.71 meters. Karl Schumann of Germany finished in the top four in four different events, Paul Masson of France won three of the six cycling events and Hungary's Alfred Hajos won two of the four swimming races, while the U. S. dominated track and field, winning nine of twelve events.

Yet the most impressive story of the Games was one involving a marathon-winning shepherd from the Athens area: Spiridon Louys. Emulating the journey in 490 BC of the soldier Philippides, who ran 40km between the village of marathon and the olympic stadium in Athens to announce the victory of Greece over Persia, Louys ran the distance in 2 hours, 58 minutes and 50 seconds. Louys' triumph sent the country wild. It was just one of many eventual victories for the host country, who finished with 50 places of honor (given for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places).

Short of being a true success, Athens proved that the rebirth of the Olympic Games was a worthwhile project, and one which could be expanded in the future. It was simply a question of giving it a push in the right direction. Although the competition was not of the highest quality, the 1896 Olympics were considered a great success, in large part because of the enthusiasm of the Greek spectators. At the closing banquet, King George of Greece suggested that Athens should become the permanent home of the Olympic Games, but Coubertin and the IOC stuck to the original idea of holding the 1900 games in Paris.

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1956 
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1980 
1984 
1988 
1992 
1996 
2000 
2004 
2008 

 

 

ATHENS 1896 GOLD MEDAL WINNERS
43 Men, 0 Women Events

Athletics
100m: Tom Burke, USA
400m: Tom Burke, USA
800m: Edwin Flack, Australia
1500m: Edwin Flack, Australia
110m Hurdles: Tom Curtis, USA
Marathon: Spiridon Louis, Greece
Discus Throw: Robert Garrett, USA
High Jump: Ellery Clark, USA
Long Jump: Ellery Clark, USA
Pole Vault: William Hoyt, USA
Shot Put: Robert Garrett, USA
Triple Jump: James Connolly, USA

Cycling
Road Race: Aristidis Konstantinidis, Greece
Sprint: Paul Masson, France
10km Track Race: Paul Masson, France
100km Track Race: Leon Flameng, France
One-lap Race: Paul Masson, France
12-hr Race: Adolf Schmal, Austria

Fencing
Foil Masters: Leon Pyrgos, Greece
Foil: Eugene-Henri Gravelotte, France
Sabre: Ioannis Georgiadis, Greece

Gymnastics
Horizontal Bar: Hermann Weingartner, Germany
HB Team: Germany
Parallel Bars: Alfred Flatow, Germany
PB Team: Germany
Pommel Horse: Louis Zutter, Switzerland
Rings: Ioannis Mitropoulos, Greece
Rope Climbing: Nikolaos Andriakopoulos, Greece
Vault: Carl Schuhmann, Germany

Shooting
200m Free Rifle: Pantelis Karasevdas, Greece
25m Military Revolver: John Paine, USA
25m Rapid Fire Pistol: Ioannis Phrangoudis, GRE
300m Free Rifle, 3-pos: Georgios Orphanidis, GRE
50m Free Pistol: Sumner Paine, USA

Swimming
100m Freestyle: Alfred Hajos, Hungary
100m Freestyle for Sailors: Ioannis Malokinis, GRE
500m Freestyle: Paul Neumann, Austria
1200m Freestyle: Alfred Hajos, Hungary

Tennis
Singles: John Boland, GBR
Doubles: Fritz Traun, GER & John Boland, GBR

Weightlifting
One-arm Lifts: Launceston Elliott, Britain
Two-arm Lifts: Viggo Jensen, Denmark

Wrestling, Greco-Roman
Open: Carl Schuhmann, Germany

9 sports, 43 events

U
S
A

G
R
E

G
E
R

F
R
A

G
B
R

H
U
N

A
U
T

A
U
S

D
E
N

S
U
I

 

Athletics

9

1

         

2

   

12

Cycling

 

1

 

4

   

1

     

6

Fencing

 

2

 

1

           

3

Gymnastics

 

2

5

           

1

8

Shooting

2

3

               

5

Swimming**

 

1

     

2

1

     

4

Tennis

   

1*

 

2*

         

3

Weightlifting

       

1

     

1

 

2

Wrestling

   

1

             

1

TOTAL

11

10

7

5

3

2

2

2

1

1

44

* Tennis Doubles won by team of Germany & Great Britain
** No Diving/Water Polo. Water Polo was introduced in 1900 and played every Olympiad since. Men's Diving was introduced in 1904.

ATHENS 1896 MEDAL TALLY 

Country

G

S

B

TTL

United States

11

6

2

19

Greece

10

19

18

47

Germany

7

5

3

15

France

5

4

2

11

Great Britain

3

3

1

7

Hungary

2

1

3

6

Austria

2

0

3

5

Australia

2

0

0

2

Denmark

1

2

4

7

Switzerland

1

2

0

3

Total

  44

42

36

122

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