Posted on Aug 11, 2021 86
In June 1894, Baron Pierre de Coubertin spoke at a congress in the Sorbonne and proposed that the Olympic Games be resumed, following the example of those held centuries ago in ancient Greece. According to Coubertin, international sporting events could contribute to the struggle for peace and understanding between different countries. The idea was supported, and the Congress decided that the first modern Olympics should be held in 1896 in the historical homeland of Athens. The International Olympic Committee was founded to conduct the competition.
Interestingly, Pierre de Coubertin himself, as a native of France, dreamed that the first Olympics was held in 1900 in Paris, but the news about the revival of the Olympic movement was widely discussed in the press, so the organizers decided that postponing the first Olympics for a full six years could significantly reduce public interest in the event.
The news that the Olympics would be held in Athens caused unprecedented excitement in Greece, where preparations for the grand sporting event were hurriedly begun. Prince Constantine headed the organizing committee, and the merchant Georgios Averoff donated 1,000,000 drachmas to restore the Marble Stadium, which dates back to antiquity. The opening ceremony of the festival was to be held here.
The start of the Games was given on April 6, 1896, when Greece also celebrated Independence Day. The Olympics was a cosmic event for the country, although its scale was, by modern standards, not so great. In Greece came 241 athletes from 14 countries. As in ancient Greece, only men took part in the competitions. Representatives of the weaker sex could start only four years later.
Participation in several disciplines at once at the Olympics in 1996 was not uncommon. For example, the German Carl Schumann won the wrestling tournament and won three events in gymnastics. In addition, Schumann competed in the triple jump, long jump, shot put and weightlifting. But, here, he stayed behind the medal line.
The awarding of winners and medalists differed significantly from today’s rules. Awards were given not to the three strongest athletes, as now, but to only two. The Olympic champion was awarded a silver medal, while the runner-up received a bronze medal. It was not until years later that the IOC retroactively included those who came in third in the competition as medalists. But often only the two strongest competitors were mentioned in the protocols, so it was not always possible to find the names of those who had finished third.
The Olympics included a marathon in honour of the ancient warrior Pheidippides, who had run from Marathon to Athens to tell his countrymen that he had defeated the Persians. In 1896, to the delight of the Greeks, their compatriot Spyridon Louis was victorious. It is interesting that it was his first experience of competition, and after his victory, he never went out on the track again.
The organizers did not prepare an artificial pool for the competition among swimmers. It had been decided that the competitors would compete in Zea Harbor, near Athens. The swimmers competed in four distances. The Hungarian swimmer Alfred Hajos was twice the strongest. He was 18 years old at the time and became the youngest champion of the first modern Olympics. Hajos was a student, and it took him a long time to get permission from the university authorities to go to Athens.
How high were the results shown by the participants in the 1896 Olympics? For example, the American Tom Burke ran the 100 meters in 11.8 seconds and the high jump was won by another U.S. athlete, Ellery Clark, who broke the bar set at 181 centimeters.
The first modern Olympics were scheduled to close on April 14, 1896. But, unexpectedly, the weather made adjustments. That day it rained in the Greek capital and therefore the ceremony had to be postponed to the next day. Besides the Olympic anthem, the stadium also played an ode to the Olympic movement, written by George Robertson, a Briton who had competed in tennis and athletics.