Now that the London games are all set to open today, we bring you yet another teeny look at the pages of history to satisfy that curiosity about the first Olympic Games in the modern times.
We all know by now that the Olympic Games have their roots in Ancient Greece, but what about the first in the modern era?
During the 18th century, there were already small-scale sporting events being held in some parts of Europe that were modeled after the Ancient Olympic Games. William Penny Brookes, an English doctor and educationalist, was advocating for physical education and had an idea to start a multi-national and multi-sport event. This was eventually picked up by French pedagogue and historian Pierre de Coubertin, who wrote about the sporting and recreation festival organized by Brookes in Much Wenlock, called the Wenlock Olympian Games.
Coubertin then organized a congress on June 23, 1894 at the Sorbonne in Paris to present his proposal for a larger sporting event, which was accepted. While Coubertin suggested that the event should be held at the same time as the 1900 Universal Exposition of Paris, the congress did not want a six-year waiting period and agreed to hold the event in 1896. Finally, taking the beginnings of the Ancient Olympic Games into consideration, it was unanimously decided that the modern version of the multi-sport event should be first celebrated and held in Athens, Greece. During the said assembly the International Olympic Committee was also established, with Demetrios Vikelas as the first president.
The 1896 Summer Olympics, which officially came to be called The Games of the I Olympiad, was officially opened on April 6, 1896 in then newly restored Panathinaiko Stadium. The opening ceremony was attended by around 80,000 spectators, including guests of honor King George I of Greece, his wife Olga Konsantinova of Russia, and their sons.
The Games had 9 sports: Athletics, Cycling, Fencing, Gymnastics, Shooting, Swimming, Tennis, Weightlifting, and Wrestling. Although successful in general, the Games were not well promoted internationally, so the contenders were not chosen by their respective countries. Rather, they came as individuals and at their own expense. In fact, some of them were simply tourists who happened to be in the location at the time of the events. Around 300 athletes from 13 countries participated in the first modern Olympics.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the photos from the historic sporting event:
Also, you might want to check out Olympic.org for more tidbits on Olympic Games History!