1906 Olympics in Athens, Greece

The First and Only Intercalated Games

Opening ceremony of the 1906 Olympic Games.
The arrival of the royal party at opening ceremony of the 1906 Olympiad in Athens. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

After major problems with the 1900 and 1904 Olympic Games, the IOC hoped that the 1906 Games would reinvigorate the Olympics with excitement and enthusiasm. The plan was to hold special Games every four years (between the regular Olympic Games), which would always be held in Greece. The 1906 Games, held between April 22 and May 2, 1906 in Athens, were the first and only of these "Intercalated Games."

At the time, the 1906 Games were considered part of the Olympics, but the IOC now considers them "Unofficial Olympic Games" and they are not included in Olympic records. A shame since these well-organized Games helped bring back interest in the Olympics and solidified its future.

Fast Facts

Official Who Opened the Games: Italian King Georgios I
Person Who Lit the Olympic Flame: (This was not a tradition until the 1928 Olympic Games)
Number of Athletes: 854
Number of Countries: 20
Number of Events: 21

Firsts

It was at the 1906 Games in Athens that the United States first had an official U.S. team plus wore official team uniforms. 

The 1906 Olympics were also the first to have the athletes arrive in a parade format, following their flag, for the opening ceremony -- a well-loved tradition still continued to this day.

Also, the 1906 Games were the first where country flags were raised during the medal ceremony, which caused a problem for one winner.

The Irish Flag

In 1906, track-and-field athlete Peter O'Connor, a proud Irishman, went to the 1906 Intercalated Gamesier thinking that he was to be part of the first Irish team, albeit small (consisting of only three men). He was shocked to find once arriving that he had been incorporated into the British team.

When O'Conner saw the British Union Jack flag being hoisted at the ceremony to award him the silver medal in long jump, he grew furious, climbed up the 20-foot flagpole and started waving the flag of Ireland, which proclaimed "Erin Go Bragh" ("Ireland Forever").

A Prince Accompanies the Marathon Runner

When Billy Sherring of Canada was the first to arrive at the Panathenaic Stadium at the very end of the marathon, the Greek crowd was disappointed. To show his support, 36-year-old Prince George of Greece met Sherring at the entrance and ran the last 150 feet (50 meters) with Sherring, all the way to the finish line.

The Only Intercalated Games

The enthusiasm for these Games was great and the Games seemed to regain their popularity. Unfortunately, because of political unrest in Greece around 1910, the Intercalated Games were canceled for that year and these alternate Games never continued.

Reinstating the 1906 Games as Olympic?

It must have been quite disappointing for the athletes who won medals at the 1906 Games to then be told after-the-fact that they were not really Olympic Games at all. 

The entire 1906 Games had been advertised as Olympic Games and it was only later that Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the Modern Olympics, decided that the 1906 Olympic Games should be ignored and considered "unofficial." Some began to call the 1906 Games as just a 10th anniversary Games.

In 1948 and again in 2003, there were attempts to convince the IOC to reinstate the 1906 Games as official Olympic Games, but in both cases the idea was rejected without ever being put to a vote.

 

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Rosenberg, Jennifer. "1906 Olympics in Athens, Greece." ThoughtCo, Sep. 30, 2015, thoughtco.com/1906-olympics-in-athens-greece-1779591. Rosenberg, Jennifer. (2015, September 30). 1906 Olympics in Athens, Greece. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/1906-olympics-in-athens-greece-1779591 Rosenberg, Jennifer. "1906 Olympics in Athens, Greece." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/1906-olympics-in-athens-greece-1779591 (accessed December 12, 2017).