History of the Olympics

1896 - Athens, Greece

The 1896 Olympics
Albert Meyer / Public Domain

The 1896 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece

The very first modern Olympic Games opened in the first week of April 1896. Since the Greek government had been unable to fund construction of a stadium, a wealthy Greek architect, Georgios Averoff, donated one million drachmas (over $100,000) to restore the Panathenaic Stadium, originally built in 330 BCE, with white marble for the Olympic Games.

Since the Games were not well publicized internationally, contestants were not nationally chosen but rather came individually and at their own expense.

Some contestants were tourists who happened to be in the area during the Games. Athletes wore their athletic club uniform rather than a national team one.

Pole vaulting, sprints, shot put, weight lifting, swimming, cycling, target shooting, tennis, marathon, and gymnastics were all events at the first Olympics. The swimming events were held in the Bay of Zea in the Aegean Sea. Gold medalist, Alfred Hoyos Guttmann described it: "I won ahead of the others with a big lead, but my greatest struggle was against the towering twelve-foot waves and the terribly cold water."*

At these first Olympic Games, 245 athletes participated, representing 14 countries.

* Allen Guttmann, The Olympics: A History of the Modern Games (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992) 19.

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Rosenberg, Jennifer. "History of the Olympics." ThoughtCo, Apr. 7, 2017, thoughtco.com/history-of-the-olympics-p2-1779588. Rosenberg, Jennifer. (2017, April 7). History of the Olympics. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-the-olympics-p2-1779588 Rosenberg, Jennifer. "History of the Olympics." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/history-of-the-olympics-p2-1779588 (accessed September 23, 2017).