Athens 1896

Athens was selected to host the first modern Olympic Games at the first session of the International Olympic Committee in June, 1894. French aristocrat Baron Pierre de Coubertin was the persistent force behind gathering 79 delegates from 12 countries for the re-establishment of the Olympic Games. He was the first president of the IOC.

Two years later, on 6 April, 1896, in the country of the ancient Games, the Olympics began a new era. King George of Greece officially opened the Athens Games in front of a crowd of 60,000 at the foot of the Acropolis. It marked not only the revival of a millennium of sporting tradition, but it was also the 75th anniversary of Greek independence from Turkish rule.

A total of 241 male competitors from 14 nations competed in 43 events across the sports of aquatics (swimming), athletics, cycling, fencing, gymnastics, shooting, tennis, weightlifting and wrestling. The largest teams were from Greece, Germany, France and Great Britain. There were no women participants – women would first compete at the Games in Paris in 1900.

Australia at these Games

Edwin Flack was Australia’s only representative at the first modern Games in Athens. However, the 22-year-old accountant left his mark on Olympic and Australian sporting history. He had travelled from London, where he was working, to Athens to compete.  

Flack won both the 800m and 1500m track events, played tennis with an English friend in the men's doubles winning the bronze and led the marathon in the early stages before failing to finish. He was the first non-American to win a track event at the Games and proved a very popular champion. Flack began a wonderful tradition of Australian athletes at the Olympic Games.