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On this day: The birth of the modern Olympics

6 April 2017

AOC: On this day, 121 years ago, the first modern Olympic Games were officially opened in its ancient birthplace of Athens.

The first session of the International olympic Committee was held in June 1894, where French aristocrat and founding IOC president Baron Pierre de Coubertin was the persistent force behind gathering 79 delegates from 12 countries for the re-establishment of the Olympic Games.

Rowing pictogram

Two years later on April 6, King George of Greece officially opened the 1896 Athens Games in front of a crowd of 60,000 at the foot of the Acropolis

The Games attracted 241 athletes (men only) from 14 nations, with the largest teams coming from Greece, Germany, France and Great Britain.

43 events across nine sports were on offer at the first Olympic Games including athletics, cycling, fencing, artistic gymnastics, shooting, swimming, tennis, weightlifting and Greco-Roman wrestling.

American James Connolly became the first Olympic Champion in over 1,500 years, when he won the triple jump on April 6. He went on to win silver in the high jump and bronze in the triple jump.

Carl Schuhmann from Germany was the standout at the Games. He won three artistic gymnastics gold medals on the same day (horizontal bar, parallel bars and vault), plus gold in the Greco-Roman wrestling. He also won silver in the 100m sprint, placed fourth in weightlifting and competed in the long jump, triple jump and shotput.

Sally Pearson Indoor

The marathon was a significant event at the Games, due to its historical significance. The Greeks wanted to win the 42.2km race above anything else and local athlete Sypridon Louis set off from the city of Marathon and took the lead 4km from the finish line. To the joy of 100,000 spectators, he won the race by more than seven-minutes in a time of 2:58.50.

Rowing pictogram

Edwin Flack was Australia’s only representative at the first modern Olympic Games. However, the 22-year-old left his mark on Olympic and Australian sporting history.

Flack left Melbourne in 1895 to study accounting in London. In 1896 he took leave from his job, travelled across Europe by boat and train, and became the only Australian to compete in Athens.

Australia had no national Olympic committee then, and Flack was entered as a member of the London Athletic Club - but he chose to run in the colours of his Australian club, the Old Melburnian Athletic Club.

He won both the 800m and 1500m track events, breaking a pattern of US domination in track and field.

On the day after his 800m final, he competed gallantly in the marathon, over a distance he had never run before. He led majority of the race, before collapsing at the 34km mark.

Flack epitomised the Australian have-a-go spirit; although no more than a social tennis player, he entered both the Olympic singles and doubles. He didn’t win a match, but a kindly draw enabled him (with English partner George Robertson) to be accorded bronze-medal status in the men’s doubles.

It was Flack’s private decision to go to Athens in 1896 that began Australia’s rare, unbroken link with the modern summer Olympics. Along with Greece, Australia is one of two nations to have competed at every Games of the modern Olympiad.

Watch a video about Australia’s first Olympian Edwin Flack HERE 

Sally Pearson Indoor

 

You can learn more about the 1896 Athens Olympic Games by visiting the IOC website.

Georgia Thompson
olympics.com.au

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