First Olympiad Anniversary

Today is the 125th Anniversary of the 'Games of the I Olympiad' held in Athens in 1896.  Organised by the International Olympic Committee, IOC, which had been created by the French aristocrat Pierre de Coubertin, the inaugural Olympic Games were held in Athens from 6th to 15th April 1896.  Officially known as the 'Games of the I Olympiad', they were the first International Olympic Games held in modern history, with 243 athletes from 14 countries taking part.  U.S.A. had the most victors but Greece won the most medals overall, especially the victory by Spiridon Louis running in the long-distance Marathon.  He won the final race that finished in the marble Panathenaic Stadium, one of seven venues used in the Games.  Event winners were awarded silver medals, runners-up got copper medals, nothing for third.

The opening ceremony of the 'Games of the I Olympiad' took place on 6th April 1896, 25th March according to the Julian calendar then in use in Greece.  It was Easter Monday for both Western and Eastern Christian churches and the Greek Independence Day anniversary.  The Panathenaic Stadium was filled with an estimated 80,000 spectators, including King George I of the Hellenes, his wife Olga and their sons.  Most of the competing athletes, from Europe and U.S.A., were aligned in the centre, grouped by nation. 

After the Olympic closing ceremony on 15th April, many countries that participated in the Games wanted Athens to continue hosting the international event in the future.  However, Pierre de Coubertin had already committed to holding the 1900 Games in Paris.  The 'Games of the XXVIII Olympiad' finally returned to Athens in August 2004, with 10,625 athletes from 201 countries taking part.

Opening ceremony at the Panathanaic stadium in Athens - A group of American field athletes pose for the camera - Judging at the weightlifting competition   Handshake from the wrestling finalists - First Marathon runners in the 1896 Olympics - Winner of the first Marathon, Spiridon Louis, at the closing ceremony