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Ancient Summer Olympic Games

The earliest Summer Games were held in Ancient Greece between 776 BC and 393 BC. Legends hold that the first Summer Games were held in honor of the Greek king of gods, Zeus.
Other legends say that Pelop initiated the games to celebrate his victory over Oinomaos. Whatever the reason, the Summer Games did act as a period of truce and harmony at a time when the Greek city-states or polis were constantly at war. In 393 BC the games were discontinued by Emperor Theodosius I. In the late nineteenth century French educationist Pierre de Coubertin sought to revive the Summer Games to promote international peace and cooperation. The first Summer Games of the modern times were held in 1896.

Inception : 
Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the celebrated French pedagogue, believed that overall education could be achieved only by training the youth in athletics. Inspired by the ideals of the ancient Summer Games, Coubertin introduced the idea of reviving the games to the international community at a sports conference in Paris. With approval from all seventy nine delegates from nine countries at the conference, he formed the planning committee, the International Olympic Committee, in 1894. Coubertin became the President of the IOC. The committee decided to hold the first Summer Games in 1896 in Athens. Athens was chosen to host the events as it represented the traditional origins of the game.

Venue : 
Most of the competitions of the 1896 Summer Games were held in Panathenaic Stadium at Athens. New cycling tracks were built at the Neo Phaliron Veldrome. Evangelos Zappas, the Greek philanthropist donated a lot of money towards building the Zappeion, the venue of the fencing events. The shooting events were held at the shooting range in Kallithea. While the tennis competitions were held at the Athens Lawn Tennis Club grounds, the swimming events were held in the open sea at the Bay of Zea, off the coast of Piraeus. Wrestling, weightlifting, and athletics were held at the main Panathenaic Stadium.
Participation : 
The Summer Games of 1896 were the most successful sporting event of the times. Fourteen different nations participated and over 245 athletes took part in the games. Australia, though not an independent nation, was listed independently among the participating countries. Austria-Hungary was a single political entity at the time, but Austria and Hungary sent in their own representative athletes and were awarded individually. Bulgaria, France, Italy, Sweden, United States of America, Switzerland, Denmark, and Germany were other participating countries at the 1896 Summer Games. Great Britain participated in the events individually and not as part of the United Kingdom. Greece was the host nation and Greek participants were the home favorites. Carl Schuhmann of Germany won the most medals winning four events at the 1896 Summer Games.

Events : 
The Olympic events were held between April 6 and April 15, 1896. Nine sports and forty-two events were showcased in the 1896 Summer Games at Athens. The discus throw, shot put, 100 and 400 meter sprint, and the marathon were the key events of the athletics. Spyridon Louis, a Greek national, won the marathon. American athlete Robert Garrett won the discus throw and shot put and Thomas Bruke won both sprint events. Other competitions that were held at the 1896 Summer Games were Fencing, Cycling, Wrestling, Tennis, Swimming, Shooting, Weightlifting, and Gymnastics.

Leon Flameng from France and Adolf Schmal from Australia won the 100 kilometer and twelve-hour cycling races respectively. In fencing the foil was won by Eugene-Henri Gravelotte of France and masters foil by Leonidas Pyrgos of Greece. The Germans put up a stellar performance at the gymnastic events. The horizontal bar event was won by Hermann Weingartner, the parallel bars event by Alfred Flatow, and the vault event by Carl Schuhmann. Other champions of the 1896 Summer Games were John Paine, Sumner Paine, Ioannis Phrangoudis (shooting events), Alfred Hajos of Hungary, and Paul Neumann of Austria (swimming). Launceston Elliot won the one-armed weightlifting event while Viggo Jensen won the two-armed weightlifting event.

The spectacular success of the First Summer Games in 1896 inspired more nations to participate in future Summer Games.

Last updated on : 02/09/2012