(1a) Australia’s claim to have been represented at every modern summer Olympic Games is debatable. Prior to 1901, Australia did not exist. Before it became a Federation, it was a loose grouping of six British colonies. Australia was, however, (unofficially) represented by a Melbourne accountant,Edwin Flack who worked in England.
Top of PageOutstanding AthletesTop of PageStatisticsDate: 6 April to the 15 AprilCountries: 14 nationsParticipants: 311Male athletes: 311Female athletes: 0Sports: 9Events: 43Most medaled country: Greece (47)First gold medal is awarded to James B. Connolly (USA).The marathon is won by a Greek shepherd, Spyridon Louis.Top of PageHistory
Baron Pierre de Coubertin expressed the view that the Olympic Games
should be revived a number of times.
The ancient games and the excavations in Olympia
(the site of the ancient games in Greece) in 1875-81 ,
heightened his enthusiasm. He expressed his view in a lecture in 1892.
Initially his view met with little enthusiasm.
In 1894 he spoke at the Sorbonne in Paris to a gathering of
international leaders of sport and expressed the view that the
Games be revived on an international scale.
This time he met with success and the Modern Olympics was born.
The first Olympiad took place in Athens in 1896.
Click on image for enlargement
The initial plan was that , after the first Games,
the succeeding Games should be hosted every four years by different capitals,
as was the custom with the ancient games.
The Panathenic Stadium
In the 1896 Games, 311 athletes (all male) representing 14 nations
registered to participate. Of the 311 athletes, 230 were Greek.
They competed in the ancient Panathenaic stadium before
large and enthusiastic crowds.
The opening ceremony coincided with the 75th anniversary
of the start of the Greek independence movement
and the national enthusiasm was at a peak.
In 1896, there were no golds medals awarded.
The first place getter received a silver medal,
a certificate and a crown of olive branches.
The second place-getter received a copper medal and a crown of laurel.
There were no national teams. Nations were represented by athletic associations
and gymnastic societies. No standards of eligibility were set and participants
had to pay their own way. Some of the competitors were tourists who happened to
be in Greece at the time and decided, on the spur of the moment to compete.
To the right is a colourised version of an original black & white photo of the start
of the first 100m Olympic race. Notice the variety of styles for each starter and
the modern starting position of Thomas Burke (USA) , the winner, in the second lane from the left.
The German, Fritz Hofmann (centre) leans on 2 short sticks.
Thomas Burke won in the time of 12.0 seconds.
The 100m start.
Fritz Hofmann came second in the time of 12.2 seconds.
Hoffman though a great sprinter, actually specialised in rope climbing.
The European crowd were facinated by the “crouch” start of the Americans
(mainly Thomas Bourke,
and Tom Curtis). Curtis chose not to run in the 100m, prefering to save
himself for the next race, the 110m hurdles, which
he won in the time of 17.6 seconds.Bob Garrett – USA
There were 43 events in total which included gymnastics,
shooting, cycling, fencing, swimming, weight-lifting,
athletics, tennis and wrestling. Rowing and sailing, although planned,
were cancelled because of inclement weather.
A shortage of team members resulted in cricket and football being cancelled.
On the left is Bob Garrett of the USA, winner of the discus and shotput. He is posing in the ancient Greek classic
position of the “Discobolus of Myron” , 450 B.C.
Germany and France had the largest teams, with 19 athletes each, followed by the U.S. with 14.
Americans won nine of the 12 athletics events, but Greece won the most medals (overall) with 47.
Brendan Connolly (left) of the USA was the first man to win an Olympic competition.
He won the triple jump (13.71 metres).
The marathon, which was run over the same 25-mile historic route
covered by the Greek hero Pheidippides after the battle of Marathon
in 490 B.C., was one of the highlights of these Games.
In the ancient marathon, Pheidippides is supposed to have run from the site of the battle where the Greeks
defeated the Persians, and after crying out “Rejoice! We have won.” he collapsed and died.
James B. Connolly (USA)Spyridon Louis – Greece
The first modern marathon however ended on a much happier note.
Sixteen runners took part but only 4 were not Greek : (Edwin Flack of Australia, Albin Lermusiaux of France,
Arthur Blake of the USA, and Hungary’s Gyula Kellner).
Up to this point, Greece had come nowhere in track & field. Thus the honour of the
host nation rested on this final event.
It was won by an unknown 25 year old Greek shepherd from Amaroussi, Spiridon Louis.
Louis became a Greek national hero and it is believed that in
addition his Olympic prizes, he was awarded free shaves for
the rest of his life and free meals at an Athens restaurant.
To cap the Greek national triumph, the second and third runners were also Greek, although
the latter was eventually disqualified, giving Hungary’s Gyula Kellner the bronze.
Top of PageEdwin Flack
Edwin Flack, a Melbourne accountant who ran for a London Athletic club,
was Australia’s only competitor.
Flack won the 1500m (4:33.2) and 800 m
(2: 11.0) athletics events.
He also competed in the tennis singles and doubles.
His victories were totally unexpected.
The tale goes that the Austrian flag was raised
and the Austrian anthem was played.
This is probably incorrect and it is most likely that the Union Jack (the British Flag)
was raised and
the British anthem (“God save the Queen”) was played.Top of PageThis site (http://www.the5rings.com) is an “unofficial” Olympic site.
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