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The first celebration of the modern Olympic Games took place in its ancient birthplace of Athens. The Games attracted athletes from 14 nations, with the largest delegations coming from Greece, Germany, France and Great Britain.
Due to its historical significance, the Greek hosts wanted to win the marathon above all else. Spyridon Louis set off from the city of Marathon and took the lead four kilometres from the finish line and, to the joy of the 100,000 spectators, won the race by more than seven minutes.
Hungarian swimmer Alfréd Hajos won the 100m and the 1200m events. For the longer race, the swimmers were transported by boat out to sea and left to swim the required distance back to shore. Hajos later confessed that his “will to live completely overcame [his] desire to win”.
On 6 April 1896, the American James Connolly won the triple jump to become the first Olympic champion in more than 1,500 years. He also finished second in the high jump and third in the long jump.
The Opening of the Games was proclaimed by the Head of State of the host nation.
An Olympic Anthem composed by Spiros Samaras (music) and by Kostis Palamas (lyrics), was first played at the Games of the I Olympiad in Athens. Thereafter, a variety of musical offerings provided the backgrounds to the Opening Ceremonies until 1960, since which time the Samaras/Palamas composition has become the official Olympic Anthem (decision taken by the IOC Session in 1958).
An Official Report, and commemorative Olympic stamps.
Athens 1896. Closure Ceremony. The procession of the medal-holders. At the head Spyridon Louis (GRE) 1st in the marathon.
Official opening of the Games by:
His Majesty The King George I
Lighting the Olympic Flame by:
A symbolic fire at an Olympic Summer Games was first lit in 1928 in Amsterdam.
Olympic Oath by:
The athletes’ oath was first sworn at the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp.
Official Oath by:
The officials' oath at an Olympic Summer Games was first sworn in 1972 in Munich.
First place winners were awarded a silver medal, an olive branch and a diploma. Those in second place were given a copper medal, a branch of laurel and a diploma.
The obverse side of the medal has Zeus' face along with his hand holding a globe with the winged victory on it, with the caption in Greek "Olympia". The reverse side had the Acropolis site with the caption in Greek "International Olympic Games in Athens in 1896."
No official poster was made for the 1896 Olympic Games, but the cover page of the official report is often used to refer to the Games of the I Olympiad. The inscription "776-1896", like the drawing as a whole: the Olympic stadium in a newly designed horseshoe shape, the Acropolis, the girl personifying the goddess Athena and presenting the branch of wild olive intended for the victor, mark the bond between the Games of Antiquity and the first Games of the modern era.
The official report of the Athens 1896 Olympic Games consisted of two parts: “The Olympic Games in Ancient Times”, published before the Games, and “The Olympic Games in 1896”, published after the Games. Pierre de Coubertin was the co-author. The two volumes were published in four languages in the form of two bilingual editions, French-Greek and English-German. This official report was the subject of various new editions, the first one in 1941.