Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The first modern Olympics cost $50,000

OK, I made up that number. The 1896 Olympics in Athens cost 3,740,000 drachmas. I couldn’t locate a conversion table. I think the Greeks spent less than Boston is going to spend in 2024.

The games of the first modern Olympics lasted only 10 days in April, 1896, with 241 athletes (all men) representing 14 nations.

Most of the events were staged in Panathinaiko Stadium for the entertainment of about 80,000 spectators.

Men from Princeton at 1896 games
An American, James Connolly, was the first Olympic champion—he won the triple jump on the first day, and received a silver medal and an olive branch. (The gold/silver/bronze medal system was introduced in 1904 at the games in St. Louis).

Besides the traditional track and field events, the 1896 games included swimming, fencing, shooting, tennis and cycling. The beach volley ball fans had to suck it up.

A Greek athlete won the marathon, to the boundless delight of the hometown crowd.

By the way, the marathon is a modern addition to the Olympics—it was introduced at the 1896 games. The distance was 40 kilometers (24.85 miles).

The race commemorates the feat of Pheidippides, a soldier who ran from the plain of Marathon to Athens in 490 B.C. to announce a Greek victory over Persian invaders.

In 1908, at the London games, the route of the marathon race was fixed at 26 miles 385 yards, the measured distance from its start point at Windsor Castle to the finish line in the stadium.

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2015

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