HP049: Olympics

HP049: Olympics

Thank you for listening to another historypodcast. I hope you enjoy this one. It seemed appropriate for this month.


Hello my name is Jason Watts. Welcome to HistoryPodcast episode 49. The Olympics.

I hope you enjoy this abbreviated historypodcast. Things are a bit busy in the Watts household this week and of course I want to watch the olympics this evening. Check out the website at historypodcast.blogspot.com for more information about this and all other episodes.

Olympia, the site of the ancient Olympic Games, is in the western part of the Peloponnese which, according to Greek mythology, is the island of “Pelops”, the founder of the Olympic Games. Imposing temples, votive buildings, elaborate shrines and ancient sporting facilities were combined in a site of unique natural and mystical beauty.

Olympia functioned as a meeting place for worship and other religious and political practices as early as the 10th century B.C. The central part of Olympia was dominated by the majestic temple of Zeus, with the temple of Hera parallel to it. The ancient stadium in Olympia could accommodate more than 40,000 spectators, while in the surrounding area there were auxiliary buildings which developed gradually up until the 4th century B.C. and were used as training sites for the athletes or to house the judges of the Games.

The Olympic Games were closely linked to the religious festivals of the cult of Zeus, but were not an integral part of a rite. Indeed, they had a secular character and aimed to show the physical qualities and evolution of the performances accomplished by young people, as well as encouraging good relations between the cities of Greece. According to specialists, the Olympic Games owed their purity and importance to religion.

The Olympic victor received his first awards immediately after the competition. Following the announcement of the winner’s name by the herald, a Hellanodikis (Greek judge) would place a palm branch in his hands, while the spectators cheered and threw flowers to him. Red ribbons were tied on his head and hands as a mark of victory.

The official award ceremony would take place on the last day of the Games, at the elevated vestibule of the temple of Zeus. In a loud voice, the herald would announce the name of the Olympic winner, his father’s name, and his homeland. Then, the Hellanodikis placed the sacred olive tree wreath, or kotinos, on the winner’s head.


Games of the I Olympiad

Opening date: 06 April 1896

Closing date: 15 April 1896

Country of the host city:Greece (GRE)

The first Session of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was held in Paris on 18-23 June 1894. It was during the first Session that the city of Athens was selected for the Games of the I Olympiad.

The revival of the ancient Olympics attracted athletes from 14 nations, with the largest delegations coming from Greece, Germany, France and Great Britain. On 6 April 1896, the American James Connolly won the triple jump to become the first Olympic champion in more than 1,500 years. Winners were awarded a silver medal and an olive branch. The German athlete Carl Schumann finished in the top five events of three different sports. The people of Athens greeted the Games with great enthusiasm. Their support was rewarded when a Greek shepherd, Spyridon Louis, won the most popular event, the marathon.

  • 14 NOCs (Nations)
  • 241 athletes (0 women, 241 men)
  • 43 events

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: The Olympic flame was first lit during the opening ceremony of the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam.

Olympic Oath by: The first athletes’ oath was sworn at the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp, Belgium.

Official Oath by: The first officials’ oath was sworn at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.


The First Champion of the Modern Olympics

On 6 April 1896, James Connolly won the triple jump (then two hops and a jump), and thus became the first Olympic champion in 1527 years. He also placed second in the high jump and third in the long jump. A 27-year-old undergraduate student, Connolly dropped out of Harvard University and traveled to Athens by freighter and train, arriving the day before the Olympics began. Connolly later became a well-known journalist and novelist and was offered an honorary doctorate by Harvard, which he turned down.

Thank you for listening to this short HistoryPodcast. You can find more information about the Olympics and the other 48 episodes at historypodcast.blogspot.com. While you are there make your mark on the Frapper map and leave a comment or suggestion on the Forums. You can contact me at historypodcast@gmail.com. Thank you again for listening and stay subscribed.