Remembering the first modern Olympic Games

6 Apr 2016

Google is celebrating the Olympics with its latest batch of Doodles, allowing us to learn a bit more about winners of yesteryear.

The beauty of the Olympics is we’ve all tried our hand at one of the competing events. Probably not the Keirin, cycling around a bowl chasing after a motorcycle that gets faster and faster every lap. Probably not the 20km race walk, or the fencing or shooting.

But we’ve all ran before, swam, wrestled (ish) or played volleyball with friends. It’s this great, broad and tenuous link that keeps millions of people entertained every four years.

The Olympics stems from Athens, Greece of 1896. There, inside the Panathenaic Stadium, the first modern Olympic Games was held.

And thanks to that we now know Mark Spitz, Ian Thorpe and Michael Phelps. Usain Bolt, Maurice Green and Michael Johnson. Katie Taylor, Michael Carruth and Ronnie Delany.

The first Modern Olympic Games

The first modern Olympic Games

120 years ago there were 43 disciplines, with the marathon then the blue riband event — it had the greatest number of international athletes ever.

Spyridon “Spyro” Louis, the only Greek champion in the athletics division that year, won the marathon and became a national hero. According to the Olympic’s own retelling of the event, Greeks wanted this gold medal above all else, with Louis taking the lead 4km from the finish line, 100,000 spectators cheering him home.

Held between 6-15 April, German Herman Weingarthner was the standout star overall, taking home six medals (three gold, two silver and a bronze) in gymnastics. Indeed, Germany dominated gymnastics at the time, with Alfred Flatow winning another three golds and a silver.

Other notable winners were Frenchman Paul Masson, who took three golds in track cycling, while Thomas Burke, from the US, took the 100m sprint in 12 seconds, a time even I could beat today.

Today, Google commemorates the event with a Doodle. There are four alternate options appearing on the homepage throughout the day.

The first Modern Olympic Games

Main image of Olympic rings via Paolo Bona/Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic