Revival of the Olympic Games (1896-2004)
The Revival came as the
result of ideals from different starting points.
Ancient Greek History were introduced in the European Education from
the beginning of Renaissance (16th century A.D.). Such
motives became stronger later on in the frames of European the
Enlightenment (18th century) and after the French
Revolution (1789-1795). On the other hand, during the 19th
century the educators began to introduce the gymnastics – the body
training - and athletic ideals in the programmes of education. It
was, therefore, easy to remember the athletic ideals coming from
ancient civilizations and particularly from the Olympic Games of
Brookes (1809-95) a doctor living in Much Weanlock in East
Anglia, was the first, as far as we know, who tried to persuade his
fellow citizens to accept gym as a part of every day life programme.
And he renamed the athletic field into Olympian Field. Later on he
suggested the idea for a National Olympian Association to the
established in Britain. A French baron, Pierre de Coubertin
(1863- 1937) a younger admirer of Brooke’s attempt and of the
British educational system, tried to introduce similar ideas to his
country during the last fifth of the 19th century.
He came to the decision
even to write a book under the title “L’ Education en Engleterre”.
At the same time he knew about the successes of German
Archaeological Society in Greece and wanted to do some thing to
increase the international prestige of his country in that period.
So he came to a daring and fruitful thought: he suggested the idea
for a Conference in Paris (University of Sorbonne) for the
Revival of the Olympic Games (1894) on an international basis,
for the whole Humanity of Modern Times.
When his convocation
was announced and an invitation letter was received in Athens, many
Steps towards this ideal had already been done by Greeks during the
During the Modern Greek Enlightenment some thinkers and fighters for
the impendence of Greek nation, like Rigas Velestinlis, and
Adamantios Korais had began to speak about the Olympic Games.
Just after the War of independence (1821-1832), a young poet,
Panag. Soutsos, in his poetical collection, Nekricoi Dialogoi
(Conversations between Deads), 1833,declared a first proposal
for the Revival of the Olympic Games.
A Greek emigrant living and working as a successful merchant in
Roumania heard that poetical voice. He was from Epirus, named
Evangelos Zappas. He lived with an ideal: to help somehow his
mother-country. And he announced to the Greek Government (1856) his
intention (his will): He was ready to pay everything, to give all
his property, for the Revival of the Ancient Olympic Games in the
modern city of Athens. The Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs in
that period (1855-6), who undertook the duty to discuss the details
with Zappas, tried to persuade him that for the Greek society of
those days it wold be much better to organize (by the Zappas’
money) an Exposition Center for the Greek agricultural and
industrial products every two or four years and in the programme of
the Exposition to include something of the Olympic Games.
This proposal was
finally accepted by Zappas and the first Exposition
Games was organized during 1859, called Olympia, when
Brookes was at the very beginning of his attempts to persuade his
fellow citizens in Much Weanlock for the usefulness of Gym and for
the name of Olympian Field.
The Exposition + Games Programme Olympia was continued
during the following 30 years, four times (the last one in 1889),
in the area extended from the Zappeion Megaron – completed in the
meantime- to the old Stadion (nowadays called Kallimarmaron).
At the same time was organized the Panhellenic Athletic or
Gymnastic Assosiation (1889),
When Greek Government
received the invitation letter from Coubertin for the Conference in
Paris (1894), the Greek society was prepared for two different
The Government declared
that the financial problems were many and difficult; so it was
impossible for the Government to undertake the Organization of the
New Olympic Games.
Other people – among
them Demetrius Vikelas, Prince Konstantine, Mempers of the
Panhellenic Gymnastic Association, prof. of History Sp. Lampros
and others – were enthusiastic (fans) to promote the idea, believing
that private assistance by rich Greeks –like Zappas, G. Averof,
Andreas Sygros and others – could be enough for the whole
The final decision was:
to send Vikelas to the Conference in Paris (1894) as representative
of Greece in order to undertake the Organization of the First
Olympic Games (of 1896). For the short history of the modern
International OlympicGames (1896-2004) we have the intention to
prepare another short article. In the meantime we can give some
information about the recent bibliography for this subject:
Filippou, History of the Modern Olympic Games (1896-2000) (in
Greek language, Athens, editions “Savallas”).
Smith, Olympics in Athens 1896 (Profile Books, 2004).And
translated in to Greek language by Marg. Zachariadou (editions “Estia”,