History and sports. What was the first modern Olympics like?


Opening ceremony at Panathinaiko Stadium in Athens

Officially known as the Olympic Games, April 6, 1896 Inauguration of King George of Greece اليونان The first Olympic Games of the modern era in Athensyour capital. He did this in front of a crowd of tens of thousands of people who, according to some sources, managed to reach the 80 thousand people present at the Panathinaiko stadium. The largest number of attendees at a sporting event up to that time.

241 athletes from 14 countries, all males, participated in various competitions for 10 days. Almost half the length of these games are currently. Athletics, cycling, fencing, golf, shooting, swimming, tennis, weightlifting, and wrestling were the 9 sports that participated in the competition. The first Olympic champion, 1503 years later, was American athlete James Connolly, the winner of the athletics triple jump. Another winner was Greek Spyridon Louis, a street water seller in Athens, who won the gold medal in the marathon, beating world-famous athletes.

One of the first Olympic competitions (1896)

Whoever had the idea of ​​reviving these games and adapting them to time was the French Baron Pierre de Coubertin. He presented it for two years at a conference at the Sorbonne in front of sports federations from twelve countries that accepted the project, choosing Athens as their first place, since it was the place where the Olympic Games arose in antiquity.

The purpose of organizing such a huge event at the end of the nineteenth century has to do with the political moment that the great imperialist powers were going through. It was years of great displays of wealth and power to show the ruling classes in full expansion. The organization of the so-called World Expos was an example of this, and the modern Olympic Games copied their shape to some extent. They were large exhibitions that lasted weeks or even months where technological or artistic inventions were showcased.

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In the case of the Olympics The goal was to show the sporting superiority of the most powerful nations. This is because Coubertin promoted sports and gymnastics as essential parts of “modern culture”. This can be seen in the important relationship that has been established between Physical exercise and pedagogy, an issue that developed during the twentieth century along with other “new values” such as cleanliness or outdoor living; that was gaining influence in nation-states.

Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games

Some of those who participated and competed in these first Olympic Games are France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, Greece, Denmark, the United States and Australia.

The following games were held in Paris in 1900. It was decided that it would be held every four years and rotated in different cities around the world. Throughout the twentieth century, the regularity of this sporting event continued, with the exception of the two world wars that were suspended: in Berlin (1916), Tokyo (1940) and London (1944). Added to this is the suspension of the Tokyo 2020 Games that are being held at this time due to the consequences of Covid-19.

Between the 125 years that have passed from these first games to the present, the show has changed. Millions of viewers joined the audience in the stadiums that every four years followed by competitions and the Olympic medal table; At the same time they became a goldmine for business, marketing and advertising. But also, especially in recent years, it has become A mirror of the political context in which they develop. This is evidenced by the many anti-racism messages from athletes, protests against sexism in clothing and many other actions that express the convulsive times we are going through.

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