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1896 Athens

1896 Athletics Summary in Olympics

Athletics at the 1896 Athina Summer Games


Info about the Games    
Host City: Athina, Greece Participants: 63 (63 men and 0 women) from 9 countries Athens 1896 report cover.jpg
Date Started: April 6, 1896 Youngest Participant: FRA Georges de la Nézière (17 years, 250 days)
Date Finished: April 10, 1896

Oldest Participant: DEN Eugen Schmidt (34 years, 49 days)

Events: 12 Most Medals (Athlete): USA Bob Garrett (4 medals)
  Most Medals (Country): USA United States (17 medals)
Year Dates City Venue Countries Athletes Men Women Events (Men/Women)
1896 Apr 6-10 Athens, GRE Panathenaikon Stadium 9 63 63 0 12 12/0
Venue  Panathenaic Stadium  333.33m


Athletics at the
1896 Summer Olympics
Track events
Men's 100 m
Men's 400 m
Men's 800 m
Men's 1500 m
Men's 110 m Hurdles
Road events
Men's Marathon
Field events
Men's Long Jump
Men's Triple Jump
Men's High Jump
Men's Pole Vault
Men's Shot Put
Men's Discus Throw



Track & field was the most watched sport at the 1896 Olympic Games, as it has been in almost all celebrations of the Modern Olympics. The track & field events were held in the ancient [Panathinaiko Stadio] in Athens. It was beautiful for the spectators but difficult for the runners. The track was short, at only about 330 metres in circumference, with long straightaways and very short, sharp turns. It also consisted of very soft, loose cinders and made running difficult. In addition, the 1896 Olympic Organizing Committee chose to have the runners run in a clockwise direction, opposite to the norm for current running events, although in 1896 some English track races (though not all) were run in this manner.

The Athens Organizing Committee elected to use the rules of the Union des Sociétés françaises de Sports Athlétiques (USFSA) for the running events and the Amateur Athletic Association of England for the throwing and jumping events. The running events were contested in metric distances, which had not been contested before by an international field, thus many records could have been expected had the track been more conducive to record-setting performances. The weather for the most part was quite good during the Olympics, with mostly sunny days and no rain. On 6-7 April, however, it was quite chilly, and actually snowed in the mountains outside of Athens.

The field for the first Olympic track & field events was a disappointment. None of the great British runners of the time were present, and the American team, although they swept most of the events, included only one American national champion. This did not dampen the enthusiasm of the fans, who filled the stadium every day.

The eleven nations which competed at Athens were as follows, with number of competitors in parentheses: Australia (1), Cyprus (1), Denmark (3), France (6), Great Britain (5), Germany (5), Greece (27), Hungary (3), Smyrna (1), Sweden (1), and the United States (10). Only Greece and the United States had 10 or more competitors, with 63 athletes competing in track & field athletics at Athens.

Seven of these eleven nations had competitors win medals, with only Cyprus, Denmark, Smyrna, and Sweden failing to medal. The United States was the dominant nation, winning 16 of the 37 medals, and 9 of the 12 events - the others going to Greece (the [marathon]) and Australia (the [800] and [1,500 metres]).

There was much which could be criticized concerning the first Olympic track & field competition - the poor condition of the track, the sharp turns, the subsequent lack of world records, the small turnout, and the lack of many top international competitors. But, more importantly, there was much to be commended. Though there were only 63 competitors, they did represent 11 nations, by far the largest representation of countries at any international athletics meeting ever held. The quality of the competition was only fair, but the sportsmanship of some of the outclassed competitors set a standard which may not yet have been surpassed. Most importantly, the 1896 Olympic track & field meeting served as an index, setting the stage for international competition in this most wide-spread of all sports.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

At the 1896 Summer Olympics, the first modern Olympiad, twelve athletics events were contested. A total of 25 medals (12 silver for winners, 13 bronze for runner-up, none for third) were awarded. The medals were later denoted as 37 modern medals (12 gold, 13 silver, 12 bronze). All of the events except the marathon were held in the Panathinaiko Stadium, which was also the finish for the marathon. Events were held on 6 April, 7 April, 9 April, and 10 April 1896 (all dates are according to the Gregorian calendar). Altogether, 64 athletes, all men, from ten nations competed. This made athletics the most international of the nine sports at the 1896 Games.

The American team of 10, which featured only one national champion, was dominant, taking 9 of the 12 titles. No world records were set, because few international top competitors had participated. In addition, the curves of the track were very tight, making fast times in the running events virtually impossible.

The heats of the 100 metres were the first Olympic event to be conducted, and the winner of the first heat, Francis Lane, can thus be considered the first Olympic winner. The first Olympic champion was crowned in the triple jump, Harvard student James Connolly. Connolly also did well in the other jumping events, placing second in the high jump and third in the long jump.

Many other athletes were versatile as well. Thomas Burke won both the 100 metres and 400 metres, a feat not since repeated, while London-based Australian Edwin Flack won the 800 and 1500 metres races. Robert Garrett, a Princeton student, won two first and two second places. His first title was in the discus throw, an event originating from the Ancient Olympics, but never before held at an international event. Garrett had attempted to train for the event with a 10 kilogram replica of a discus, but had given up as it was too heavy. When he learned the actual competition discus weighed only 2 kilograms, he entered the event after all, and won it, to the dismay of the Greek public, who considered their throwers "unbeatable".

A second event held for the first time in international competition was the marathon foot race. It was conceived by Michel Bréal, a friend of Pierre de Coubertin, based on the legend of Pheidippides. This Athenian soldier first completed a two-day run to seek Spartan help against the invading Persians in the Battle of Marathon, and then ran from the town of Marathon to Athens days later to announce the victory, dying as a result of his heroic efforts. The race started in Marathon, and ran for 40 kilometres over dusty roads to Athens. The Greek public, disappointed as there had not yet been a Greek victor in athletics, was overjoyed when it was announced during the race that a Greek runner had taken the lead. When Spiridon Louis, a water carrier from Maroussi, arrived in the stadium he was accompanied by the Greek Crown Prince on his final lap. Louis would never again compete in a race, but his victory made him a national hero.

The exploits of Louis, Garrett, Connolly, and Flack would be chronicled in the 1984 NBC miniseries, The First Olympics: Athens, 1896.





Men's 100 metres USA Tom Burke GER Fritz Hofmann HUN Alajos Szokoly
USA Frank Lane
Men's 400 metres USA Tom Burke USA Herbert Jamison GBR Charles Gmelin
Men's 800 metres AUS Teddy Flack HUN Nándor Dáni GRE Dimitrios Golemis
Men's 1,500 metres AUS Teddy Flack USA Arthur C. Blake FRA Albin Lermusiaux
Men's Marathon GRE Spyros Louis GRE Kharilaos Vasilakos HUN Gyula Kellner
Men's 110 metres Hurdles USA Tom Curtis GBR Grantley Goulding  
Men's High Jump USA Ellery Clark USA James B. Connolly
USA Bob Garrett
Men's Pole Vault USA Bill Hoyt USA Albert Tyler GRE Evangelos Damaskos
GRE Ioannis Theodoropoulos
Men's Long Jump USA Ellery Clark USA Bob Garrett USA James B. Connolly
Men's Triple Jump USA James B. Connolly FRA Alexandre Tuffèri GRE Ioannis Persakis
Men's Shot Put USA Bob Garrett GRE Miltiadis Gouskos GRE Georgios Papasideris
Men's Discus Throw USA Bob Garrett GRE Panagiotis Paraskevopoulos GRE Sotirios Versis



Medal table


RankNationGoldSilverBronzeTotalParticipating nations
1  United States (USA) 9 6 2 17

A total of 64 athletes from 10 nations competed at the Athens Games:

  • Australia (1)
  • Chile (1)
  • Denmark (3)
  • France (6)
  • Germany (5)
  • Great Britain (5)
  • Greece (29)
  • Hungary (3)
  • Sweden (1)
  • United States (10)
2  Australia (AUS) 2 0 0 2
3  Greece (GRE) 1 3 6 10
4  Hungary (HUN) 0 1 2 3
5  France (FRA) 0 1 1 2
 Great Britain (GBR) 0 1 1 2
7  Germany (GER) 0 1 0 1
* Total medals 12 13 12 37



Athens 1896
  Gold Silver Bronze 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th Medals Points
USA 9 4+2= 1 1 - - - - 16 124
GRE 1 3 4+2= 2 4 2 2 2 10 102
GER - 1 - 2 2 - - - 1 25
HUN - 1 2 1 - - - - 3 24
GBR - 1 1 1 - - - - 2 18
AUS 2 - - - - - - - 2 16
FRA - 1 1 - - - - - 2 13
DEN - - - 1 - - - - 0 5
SWE - - - 1 - - - - 0 5
Totals 12 11+2= 9+2= 9 6 2 2 2 36 332


March 25 15h30 Men's 100 m 3 heats
15h40 Men's hop, step and jump
16h15 Men's 800 m 2 heats
16h25 Men's Discus throw
17h10 Men's 400 m 2 heats
March 26 14h30 Men's 100 m hurdles 2 heats
14h40 Men's Long jump
15h30 Men's 400 m Final
15h40 Men's Putting the weight
16h30 Men's 1,500 m
March 28 16h30 Men's 800 m Final
March 29 14h00 Men's Marathon
14h30 Men's 100 m Final
14h40 Men's High jump
15h30 Men's 100 m hurdles Final
15h40 Men's Pole Vault



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