The First Modern Olympics Had One Particularly Odd Event
When Greece held the 1896 Olympic Games, they found a … unique… way to boost their medal count. And by unique, I mean unethical. The created the 100-meter freestyle for sailors. A swimming contest for sailors, not so bad, right? But the “freestyle for sailors” was restricted to sailors from the Greek Royal Navy. Wow. The event was won by Ioannis Malokinis, whose time of 2:20.4 was almost a whole minute slower than Hungary’s Arnold Guttman in the regular 100-meter freestyle.
The cover of the official report of the 1896 Olympic Games, the first of the modern era. There were no posters made for these games, so this cover is the best artistic representation of the goals of Pierre de Coubertin and the other founders of the Olympic movement. Obviously, the ancient Greek heritage of the games was a huge part of their identity – including the first modern marathon race, modeled after the run of a Greek messenger after the battle of Marathon in 490 BCE. The marathon at this race was 40 km, not 26.2 miles – the 26.2 mile length was set when the race was extended in the 1908 games in London so that the royal family could more conveniently view the runners.
My friend (who has family in Greece) invited me to spend a few weeks with her and her aunt in Athens and Thessaloniki. Originally, I wasn’t going to bring any cosplay (for many reasons, including being self-conscious >__<) But my friend told me that it would be terrible to pass up this great opportunity to actually have a cosplay shoot on-location. So I did—And I’m glad I listened to her because it was a lot of fun, and a rather magical, incredibly surreal experience to actually shoot here in Greece itself! My favorite photo is the one of Heracles standing and watching over the 1896 Athens Olympic stadium because he is looking upon a modern Greek construction which is rooted with his mother’s ancient Olympic traditions. The 1896 Olympics also triggered the completion of the Athens metro system, which in turn, led to the accidental excavation of many ancient Greek ruins! One of which is in Monastiraki square (nearby another one which I have photos with, closer to Plaka). There is a 1700’s Ottoman mosque and 900’s church also located in Monastiraki square, so this one little area contains several important relics from several different periods of history! The mosque is now a folk-art museum, I believe ^^. Our tour guide yesterday told us about how one of the great elements of Athens is that so many important and beautiful structures with such different architecture can exist within just meters of each other, for citizens and visitors to enjoy! <3 Also: Did I mention that Greece has many well-fed, and well-cared for stray kittens? I got lucky enough to stumble upon a very friendly orange cat who crawled up on my lap for a few photos!
On this day in 1896 1,500 years after the original games were banned by Roman Emperor Theodosius I, the first modern Olympics celebrated its opening ceremony in Athens, the birthplace of the Games. The Games lasted until 15th April and had the largest international participation of any sporting event to that date. After the Greek games many wanted the event to stay in Athens but the 1900 Games were scheduled for Paris and the Olympics continued to go to different cities around the world, not returning to its home until 2004. The Opening Ceremony on April 6th was held at the Panathinaiko Stadium, with thousands of spectators including foreign dignitaries.
“I declare the opening of the first international Olympic Games in Athens. Long live the Nation. Long live the Greek people.” - Crown Prince Constantine opening the Games