Modern Olympics came to life in 1896

I saw the story in the paper about the first Winter Olympics being held in 1924, which made me wonder when the first Summer Olympics were held and what prompted them to restart what I believe was a tradition from ancient Greece (or was it Rome?).

— Sandy, by email

Right, the first time, Sandy. The original Olympics were held in Greece, long before anyone heard of a triple axel or the Jamaican bobsled team.

The Greek games date back to before 1,000 B.C., according to a story on The games were held every four years during a religious festival honoring Zeus, the most powerful of Greek gods.

The games at first consisted of only running events, but were expanded over time to include wrestling, chariot and horse racing, javelin throwing and more.

Those games were brought to an end by Roman Emperor Theodosius I, but 1,500 years later, they came to life again in Athens, with the opening ceremony held on April 6, 1896. Thirteen countries participated, bringing 280 male athletes to compete in 43 events.

According to, the idea came in part out of the fascination Europeans held for ancient Greek culture, with some nations staging their own "Olympic" festivals.

The idea was formalized in 1894, when Pierre de Coubertin, a French baron, proposed the idea at a conference on international sport in Paris.

Out of that meeting came the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and plans for the first modern-day games, to be held, appropriately enough, in Athens, the capital of Greece.

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