Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Summer Olympics: 1896 vs. 2012 - Noticeable Changes Since the Early Games in Athens
Discovery News - With 116 years separating the first moden Olympics from this year's games, there are bound to be some noticeable changes between the two. Aside from archived photos of the Olympics, one of clearest windows into the first modern Olympics held in 1896 is from G. S. Robertson in an essay titled, "An Englishman at the first modern Olympics" (via Longform.org).
Robertson's account of the 1896 paints a picture of an Olympics in its infancy that, while grappling with the challenges of hosting an international competition without the benefits of modern telecommunications or transporation, still manages to capture what would be described in later generations as the Olympic spirit.
If you can manage to squeeze it in between commercial breaks while watching this year's Olympics, Robertson's essay is worth the full read. For those short on time, here are the starkest contrasts between this year's games and the 1896 Olympics:
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Entry requirements for the 1896 Olympics: Show up.
Organized by Pierre de Coubertin, considered the father of the modern Olympic movement, the first modern games in Athens in 1896 was meant to include the participation of as many nations from as many corners of the world as possible. As Robertson notes, however, the promoters of the first Olympics had "apparently forgotten that few athletes are classical scholars, and that still fewer have either the time or the money to make so long a voyage."
This meant that a disproportionate number of participants were from the home country, Greece, other nations in continental Europe, and the United States. The United States and Hungary were the only ones to attempt to send an all-around team, according to Robertson. In fact, the first Olympic champion in modern history was an American, triple-jumper James Connolly.