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How the First Olympics Worked


The 1896 Olympics
Spiridon Louis, the winner of the marathon in the first Modern Olympic Games.
Spiridon Louis, the winner of the marathon in the first Modern Olympic Games.
Mandatory Credit: Allsport IOC/Allsport/Getty Images

The Olympic Games of 1896 consisted of nine events, including cycling, fencing, gymnastics, shooting, swimming, tennis, track and field, weight lifting and wrestling [source: Scholastic]. The most anticipated event was the marathon. A co-organizer of the event, Michel Bréal, devised the idea of paying the ultimate homage to Greece by including a track and field event that covered the famous route of Phidippides, the ancient Greek messenger. Phidippides ran 25 miles to deliver an announcement of an important military victory and tragically died at the end of his arduous trek. The entire committee embraced the idea, and the Greeks were favored to win the event.

Fate was at work on the day of the race, and the Greek runner Spiridon Louis won the marathon -- even after stopping halfway through at the town of Pikermi to quaff a glass of wine [source: Lovett]. The marathon race course would be extended to its current length of 26.2 miles when London hosted the games in 1908.

In 1924, the first Winter Olympic Games were held in Chamonix, France. These icy-cold events were added to the four-year rotation of their counterpart summer games.

To learn more about the Olympics and other topics related to sports and exercise follow the links on the next pages.