London 2012

1896 - Athens

Last Updated: 20/06/12 2:11pm

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Spiridon Louis: First marathon winner.

Spiridon Louis: First marathon winner.

The revival of the ancient Olympics attracted athletes from 14 nations, with the largest delegations coming from Greece, Germany and France.

In this Year...

  • The first X-ray photograph is taken and the X-ray machine is exhibited for the first time.
  • Yorkshire set a County Championship record, which still stands, as they make an innings total of 887 runs against Warwickshire at Edgbaston.
  • The first speeding fine in the UK of one shilling is issued to Walter Arnold of Kent, for speeding at 8 mph when the limit was set at 2 mph.
  • The Ford Quadricycle, the first Ford vehicle ever developed, is completed, starting the great Henry Ford empire.
  • Blackpool Pleasure Beach is founded by Alderman William George Bean.

The first Olympic medal to be awarded in more than 1,500 years was won on April 6 when America's James Connolly won the triple jump.

Harvard University student Connolly, who also finished second in the high jump and third in the long jump, had left the USA on a cargo ship and travelled the rest of the way by train.

All of the 43 event winners received a silver medal and a crown of olive branches but the one discipline the Greeks wanted victory in was the marathon, because of its historical significance.

Leaving the city of Marathon, Spiridon Louis took the lead four kilometres from the finish line and, to the great joy of the 100,000 spectators, won the race by more than seven minutes.

Hungarian swimmer Alfr├ęd Hajos won the 100m and the 1,200m events and, after the longer event - when swimmers were transported by boat out to sea and left to swim back to shore alone, said of the cold water: "My will to live completely overcame my desire to win."

Britain's first champions of the modern Olympics were John Boland, who claimed victory in the men's tennis singles, and Launceston Elliot, in weightlifting.Olympic Stars:

Although sport was not the big business it is these days, Spiridon Louis had the most pressure on him of any athlete in these early times with the entire Greek nation willing him to win the marathon.

The marathon has never since been so popular as it was when 100,000 fans packed out the Athens route to cheer on their hero, who promptly came home a full seven minutes in front of the chasing pack.

German Carl Schuhmann was the most successful athlete at the first modern Olympics, and was a versatile performer winning three golds in gymnastics and one in Greco-Roman wrestling.

Schuhmann's wrestling final lasted for 40 minutes before being postponed because it was too dark, and he came back the day after to claim gold - before keeping busy by taking part in weightlifting, long jump, triple jump and shot put events.

Hungarian swimmer Alfred Hajos picked up two gold medals in the cold waters of the Bay of Zea off the Piraeus coast, winning the 100m and 1200m freestyle events and only deciding against swimming the 500m as all events were held on the same day.

18-year-old Hajos battled 12-foot waves freezing conditions to come out on top for his gold medals, and the architect went on to design sports facilities including the swimming venue in Budapest which staged the 2012 European Championships.

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