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Olympics: From Athens 1896 to Beijing 2008 (Part I)

Olympism tends to bring together as in a beam of light, all those moral principles which promote human perfection, the Baron and the man behind Oly movement Pierre de Coubertin once famously said.
Coubertin revived the Games in 1896. From then on the Oly movement survived the shocks and blows it suffered in the initial years and during cold-war era and with every passing edition it has grown stronger and. OneIndia takes you thro' the Oly journey beginning 1896....

1896- Athens Olympics:
Spiridon Louis, a Greek postman who won gold in Marathon. The 1896 Athens Olympics was the first Olympic games held in the Modern era. Greece was the birthplace of the Olympic games, and rightly so Athens was chosen unanimously to stage the inaugural modern games. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was established during the congress held ahead of the inaugural Games under the stewardship of Pierre Coubertin. The most successful competitor was German wrestler and gymnast Carl Schuhmann, won four gold medals in the Games. However, the highlight of the games was the marathon victory by Greek Spiridon Louis. The Games were funded by a gift of one million Drachmas (Greece currency) from the wealthy Greek businessman Georgios Averoff and the sale of souvenir stamps and medals. 14 nations participated in the Athens Games.

1900- Paris Olympics:
Charlotte Cooper a Brit became the first ever woman to win gold in Oly. She did it in TennisWomen took part in the games for the first time in Paris Games. Charlotte Cooper was the first woman to become Olympic champion after winning the women's singles tennis competition. Most of the winners in 1900 did not receive medals, but were given cups or trophies. Some unusual events were contested for the first and only time in the history of the Games. The equestrian high jumps, swimming obstacle race, two-day cricket and live pigeon shooting being foremost among them. Only England and France played the cricket tournament. And obviously England won it. French-born Indian Norman Pitchard, who participated on his own, won silver medals in 200m and 400m.

1904-St. Louis Olympics:
St Louis Oly: A tug-of-war competition during the St Louis Games.The Games were held on the sidelines of World Fair-Louisiana Purchase Exposition and lasted for full five months. Athletes like in earlier issues participated on their own. Coubertin vowed after this edition that he would never again hold Oly as a sideshow to a fair nor athletes allowed to take part as individuals. For the first time in the history of the games, gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded for first, second and third place. Boxing, Dumbbells, freestyle wrestling and decathlon made their debut at St. Louis Games. One of the most remarkable athletes of this games was an US gymnast George Eyser, who won six medals even though his left leg was made of wood

1908-London Olympics:
London Oly: Swede shooter Oscar Schwann the oldest gold medallist at at 72 yrs and 279 days. Running Deer Shooting was his discipline.Rome was chosen to host this Games. However Mt Vesuvius erupted near Napels and Italian Govt pleaded its inability to host and the Games was relocated to London. It was one of the best organised Games to date. For the first time the Olympic creed that "the most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part" was publicly proclaimed, and its creator, a bishop from Pennysylvania, uttered it at a mass at St. Paul's cathedral in London. For the first tie also, the competitiors paraded behind their country flags during the opening ceremony. Australia and their Trans-Tasman neighbours New Zealand participated under single banner Australiasia.Oscar Swahn fom Sweden, who won the gold medal for running deer shooting, became the oldest Olympic champion of all time. and set another age record by being 72 years and 279 days old during his triumph at the 1920 Summer Belgium Olympics. 22 nations participated in the games.

1912 Oly: Oly rings symbolising five continents made debut in this issue.1912- Stockholm Olympics:
This issue belongs to Jim Thorpe -a athlete of high calibre won gold medals in Pentathlon and Decathlon. Swedish King impressed by Thorpe's athletisism said "Sir, you are the greatest athlete in the world." For the first time, competitors in the Games came from all five continents symbolised in the Olympic rings. Franciso Lazaro, a Portguese runner died from the heat while running the marathon, the first athlete in the history of the modern Olympics to die during competition. A Greco-Roman Wrestling bout between Klein and Asikainen lasted 11 hours and forty minutes - the world's longest wrestling match. In athletics, electric timing devices were first used in Stockholm Olympics.28 nations competed in Stockholm.

Story first published: Thursday, August 7, 2008, 15:06 [IST]
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