for the founders of the Modern Olympic Games
December 7, 2003
Who really rekindled the Olympic Games?
I REFER to The Story Behind the Museum (Places, Nov 30) by Pang Yuet Leng. It is a fine article with some historical errors that the author cannot be blamed for since the same mistakes have been repeated for decades.
The most significant error in the article is that Baron Pierre de Coubertin rekindled the flame of the ancient Olympic Games to revive the modern Olympic Games. The flame had been earlier rekindled by Dr William Penny Brookes (of Much Wenlock, Shropshire, Britain) and Evangelis Zappas (one of the wealthiest men in Europe in the late 19th century and a philanthropist). Coubertin certainly fanned the flames of the revival in 1894 (by founding the International Olympic Committee) but he was not there at the start of the revival.
In 1859 Zappas financed the revival by sponsoring a National Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. In 1860 William Penny Brookes founded the Wenlock Olympian Society, which followed sports events that he had initiated in 1850. Coubertin visited Brookes in Much Wenlock. He was inspired by Brookes and later founded the International Olympic Committee and copied many of Brookes’ ideas including the opening and closing ceremonies. Zappas financed the excavation and restoration of the ancient Panathenian Stadium. He also financed the building of the first indoor Olympic Arena known as the Zappeion that was used for the fencing competitions and is today in use as a national exhibition centre.
Recommended reading by Zappas.org: