for the founders of the Modern Olympic Games
April 11, 2007
Sports journalists' historical track record on the Olympicks
Re: China focuses on Britainís sporting heritage by Philip Barker (Sports Journalists' Association News, 11 April 2007)
Sports journalists are very good at reporting current events in sports but whenever they attempt to write about important events in sports history there appears to be a conscious effort either to invent history or to repeat historical errors.
The "Wenlock Olympian Games" have never been called the "Wenlock Olympicks". It is possible however that the name has been borrowed from Robert Doverís Cotswold Olympick Games.
The "Wenlock Olympian Society" itself was founded in 1860 in Much Wenlock, Salop (Shropshire). The organised games that took place from 1850 were called the "Olympian Class" up until 1859 when Dr William Penny Brookes renamed them "Wenlock Olympian Games" but at the time they did not look very Olympic.
Neither the Olympick Games nor the Wenlock Olympian Games had ever provided an athletics stadium. The closest that Dr Brookes got was when he presided over a national Olympian Games in 1866, as the President of the organising committee, at the original Crystal Palace in London. Athletics events took place inside the Crystal Palace. One of the athletes in the competition was the famous cricketer W.G. Grace.
Modern International Olympic Games had already been held in Athens in 1859, 1870, and 1875 before the Athens 1896 Olympic Games. These games were international because competitors attended from the Ottoman Empire (as well as from Greece). The first modern international Olympic Games that provided a stadium was that held in 1870 in the Panathenian stadium in Athens. That same stadium was used again for the Olympics of 1896, 1906, and for events in 2004 (archery, and the finish of the marathon). The Panathenian stadium has been a host to the modern Olympic Games a total of five times.
Dr Brookes did inspire Baron Pierre de Coubertin. The Baron founded the International Olympic Committee in 1894 and borrowed many of Dr Brookeís ideas for what is better known as the "Modern Olympic Movement". The Baron was born on the 1st of January 1863 and more than three years after the first modern international Olympic Games took place in 1859. Dr Brookes himself was also inspired by, and provided one of the prizes, for the first Olympic Games held in Athens. Dr Brookes incorporated some of the athletics events from Athens into the programme of the Wenlock Olympian Games.
The Olympic Games held in Athens in 1859, 1870, and 1875 are also known as the Zappas Games because they were sponsored by the Greek philanthropist Evangelis Zappas. He also paid for the refurbishment of the ancient Panathenian stadium and for the building of the first indoor arena specifically built and used for an Olympic Games (fencing events). That indoor arena, which is called the Zappeion, was reused as the Media Centre during the Athens 2004 Olympic Games.
Recommended reading by Zappas.org: