Campaign for the recognition of the founders of the modern Olympic Games

Timeline of the Modern Olympic Games

Timeline of notable events that led to and/or supported the revival of the Olympic Games in modern times:

776 BC First recorded Olympic Games held at Olympia in Greece.

330/329 BC Lykourgos (an Athenian politician) transformed a natural hollow between two hills (Agra and Ardettos) into the Panathenaic stadium for the athletic competitions that were part of the greater Panathenaic festivities.

146 BC Greece was annexed by the Roman Empire.

393 AD Roman Emperor Theodosius I 'banned all pagan worship throughout the Roman Empire and issued an edict that all pagan temples be closed'. [Reference 2, p.136]

426 AD Roman Emperor Theodosius II reinforced the ban and the priests of Olympia were forced out. Christians took over Olympia. There is evidence that suggests that the ancient Olympic Games ceased at this time. [Reference 2, p.137]

1821 Greek War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire begins.

1822 Athens was liberated and 12 years later became the capital of Greece.

1833 Panagiotis Soutsos wrote about the revival of the Olympic Games in his poetry 'Dialogue of the Dead'. [Reference 1, p.1]

1835 Panagiotis Soutsos wrote a memo to John Kolletis, the Greek Minister of the Interior, proposing that March 25th be made a national holiday celebrating the start of the Greek War of Independence and that the celebration should include a revival of the Olympic Games. Kolletis approved and recommended these proposals to King Otto. (Note that the Athens 1896 Olympic Games opened on March 25th.)

1850 Dr William Penny Brookes founded an annual games which he called Meetings of the Olympian Class, for the physical education of local citizens, in Much Wenlock, Shropshire, United Kingdom. This games was not formally referred to as Annual Wenlock Olympian Games before 1859. [Reference 2, p.144]

1856 Evangelis Zappas wrote to King Otto of Greece offering to fund the revival of the Olympic Games. Zappas offered 400 shares of the Greek Steamship Company (aka Hellenic Steam Navigation Company) and wrote that their dividends could be used to fund Olympic Games every four years and for prizes to be awarded to the winning athletes.

1859 Dr William Penny Brookes formally changed name of games to Annual Wenlock Olympian Games from Meetings of the Olympian Class after the 1859 Meeting (since the title on the cover of the 1859 programme was Annual Meeting of the Wenlock Olympian Class). Dr Brookes was clearly influenced by the coming Athens 1859 Olympic Games since he expanded the programme from the Greek programme, by adding a javelin event, and continued to add events to future Wenlock Olympian Games. [Reference 2, p.144] Dr. Brookes communicated with the Greek Olympic Committee (the first Olympic Committee for the revival of the Olympic Games in modern times). [Reference 2, p.144]

1859 First modern international Olympic Games held in an Athens (Greece) city square, sponsored by Evangelis Zappas and organised by the first modern Olympic Committee. These Olympic Games welcomed participants from the Ottoman Empire as well as Greece making the Games international from 1859. These were the first modern Olympics to revive the stade (200 meters) and the diaulos (400 meters). Dr Brookes donated 10 pounds sterling prize money for the 1,500 metres won by Petros Velissariou (from Smyrna, Asia Minor, and subject of the Ottoman Empire under international law). Nikolaos Markopoulos (from Serrai, Macedonia and subject of the Ottoman Empire) came second in the javelin. Medals were awarded with a portrait of King Otto.

1860 Dr Brookes founded the Wenlock Olympian Society on Saturday November 17th. [Reference 3, p.46/8] Petros Velissariou was the first person to be listed on the honorary roll of the Wenlock Olympian Society.

1863 Birth of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, in Paris (France), on January 1st (note: born after revival initiated by Soutsos, Zappas and Brookes).

1865 Death of Evangelis Zappas who left his vast fortune for the modern Olympic Games to be held every four years. In his will he stated that the ancient Panathenaic stadium be excavated and restored for the athletic games and for an adequate building to be built for an exposition. Evangelis Zappas had given his instructions to his cousin Konstantinos Zappas who was the executor of his Olympic legacy.

1866 National Olympic Games held in London (United Kingdom) and first modern Games to be held outside of Greece that actually looked like an Olympic Games. Dr Brookes was the President of the organizing committee of the first Olympic Committee, a National Olympic Committee, to be formed outside of Greece. Athletics events were held inside the original Crystal Palace (no stadium yet and no Greek competitors). The programme of events started to look very much like the events in a modern Olympic Games. W.G. Grace, at the age of only 18, won the 440 yards hurdles at these Games, before he became a famous cricketer.

1870 First modern international Olympic Games to be held in a stadium, at the Panathenaic stadium in Athens, Greece (second Olympic Games to be sponsored by Evangelis Zappas) with more than 30,000 spectators. Evangelis Zappas paid for the refurbishment of the ancient Panathenaic stadium through his legacy. K. Kardamylakis (from the island of Crete and subject of the Ottoman Empire) came first in two events: wrestling and the pole-vault. G. Akestorides (from Constantinople and subject of the Ottoman Empire) came first in the rope-climbing event.

1875 International Olympic Games held in the Panathenaic stadium (third Olympic Games to be sponsored by Evangelis Zappas). The working class was excluded by only allowing university students to compete. [Reference 2, p.148] Z. Saropoulos (from Macedonia and a subject of the Ottoman Empire) came first in discus and K. Molskidis (from Smyrna, Asia Minor, and subject of the Ottoman Empire) came first in the rope-climbing event. Mark Joseph Mindler, a Bavarian-Hellene born in Athens (his parents were Bavarian), participated in these Games and went on to establish the first Hellenic scout group, became the President of the Panhellenic Gymnastics Association, and the Hellenic Philotelic Society.

1889 Elite and private 'Olympic Games' (not organized by the Olympic Committee sponsored by Zappas) held in a gym managed by Ioannis Phokianos. This event was too small to be witnessed by the general public (failed attempt to open to the public resulted in overcrowding of the gym and chaos). However, Phokianos had been appointed as a coach and organizer of events for the earlier Games held in the Panathenaic stadium.

1890 Baron Pierre de Coubertin visited Much Wenlock and was inspired by Dr Brookes. The Baron published, in his new journal on Christmas Day, his experiences in Much Wenlock with the title "The Olympic Games at Much Wenlock - A page in the history of athletics" (translated from French) and mentioned the part that Dr Brookes had played in reviving the ancient Olympics. But does not say when the ancient Olympic Games was revived nor makes any reference or comparison with the Olympic Games held in Athens (and it appears that he might have only known about the first Olympic Games sponsored by Evangelis Zappas and did not appreciate its significance).

1892 Death of Konstantinos Zappas (the cousin of Evangelis Zappas). The Greek government received Konstantinos' legacy which it part used to sponsor the 1896 Athens Olympic Games after some encouragement from A. Mercatis, a close friend of Konstantinos, and Baron Pierre de Coubertin. Both Dr Brookes and Baron Pierre de Coubertin publicly proposed the revival of the Olympic Games for the first time. Dr Brookes' proposal came first and was focussed on witnessing a future "international" Games in Greece and the Baron proposed "the re-establishment of the Olympic Games". The Baron did not give Dr Brookes any credit for his proposal. Dr Brookes mentions the 1859 Games but fails to note that Velissariou, the first man on the honor roll of the Wenlock Olympian Society, was born in the Ottoman Empire and was the first modern international Olympian victor. Coubertin does not mention the 1859 Games. Neither mention the 1870 or 1875 Games. Nor were Evangelis or Konstantinos Zappas credited for what they had achieved or contributed.

1894 Baron Pierre de Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on 23rd June 1894. Dimitris Vikelas (also spelt Demetrius Vikelas, and Demetris Bikelas) was made the first President of the IOC.

1894 Baron Pierre de Coubertin mentions Zappas in a speech at the Literary Society of Parnassos, in Greece on 16th November 1894.

1896 Olympic Games held at the Panathenaic stadium, in Athens. This was the first Olympic Games to be held under the auspices of the IOC. The Panathenaic stadium was once again refurbished with new monies from George Averoff. The Zappas legacy also part funded the event whilst the IOC contributed no funding. Athletes from 14 countries participated (according to the official website) and seven times more countries than in 1859 (note that athletes from two nations are enough to make an event international).

1896 First modern Olympic building (called the 'Zappeion') built specifically for the Olympic Games, from the legacy of Evangelis Zappas, was used for the Olympic fencing events. This building received formal planning permission to be built on 30th November 1869 (almost 25 years before the founding of the IOC).

1900 First side-show 'Olympics' held in Paris (France), at the Univeral Exposition, without a stadium and under the auspices of the organising committee of the Exposition and not the IOC.

1901 At the 4th IOC Session in Paris a decision was made for the IOC's 2nd International Olympic Games to be held in Athens in 1906. Confirming that an IOC Olympic Games had not taken place in an official capacity in Paris in 1900 after the event. Later efforts to label the Athens 1906 Games as 'Intermediate Games' and to legitimize the side-show events in Paris were an afterthought.

1904 Second side-show 'Olympics' held in St Louis (United States) at the World's Fair held under the auspices of the organising committee of the World's Fair and not the IOC.

1906 Second IOC Olympic Games held in Athens (Greece) at the Panathenaic stadium. The IOC later decided to recognise Paris 1900 and St. Louis 1904, which had not been held under the auspices of the IOC, as their second and third Olympic Games. It was not until 1949, at the Brundage Commission, that the IOC decided to refer to these Games as 'Intermediate Games'. The Zappeion was used as the very first Olympic village to accommodate the visiting Hungarian Olympic team. The parade of athletes by nation first happened at Athens 1906.

1908 Third side-show 'Olympics' held in London (United Kingdom) at the Franco-British Exhibition. These games were held under the auspices of the IOC.

2004 The Panathenaic stadium hosted events during the Athens 2004 Olympic Games including archery and the finish of the Marathon. The Zappeion, that was used to host fencing events during the Athens 1896 Olympic Games and as the first Olympic village during the Athens 1906 Olympic Games, was utilised as the Olympic Media Centre in 2004.

(1). "The Modern Olympics - A Struggle for Revival" by David C. Young, published by The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996 [ISBN 0-8018-5374-5]
(2). "A Brief History of the Modern Olympic Games" by David C. Young, published by Blackwell Publishing, 2004 [ISBN 1-4051-1130-5]
(3). "Born out of Wenlock" by Catherine Beale, published by The Derby Books Publishing Company Limited, 2011 [ISBN 978-1-85983-967-6]
(4). "Zappeio 1888-1988", published in the Hellenic language by the 'Epitropi Olympion kai Klirodimaton' and distributed for the centenary of the Zappeion, without an ISBN.

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