April 6, 1896: The Games of the first Olympiad (modern) begin in Athens, Greece.
Throughout Europe in the 1800s, many sporting events were held and dubbed “Olympian Games,” including Greek Olympic Games held in Greece in 1859. French historian, Pierre de Coubertin, espoused the idea of Dr. William Penny Brookes of a true multi-national Olympian Games. In 1894, Coubertin organized a congress to present his plans for eleven nations to compete in these games to be held in 1900.
Instead, it was decided that the games would be held in Athens, Greece, in 1896 and money was raised through the efforts of Crown Prince Constantine, President of the Organizing Committee. On April 6, 1986, the Panathenaic Stadium was filled with over 80,000 people including King George I of Greece, his wife, and sons for the opening ceremonies. At that time, the Julian calendar was still used in Greece, therefore it was March 25, Greek Independence Day.
Nine sports were included in the first game, including, athletics, cycling, fencing, gymnastics, shooting, swimming, tennis, weightlifting, and wrestling. Silver medals were awarded to each winner. The marathon was the highlight of the games and won by Spyridon Louis, the only Greek athletics champion, who became a national hero.
The closing ceremonies were held on April 12. Fourteen nations had participated. Greece won the most medals at forty-six, the United States came in second at twenty, and Germany in third with thirteen. Unfortunately, women were not permitted to participate since it was thought, by Courbertin, it would be “impractical and uninteresting.” Although women did not participate in the Ancient Olympic Games, except in equestrian events, women finally competed in the 1900 Olympic Games.