During the revival of the modern Olympic Games, through the initiative of the International Olympic Committee chairman and wealthy Frenchman, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, in Athens, Greece, in 1896, only 311 participants from 13 countries made an appearance (based on The Olympics).
This modern-day games intended to establish continuity with the ancient Olympiad and promote Olympism.
Despite the doubts and uncertainties facing the Athens Games in 1896, competing nations still graced the events such as Australia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Smyrna, Sweden, the United States, among others.
The first Olympiad had 9 sports and 43 events.
The reinvention of the games at the end of the 19th century coincided with the advent of cinema.
Americans conquered contending nations in track and field, while the Germans and the French dominated in gymnastics and cycling, respectively.
Of the nine sports scheduled for this meet, the Marathon was the most critical sports among the Greeks because they considered the marathon as the most excellent criterion of endurance.
During the Marathon event in the town of Marathon in Greece, seventeen competitors appeared in the race. The majority of them were Greeks with 13 participants and a handful of opponents from Australia, the United Kingdom, Hungary numbering to 4.
Before the start of the race, runners made starting blocks or holes in front of the starting line for them to have a better foothold and eventually braced their feet.
The 23 year-old Greek upstart from the town of Amarousion, Greece, Spiridon Louis, a professional water carrier, became an overnight success and an instant national hero in the first Olympic marathon in 1896. After all, critics considered him as heaven-gifted and nature-nursed Greek athlete.
Early on the games on 10 April 1896, a French contestant had a commanding lead over Spiridon Louis and 15 others for the first 32 kilometers before collapsing devastatingly.
As there was no live radio and television broadcast yet and the technical innovation like radio broadcast only introduced in the 1924 Olympic Games, an estimated 80,000 spectators, including King George, were uncertain, high strung, and waiting for the upshot in the Panathenaic stadium. They heavily depended on the rumors as the stadium was filled with ambivalence, not until the police commissioner of Athens as well as the messengers on bike reported to the King and the crowd that the Greek peasant was winning the 24.8-mile competition.
The victory ensued as the grimy and sunburned Spiridon Louis arrived first and unexhausted in the first-ever Olympic Marathon. The two princes immediately jumped onto the track and ushered Louis to the royal box where the King was standing before the jubilant crowd.
Overall, the Greeks ruled the inaugural games, especially their exceptional win in the marathon led by Spiridon Louis who had no formal or real training compared to the well-trained English and American athletes who just arrived ten and five days before the race.
Consequently, Spiridon Louis was awarded the 15-cm (12 inches) Breal-silver cup, named after Michel Breal who proposed the inclusion in the modern Olympic games the 24.8-mile race from Marathon to Athens.
The feat of Spiridon Louis offered him a year-long free shave and haircut and meals anywhere in Athens. Further, a tailor offered him lifelong free suits. But all of these offers were declined by the self-effacing Louis. The working class sportsman instead requested a cart and a horse when King George approached and asked him of his special wish.
Thus, the catchword “egine Louis,” has since become a common and famous Greek phrase, which means “ran quickly.”