Which Sports Were Played In The First Olympic Games In 1896?

The location of the 1896 Olympics. Photo by: Mister_Knight / Shutterstock.com

The 1896 Summer Olympics was the first international Olympic Games to be held in modern history. Organized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the event was held in Athens, Greece, in April 1896. The 10-day event began on April 6, 1896, and featured 241 male athletes from 14 countries, all of whom lived in Europe, with the exception of athletes from the United States (US). Over 60,000 people attended the event’s opening ceremony at the Panathenaic Stadium, including members of the Greek royal family. The 1896 Olympic Games featured 43 events in the following 9 sports: athletics, tennis, shooting, fencing, wrestling, gymnastics, swimming, cycling, and weightlifting.

Description of Five Sports in the 1896 Olympic Games


The athletics events were held in the Panathenaic Stadium, which was initially constructed in 330 BCE. Tracks in the stadium had sharply curved corners, which forced athletes to slow down in order to remain in their respective lanes, and therefore fast times were not recorded. Despite these sharp corners, Thomas Burke won the 400-meter and the 100-meter races. The Americans dominated the track-and-field games, winning 9 of the 12 events. Australia Edwin Flack won both the 1500-meter and 800-meter races, and Greek runner Spyridon Louis won the first Olympic marathon.


All the track-cycling games were held at the Neo-Phaliron-Velodrome while the 54miles long cycling event from Athens-to-Marathon and then back was the only road-event held in the 1896 Olympics. The best cyclist who managed to win 3races was Paul Masson from France. Paul had entered the race a Leon Flameng’s pacemaker. The winner of the 12-hour competition was Adolf Schmal while Aristidis Konstantinidis won the road-race event.


The swimming competitions were held in the open sea since the organizers had not built a stadium for the event. Over 20,000 people came to Zea Bay to watch the swimming games. There were 3 open swimming events in the 1986 Olympic Games, and this included the 1200-meter, 100-meter, and 500-meter freestyle men events. Alfred Hajos from Hungary managed to win both the 1200-meter and 100-meter events while Paul Neumann won the 500-meter freestyle. The water at Zea Bay was very cold; therefore, all competitors suffered during the games.


The gymnastic had 8 events that were held at the Panathinaiko Stadium. Germany dominated the gymnastics with their 11-man team winning 5 of the 8gymnastic events, and this included all the team competitions. The Germans were unopposed in the horizontal bar event. Three Germans (Carl Schuhmann, Alfred Flatow, and Hermann Weingartner) won individuals titles. Nikolaos Andriakopoulos and Ioannis Mitropoulos from Greece won the rope climbing and ring events respectively. The winner of the pommel horse event was a Louis Zutter.


Even though tennis was a major sport in the world by the end of the nineteenth century, none of the top tennis players participated in the 1986 tournament. The winner of the tennis event was John Boland, who had been recruited by Konstantinos Manos. Konstantinos was a member of the Athens-Lawn-Tennis Club, and he tried to recruit tennis players from Oxford University’s sporting circle to participate in the Olympic Games. Boland teamed up with Traun Friedrich for the doubles event, and the two managed to reach the finals and defeat their Egyptian and Greek opponents. The tennis games were held at the Athens Lawn-Tennis Club.


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