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

The location of the 1896 Olympics. Photo by: Mister_Knight / Shutterstock.com
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 and Australia. 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 nine sports: athletics, tennis, shooting, fencing, wrestling, gymnastics, swimming, cycling, and weightlifting.

Sports In The 1896 Olympic Games


The Panathenaic Stadium was the location of the athletics events of the first Olympic Games of 1896.

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 m and the 100 m races. The Americans dominated the track-and-field games, winning nine of the 12 events. Australia Edwin Flack won both the 1500 m and 800 m races, and Greek runner Spyridon Louis won the first Olympic marathon.


Cyclists competing at the 2016 Olympic Games in 2016. Cycling remains a vital part of the Games since the beginning. Image credit: Shahjehan/Shutterstock

All the cycling games were held at the Neo-Phaliron-Velodrome aside from the only road event, the 54-mile (87 km) cycling event from Athens to Marathon and back. The best cyclist, who managed to win three races, was Paul Masson from France. The winner of the 12-hour competition was Adolf Schmal of Austria while Aristidis Konstantinidis of Greece won the road-race event.


The marina of Zeas is the location where the swimming events took place during the 1896 Olympics.

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 the Bay of Zea to watch the swimming games. There were three open swimming events in the 1986 Olympic Games, and this included the 1200 m, 100 m, and 500 m freestyle events. Alfred Hajos from Hungary managed to win both the 1200 m and 100 m events while Paul Neumann of Austria won the 500 m freestyle. The water at the Bay of Zea was very cold; therefore, all competitors suffered during the games.


Laurie Hernandez of the United States competing at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Gymnastics are the most-watched events of the modern Olympics. Image credit: Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock

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


The tennis court at the Olympic Stadium in Athens, Greece.

Even though tennis was a major sport in the world by the end of the 19th century, none of the top tennis players participated in the 1986 tournament. The winner of the tennis event was John Boland for Great Britain, 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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