The Olympics Reborn: The History of the Olympics and its Rebirth – April 6th, 1896

April 6, 2021 – Kayla Thompson, Adult Services Coordinator

Though the modern-day Olympics began in 1896, the origin of the Olympics dates back much older than that – nearly 3,000 years! Named for the location in which the “games” were held, the Olympics weren’t really games plural but mostly a footrace held during a religious festival every four years. These races were held in Olympia, Greece, on the Peloponnese Peninsula and date back as far as the 8th century (maybe even farther!). Olympia’s track was located on a mountain where the Ancient Greeks worshiped the king of their gods, Zeus! The ancient site is still there today and many tourists visit the area every year.

All this is relatively cool and all, but what exactly prompted the return of our modern-day Olympic games? In 1892, a young French Baron named Pierre de Coubertin proposed that the games should be reinstated. Apparently, at this time nothing was decided because Pierre de Coubertin proposed the idea again at a Paris international sport conference in 1894. This time around Coubertin got the backing he was looking for and 79 other attendees from 9 other countries approved the games! 

So, on April 6th, 1896 – about 1,500 years after the last Olympic games had been banned by Roman emperor, Theodosius I – the Olympic games were reborn and hosted in Athens, Greece. At this time 280 participants (all male)  from 13 countries competed in 43 various sporting events. You may or may not be interested in knowing that America won 9 out of the 12 track and field events that were held at the old Panathenaic stadium (rebuilt and restored for this occasion). For more information about these games and their history, check out some of the library resources we have including the book links below!

For more information about the Olympics visit:

Books about the History of the Olympics:

Chronicle of the Olympics by DK Publishing (Nonfiction 796.48, Print)
The Olympics: a History of the Games by William Oscar Johnson (Nonfiction 796.48, Print)
The Games: a Global History of the Olympics by David Goldblatt (Nonfiction 796.48, Print)
The Olympics’ Strangest Moments: Extraordinary but True Tales from the History of the Olympic Games by Geoff Tibballs (Nonfiction 796.48, Print)
Fire On the Track: Betty Robinson and the Triumph of the Early Olympic Women by Roseanne Montillo (Biography, Print)
The Official History of the Olympic Games and the IOC: Athens to Beijing, 1894-2008 (Nonfiction 796.48, Print)
Athens to Atlanta: 100 Years of Glory by Lee Benson (Nonfiction 796.48, Print)


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