April 6: The First Olympcis

1896_Summer_Olympics_logoThe first modern Olympic Games opened in Athens on this day in 1896. Surprisingly, Athens wasn’t the first city considered to host the Olympiad.

In 1894, Pierre de Frédy, Baron de Coubertin, organized an international congress of 11 different national sports societies at the Sorbonne in Paris. There he proposed that the Olympics, the noble athletic competition of ancient Greece be revived for the modern age. The proposal was met with acclaim, and the next issue that needed to be addressed was when these new Olympic Games should be held. Coubertin suggested that they be held in coordination with the 1900 Universal Exposition of Paris. However, a few of the assembled national representatives voiced concern that six years would be too long a wait and the public might lose interest during that interval. It was soon decided that the games would happen in 1896. Records are sketchy as to how it was decided upon, but eventually the congress decided that since the ancient Olympics were held in Greece, it was only right that the new Olympics be held in Athens. At this point the congress officially became the International Olympic Committee, with Greece’s representative  Demetrius Vikelas serving as the first IOC president.

The 1896 Games were a little different from today’s modern Olympics. All of the Olympians were amateurs and had to provide their own lodging (The Olympic Village concept would not arrive until the 1932 Los Angeles Games). As such, many of the competitors were people who were already in Athens for either work or vacation. For instance, the British national team had several athletes who were employees of the British embassy. Also, women would not be allowed to participate in the Olympics until 1900.

At the 1896 Games, 14 nations competed in 43 events in nine different sports. Surprisingly, while Olympic events have changed over time, all nine of the sports represented in the first Olympics are still part of the Summer Olympics today. The United States won the most events, winning 11 silver medals. Yes, silver. You see, at the 1896 Games, winning athletes won a silver medal, an olive branch, and a diploma. Second place received a copper medal, a laurel branch and a diploma, while third place got nothing. It was only in later years that the IOC would adjust the 1896 medal table to reflect the now standard gold, silver and bronze medals.

The cocktail called Olympic was invented at Ciro’s of London around 1922. It’s a sister drink to the Sidecar, that uses orange curacao in lieu of Cointreau and orange juice instead of lemon juice. A couple dashes of orange bitters are added to keep this drink from getting too orangey sweet.


  • 2 ounces Cognac
  • 3/4 ounce Orange Curacao
  • 1 ounce orange juice
  • 2 drops Orange Bitters

Shake well with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tomorrow: What’s for breakfast?


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