Olympics in Athens 1896: The Invention of the Modern Olympic Games

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Published in the year that The Olympics returned to Athens this is the illuminating story of the making of the modern games, the multinational group of intriguing characters who re-invented them and the first generation of new sporting heroes. 'On 5 April 1896 James B. Connolly of the Suffolk Athletic Club, Boston, projected himself 13 m and 71 cm through the Attic air in the newly restored Panathenaic Stadium of Athens, in the hop, step and jump, and became the first Olympic victor for more than 1500 years.' That opening sentence gives the flavour of a rich and often entertaining work of history that brings together the following intriguing strands: the rise of amateur athletics in Britain, the US, France, Germany and other western countries, each with its own particular stamp; the enormous interest aroused by the excavation of ancient Olympia, the site of the ancient Games; the determination of the eccentric French aristocrat Baron Pierre de Coubertin to embody the amateur athletic ideal in a revival of the Games; and a perception by politicians and the Greek royal family that hosting Coubertin's Games could help to put the young Greek state on the European map.