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London Olympics Information » About the Olympics » History of Modern Olympics

History of Modern Olympics

Pierre de Coubertin is credited with the foundation of the International Olympic Committee and the revival of the modern Olympics; however, the German archaeologist and historian Ernst Curtius' profound erudition about Greece and his contribution towards the establishment of the next phase in the Olympics during the Age of Enlightenment cannot be discounted. He was entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing and conducting research on excavations at Olympia by the German government in 1873. His treatises, A History of Greece, Olympia, were based on these findings. It is said the academic, Coubertin, encouraged by coherence of these extensive studies on the Olympia sanctuary and ancient Olympics and his vision to improve the education of young people through organised sport, laid the groundwork for the resurrection of the Olympic Games in 1892.

The French academician also credited Dr. William Penny Brookes for the evolution of the idea of creating the Games' newer version. The protean doctor was a successful medical practitioner, botanist and conscientious magistrate. Influenced by the prevalent petty crime, drunkenness and theft in the local community, Brookes took up the cause to develop the need for structured physical exercise and education for the working classes. In 1850, he went on to successfully organise the early version of modern Olympics, The Olympian Class, at Much Wenlock, a small town in Shropshire, England. Much Wenlock Olympian Society annual games, as they came to be known, included an array of athletic and country events including cricket, jumping, quoits, a three-mile Penny-farthing bicycle race and a wheelbarrow race. The games still continue to be held in the second week of July each year.

Pierre de Coubertin, in 1894, inspired by the Wenlock Olympian Games, proposed the idea of revival of the Games and establishment of the International Olympic Committee during his speech at the Sorbonne in Paris to a body of international sports administrators from across the world. Demetrius Vikelas, an author from Greece became the first president of the IOC. The concept of organising such an event was enthusiastically and unanimously approved by most countries including the US and Russia. Coubertin's diligence towards the organisation of the mega-event was evident in the direction that he provided for every aspect of the course the modern Olympics have taken. He wrote the Olympic charter, protocol and athletes' oath, and he also planned the ceremonies. The Olympic Anthem was composed by Greek composer Spyridon Samaras, who was an acclaimed opera composer. The lyrics were written by Kostis Palamas.

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