On this day in 1896, 13 nations gathered in Athens, Greece to celebrate the first International Olympic Games in 1,500 years.
After nearly a thousand years of games, however, it was abruptly halted in 393 AD when Roman Emperor Theodosius I, banned the Olympic Games indefinitely in an effort to Christianize the Roman Empire. As the great empire eventually faded from civilization, the athletic tradition was lost.
Although the Renaissance brought renewed interest in Greek culture and few major cities hosted their own festival style “Olympic Games,” it wasn’t until nearly the 20th century that a French nobleman by the name of Pierre de Fredy was responsible for bringing the Olympic Games to the international stage.
After studying the ancient Greeks’ philosophy on physical education, he decided to dedicate his life to reviving the Olympics as the ultimate altheic competition. He believed that organized sports not only helped the body, but also the mind. After years of petitioning international sports conferences, de Fredy formed the International Olympic Committee to establish the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896.
From 280 athletes at the first modern games to over 11,000 today, the Olympic Games are regarded as the leading international sporting events. If not for a Frenchman, perhaps the Olympics would still be an event of the past.