When the French lost the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, historian Baron Pierre de Coubertin proposed that a revival of the games, a truly international competition would not only encourage international camaraderie, it would renew interest in athleticism among French youths, restoring physical competence to a generation. Coubertin and Demetrius Vikelas, a Greek businessman, founded the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to organize a modern Olympics Games.
Unlike the ancient games, the modern Olympics were held at a different site every four years, beginning in Athens in 1896. Athens had been the site of a number of local games held in honor of the ancient Olympics, and there is some dispute today over whether the founder of those games, Evangelis Zappas, should be considered the founder of the modern Olympics.
But it was not until the IOC's games that participation became international and widespread; 14 countries competed in 43 events in 10 days, the greatest variety of participating athletes of any sporting event to that date. Greece and the United States won the majority of events.
The games struggled to catch on, hampered by the competing popularity of the World's Fair and the difficulty transatlantic journeys posed. In the 1908 games in London, the modern length of the marathon was established as 26 miles and 385 yards; the highlight of the 1912 Stockholm games was the participation of Jim Thorpe, a famous all-around athlete.
|Baron Pierre de Coubertin|
In 1924, the first winter Olympics were held as an event separate from the summer games, though the 1924 event was not designated as such until after the fact. The first winter games announced as such were the 1928 games in St. Moritz, where 25 countries competed in 14 events.
The 1936 summer games are perhaps the single most famous Olympics Games; they were held in Berlin at the peak of Nazism's popularity before the invasion of Poland and World War II. Filmmaker and Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl used technically advanced techniques to film Olympia, her chronicle of the games as commissioned by Adolf Hitler.
Intended to demonstrate the athletic superiority of Aryans over non-Aryans, the movie instead recorded a significant number of non-Aryan victories, including those of African-American Jesse Owens, who won the gold medal in the 100-meter run, 200-meter run, and long jump and as part of the 4x100 meter relay team.
|First Olympic Games|
Despite the Nazi position on his race, Owens was treated as a hero and celebrity in Berlin as much as in any other city, perhaps demonstrating a disconnect between the ruling ideology and the feelings of the people.