The 1896 Olympic Games

The 1896 Olympic Games in Athens, the first Olympics of the "modern era", were revived by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, a Frenchman who wanted to promote athletic values based on Christian and amateur ideals and sought to have athletes competing for the honour of competition.

It was an ancient tradition de Coubertin was reviving - it had been 1503 years since the previous Games.

The Olympics were held at the Panathenean Stadium in Athens, which was financed by Greek Merchant, George Averoff who donated 920,000 drachmas. The opening ceremony, on Easter Monday, 6 April 1896, drew a crowd of almost 80,000.

There were 311 athletes present, representing 13 countries. Greece, naturally, was very strongly represented with 230 contestants.

Edwin was very upset that people had to pay to see the opening ceremony. After seeing that half of those attending had been locked outside despite sufficient room in the stadium. He believed all people should have had the right to attend the opening ceremony without charge.

Very few photographs are available, but Edwin competed in his Melbourne Grammar Sports uniform. He did not wear Australia's green and gold colours - after all, Federation was still five years away.

The track for running events was very unusually shaped having a long straight and very tight bends. Estimates made with the help of the Greek Studies faculty at RMIT University are that the track had two straights of 160 metres each, with 35-metre bends at either end of the stadium. One lap equalled 390 metres.

It was impossible to run the 200-metre event as runners fell over at the bends, making sprinting almost hazardous.

A standard track today has straights of 80 metres and bends of 120 metres, making one lap 400 metres. As a further interesting factor, running events were run in a clockwise direction instead of today's usual anti-clockwise way.

The track was slow and rough, made with loose cinders. Again, it must be stated that the turns were ridiculously sharp. The scene is thus set for our Melbourne runner to join in the competitions.