This Day in History – November 15th, 1859

Panathenaic Stadium in 1870

Panathenaic Stadium in 1870

The Zappas Olympics, simply called Olympics at the time, were a series of athletic events held in Athens, Greece, in 1859, 1870, and 1875 sponsored by Greek businessman Evangelis Zappas. These games were one of the first revivals of the ancient Olympic Games in the modern era. Their success provided further inspiration or William Penny Brookes in England, whose games had been running since 1850, and the International Olympic Committee series from 1896.


Evangelis Zappas

Zappas’ contribution in this process was vital: not only were the games hosted at his own initiative, he also provided the funds for the staging of the games, as well as for the construction of much-needed infrastructure, including the refurbishment of the ancient Panathenaic Stadium, which hosted the Games of 1870 and 1875. The same stadium would also host the first IOC Games of 1896, the 1906 Intercalated Games, and archery and the marathon finish at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

On November 15th, 1859 the first modern revival of the athletic Olympic Games took place in Athens. As the renovation of the ancient Panathenaic stadium was not yet complete, the contests were held in Loudovikou square in Athens (modern Koumoundourou square).

Although they could be termed as the first Olympic Games of the present tradition, it was far from being an international festival. They had a distinctly national character, since the participants were exclusively of Greek ethnicity, coming both from inside the independent Greek state and the Greek diaspora of the Ottoman Empire. Athletes competed in a variety of disciplines, similar to those of the ancient Olympic games: running, discus, javelin throwing, wrestling, jumping and pole climbing.

symposium_games_pin3_2013-brass153 years after Evangelis Zappas revived the Olympics the International Steampunk Symposium introduced what has become known as the “Steampunk Olympics” with the Symposium Games in which steampunks from all across the country and further compete in civil, whimsical, and “extreme” contests such as Nerf Dueling, Penny Farthing Races, Tea Dueling, Airship Races, and more.

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