AP Was There: Louis, a Greek, wins 1896 Olympic Marathon

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — EDITOR’S NOTE — With the Tokyo Olympics postponed for a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, The Associated Press is looking back at the history of Summer Games. This story was transmitted from the 1896 Olympics on the day of the run from Marathon to Athens, a distance race which had not yet taken on the name of its landmark starting point. Following the path of a legendary messenger who brought news of the victory in the Battle of Marathon, Spyridon Louis, a water carrier from a town outside of Athens, won the 25-mile (40 km) race by more then seven minutes. Two other Greeks followed, though one was later disqualified. It is reprinted here as it ran in The Los Angeles Times on April 11, 1896, using the contemporary style and including any published errors.




But the Greeks Outran the Yankees.


Intensely-Exciting Footrace from Marathon to Athens.


The Americans Victorious in All the Other Finals.


ATHENS, April 10. — (By Atlantic Cable.) The interest in today’s sports at the Stadion excelled that of any previous day as it was the day for the footrace from Marathon to Athens, an event that has been looked forward to with more excitement and impatience than any other on the programme. The fact that three Greeks were the first ones in the race has stirred up the whole population to the deepest enthusiasm.

There were fully sixty thousand persons within the enclosure of the Stadion besides the thousands on the high ground surrounding it when the victory in this race, a young Greek named Louis, was brought in to receive the trophy offered the winner. When the Crown Prince Constantine, Duke of Sparta, greeted Louis, the vast assemblage looking on became fairly frantic and paid a tribute to the prowess of their victorious countryman such as the epic heroes of antiquity might well envy had they been here to see it.

The Crown Prince then presented to Louis the magnificent antique vase offered to the winner by M. Michael Breal of the Institute of France. The news of the athletic victory was flashed all over Greece and the whole country is rejoicing over it tonight as over a national victory.

Great interest was manifested also in the final contests, in the running races and track athletics, in which the American teams carried the Stars and Stripes to victory in every event.

In the long-distance foot race from Marathon to Athens, about forty-eight kilometres, the first three across the finish line were Greeks. There were twenty competitors. The favorites were Flack, the Australian, Arthur Blake of the Boston Athletic club, Lemursi, a Frenchman, and Larentis, a Greek.


ATHENS, April 10. — In the long-distance footrace today from Marathon to Athens, about 48 kilometres, for a cup offered by Michael Breal, of the Institute of France, the first three across the finish line were Greeks. There were twenty competitors. The favorites were Flack, the Australian; Arthur Blake of the Boston Athletic Club; Lermusiax, the Frenchman, and Laurentis, a Greek. The time for the race was 2h. 58min. The winner, Louis, is a peasant from the village of Amarosion. His victory was greeted with great enthusiasm.


Source: The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved by AP researcher Francesca Pitaro.

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