Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Spyros Louis, the first marathon winner

Greek heroes are not only to be found in Ancient Greece. Modern Greece has had the honour of producing modern legends; one of them being Spyros Louis, who was a water carrier who won the first modern day Olympic marathon during the 1896 Olympic Games in Athens, becoming therefore a national hero.
Spyros Louis was born in Marousi (North Athens), into a poor farmer’s family. His father sold mineral water in the Greek capital, since there was a lack of a central water supply. Spyros helped his father by transporting it. However, he was to be remembered for winning the first marathon run at the first modern Olympic Games in Athens (1896).


During the marathon race no one in the Panathinaiko Stadium knew who the favourite for winning was. That is why a messenger was sent in order to identify who was first. Towards the end of the race, after identifying that a Greek was first, the crowd began chanting “Hellene, Hellene”. When he eventually arrived into the stadium, everyone erupted with joy. Two Greek princes (Crown Prince Constantine and Prince George) rushed to meet him. He finished the race in 2:58:50. The official report of the Olympic Games was:


“Here the Olympic Victor was received with full honour; the King rose from his seat and congratulated him most warmly on his success. Some of the King’s aides-de-camp, and several members of the Committee went so far as to kiss and embrace the victor, who finally was carried in triumph to th retiring room under the vaulted entrance. The scene witnessed then inside the Stadion cannot be easily described, and even foreigners were carried away by the general enthusiasm”.



It is believed that the King of Greece offered the marathon winner any gift he would care to ask of him. Spyros Louis replied by asking for a donkey and a carriage in order to help him in his water carrying business.  Greece later honoured this great athlete by giving his name to the country’s largest stadium, the Spyros Louis Stadium, also known as the Olympic Stadium, where the 2004 Athens Games took place. 

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