The first Olympic Games took place in Olympia, Greece, in 776 B.C. when a young Greek man named Coroebus won the sole event—a running race. The original Olympic Games were religious in nature. Every four years, warring Greek athletes and spectators from towns and outlying areas made a truce and traveled peacefully to Olympia to engage in competitions. The stadium at Olympia could seat 50,000 people. As time passed, more games found their way into the Olympic roster. After the Romans conquered Greece, the Olympic Games lost their luster because champions demanded monetary prizes. Finally in A.D. 394, the Roman emperor Theodosius I (c. 346–395) decreed that the games be halted.
Although the Greeks had tried to revive the Olympics in Athens in 1859 and in 1879, Baron Pierre de Coubertin (1863–1937), a Frenchman, finally achieved success. In 1893, Coubertin held a meeting of sportsmen in Paris, France, where they formed the first Olympic Committee. They made plans for a modern Olympic Games to take place in 1896, in Athens, Greece. Through the efforts of George Averoff, the stadium of Herodis (built in 330 B.C.) was restored to hold the games. On April 6, 1896, King George I (1845–1913) of Greece proclaimed the opening of the First International Olympic Games.
Further Information: Anderson, Dave. The Story of the Olympics. New York: Beech Tree, 1996; Kristy, David. Coubertin's Olympics: How the Games Began. Minneapolis, Minn.: Lerner, 1995; Tames, Richard. Ancient Olympics. New York: Heinemann, 1995.