March 25th 1896: 1st day of the events
The opening day of the events coincided with the celebration of the Greek national holiday, the 25th of March. From early in the morning the crowds flooded the decorated streets, Stadiou and Ermou, as well as Syntagma Square. The cheerful music of various philharmonic bands from Zakynthos, Lefkada, Laurion and Patras echoed everywhere. The crowd cheered enthusiastically the Greek royal family, when they visited the Metropolis to attend the doxology with their attendants and guests and then on their return to the stadium.
The crowd's enthusiasm reached its peak during the opening ceremony of the first International Olympic Games in the Stadium. First thing in the morning the crowd gathered in order to buy tickets. The ticket salesmen were surrounded by a noisy crowd struggling to get the best seats under police supervision in order to avoid cases of black market. People started to arrive at the stadium en masse in the afternoon. All over Athens, citizens of all ages, men and women of different classes moved towards the Stadium. Although the crowd that gathered outside Zappeion was immense the police had no problem imposing order. Armed soldiers, placed at the passageways leading to the Stadium's tiers, were responsible for imposing order inside the Stadium.
The spectators entered the Stadium long before the opening ceremony and at 15.30 p.m. the largest part of the Stadium was crowded. A row near the sphendone was reserved for the members of the parliament, a second one for the officials and a third one for the official guests and the press. The colourful dresses and hats of women, the flags flaunting among the thousands of spectators, the officers' magnificent uniforms and crests and the crowds that hadn't been able to obtain a ticket and had climbed on the neighboring hilltops so they could see over the stone walls, all these created a unique and impressive spectacle.
The Stadium was excellently decorated. Banners and coat-of-arms hanging from towering spars at the main entrance that also bore replicas of ancient tripods on each side. Members of various committees, deans and various officials gathered in the track. Later on, philharmonic bands took their place in the Stadium.
The royal family took its place on the marble thrones, which were embedded with purple cover, and greeted the crowd. Members of the Council of Ministers, of the Holy Synod and of the foreign clergy in Athens were seated on the right side of the Stadium. The diplomatic body, the royal attendants and the foreign representatives were seated on the left side.
Prince Alexander stepped towards the king and made a speech, while the spectators were all on their feet. At the end of his speech the King rose and responded loudly:
"I, thus, pronounce the beginning of the First International Olympic Games of Athens. Long live the Nation! Long live the Greek people!"
[Beck, Ch.(ed.), Oi Olympiakoi Agones, 776 BC - 1896 (The Olympic Games, 776 BC - 1896), Athens 1896, p. 31].
The spectators responded with enthusiastic cheers that echoed in the vast Stadium.
The spectators' expectancy had reached its peak. The race was a preliminary event, with athletes from 21 different countries, three of them Greeks. The first two athletes of each round would compete in the finals that would take place on the fifth day of the events.
This event had a long history with Greek people and thus received a lot of attention. Ten athletes participated in the events and James Conolly from the USA was the winner.
This was also a preliminary event. The athletes were divided into two groups. Edwin Flack from Australia and Albin Lermusiaux from France were the winners.
This was an event in which athletes of various nationalities participated. Robert Garrett, the USA athlete, was pronounced winner and Panagiotis Paraskevopoulos, from Greece, was second.
The sixteen contestants were divided in two groups. Herbert Jameson and Thomas Burke from the USA were the winners.