April 6, 1896
Opening Ceremony of the 1896 Olympic Games in AthensOlympic Ceremony Records
italics indicate records at the time
First Olympic Opening Ceremony of the Modern Era
First Olympic Opening Ceremony Spanning More Than One Day
First Use of the Olympic Anthem
First Olympic Games in Europe
First Use of an Orchestra
First Use of a Choir
First Parade of Athletes (not separated by country)
Largest Stadium to Host the Opening Ceremony (45,000)
Largest Crowd to Attend the Opening Ceremony (80,000)
Most Countries Participating (14)
Most Athletes Participating (241)
Most Olympic Events (43)
Panathinaiko Stadium (45,000)
April 6, 1896
Opening Ceremony Highlights
The first Olympics had two ceremonies. The first ceremony on April 5 - Easter Day, as described in the official report using the Julian calendar (March 24), was to commemorate the founding of the games and dedicating the new stadium and statue to the person who funded much of the games, George Averoff. A great description and pictures are included in the official report above but here are the highlights of this first ceremony.
- Starting early in morning, people, sporting companies with flags and bands, officials, and athletes marched into the stadium.
- The hills surrounding the stadium were packed with spectators
- The royal family arrives and a speeches were made celebrating Averoff in a torrent of rain
- A hymn was sung, commissioned in honor of Averoff
- The Crown Prince spoke then drew a string on the statue that dropped a Greek flag covering a statue of George Averoff on the stadium floor.
- Greek representative placed a laurel and a Hungarian representative place a wreath at the foot of the statue
- Many officials attended the chanting of a Te Deum with the Royal Family before they went to the stadium for the ceremony in a parade.
- Almost twice as many spectators attended the ceremony than what the stadium could hold.
- According the official report, one of the most exciting parts about the ceremony were the attire of the ladies in their plumed hats and gowns.
- Bands paraded through the stadium for an hour before the ceremony.
- The Royal Family entered the stadium to a huge ovation; the Crown Prince speaks and introduces King George I who declares the games open.
- A collection of all the Athenian Philharmonic Societies join in a large choir with large orchestra to perform "Cantata for the Olympic Games" by Spiridion Samara (music found in several later official reports) - what would become the Olympic Anthem.
- The cantata was so overwhelmingly loved and cheered for so long, that they performed an encore of the piece.
- The athletes then entered the stadium en masse and the first events took place soon thereafter
Olympic Victory Medal
(Gold Medals were not awarded until 1900)
Olympic Program Cover