Meet The Very First “Team USA” From The 1896 Olympics

The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan were officially postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. They are tentatively scheduled to happen in summer 2021 to safeguard the health of the athletes, but many people — including Japanese citizens — are hoping for them to be postponed again.

While it’s disappointing, the announcement got us wondering about the original Olympics where the United States first competed. And, upon digging into it, we discovered that the first game with US athletes was also the first modern Olympic games. They were held in Athens in 1896, and while they were very different from the modern-day games — there was no official “Team USA” and no women were allowed to compete — the event did hold some great surprises. 

For example, the 14 American men who traveled across the Atlantic to become the “founding fathers” of Team USA. This is their story.

Reviving the Ancient Greek Games

1896 Olympic Program Cover — Photo: Wikipedia

According to the National Endowment for the Humanities, the first modern Olympic Games were created from a desire to “revive the tradition of athletic competition in ancient Greece that had been dormant for 1,500 years.  In June, 1894, a committee held under the auspices of the Union des Sociétés Françaises de Sports Athlétiques met in Paris, France, to discuss the possibility of producing a modernized version of the games.”

After a unanimous vote, it was agreed that the games would return — and to Athens, Greece, the birthplace of the Olympics — in 1896.  The modern Olympics would be held every four years and be open only to amateur athletes.