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Vintage Photos Of The First Modern Olympics Show That Sports Are Timeless

The 1896 Olympic Games recalled the spirit of ancient times in a modern setting.

04/14/2016 06:52 pm ET | Updated Aug 19, 2016
Albert Meyer/Journal of First Olympic Games 1896/The Benaki Museum Historical Archives
A new exhibition in Greece is taking visitors back to the first modern Olympic Games in 1896. Here, American athletes from Princeton University pose in front of the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens.

ATHENS, Greece ― As the world prepares for this year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, an exhibition in Greece is taking visitors on a digital journey back to the first modern Olympic Games in Athens 120 years ago.

The exhibition is a collaboration between the Benaki Museum, Costa Navarino Luxury Resorts and the Athens International Airport, and features historic photos taken by German photographer Albert Meyer during the 1896 competitions. Prominent Greek visual artist Eva Nathena, who curated the exhibition, used Meyer’s archived photos in a modern-day video art installation.

The 1896 Games were a turning point in the history of athletic events as they brought together the spirit of ancient times with modern internationalism. Meyer covered the event as the official photographer of the German athletic team. His photos show athletes, officials and spectators enjoying the games under the Greek sun.

“The first Olympic Games journal made up of Albert Meyer’s historic photographs is one of the jewels of the Benaki Museum archives and a valuable testimony” to the games’ past, the Benaki Museum director, Olivier Descotes, said in a press release. 

“The documentation of the first Olympic Games in the modern era symbolizes the restoration of the Olympic athletic ideals,” Eva Nathena added. “Visitors will get a chance to come into contact with such unique material and explore the values showcased and their importance in the shaping of modern European thought.” 

The exhibition will be held at the “Art & Environment” space in the Athens International Airport from May 16 to Sept. 16, and will also run at the Symbol Hall of Costa Navarino resort, in the region of Messinia, southwest Peloponnese, from April 27 to Nov. 30.

Get a sneak peek of some of the century-old photos featured in the exhibition:

  • Albert Meyer/Journal of First Olympic Games 1896/The Benaki Museum Historical Archives
    A photo of German athlete Hermann Weingartner, who won awards in men's gymnastics rings.
  • Albert Meyer/Journal of First Olympic Games 1896/The Benaki Museum Historical Archives
    Greek athlete Panagiotis Paraskevopoulos stands ready to throw the discus.
  • Albert Meyer/Journal of First Olympic Games 1896/The Benaki Museum Historical Archives
    People watch a rope climbing competition. According to the rules of the game, climbing was performed only with the use of the hands and arms, while the legs remained straight and still. The rope was 49.5 feet long and 1.5 inches wide.
  • Albert Meyer/Journal of First Olympic Games 1896/The Benaki Museum Historical Archives
    Fencing games at the Zappeion Hall.
  • Albert Meyer/Journal of First Olympic Games 1896/The Benaki Museum Historical Archives
    Award ceremony for the Olympic Marathon winner, Greek Spyros Louis.

This story originally appeared on HuffPost Greece and was translated into English.

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