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The First Olympics: Athens 1896 is a 1984 US TV miniseries produced by Columbia Pictures Television for broadcast by the NBC network. This television miniseries tells the story of the founding of the modern Olympics by focusing on individuals in several countries and their preparations and eventual competition in Athens in 1896. The two-part mini-series originally aired in the United States on 20 May 1984.[1]

The First Olympics: Athens 1896
GenrePeriod drama
Written byCharles Gary Allison
William Bast
Directed byAlvin Rakoff
Theme music composerBruce Broughton
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of episodes2
Producer(s)Charles Gary Allison
William Hill
Larry White
CinematographyPaul Beeson
Editor(s)John Grover
Ralph Sheldon
Running time237 minutes
Production company(s)Columbia Pictures Television
Original networkNBC
Original releaseMay 20, 1984



The preparation and events leading up to the inaugural modern Olympic Games held in Athens, 1896. The movie examines the experience of competitors from different nations, but especially concentrates on the creation of the first American Olympic team and their trials in getting to the Olympics in Athens.


Historical inaccuracies in the seriesEdit

  • Louis Jourdan was 63 when he played the role of Pierre de Coubertin, who was 33 in 1896.
  • James Connolly is told by Coach Graham and the Dean of Students at Harvard that he and Arthur Blake will be volunteering for the new U.S. Olympic Team as punishment for fighting with each other. In reality, after Connolly was denied a leave of absence to compete in the Games, he dropped out and competed anyway.[2]
  • It is noted that Edwin Flack is from a family of butchers, and he would be interrupting his studies at Oxford University to compete in the Games. In reality, he was taking a month's holiday from his job as an accountant at the firm of Price, Waterhouse, and Company, which later bought out his family's firm. [3]
  • Three Greek flags are raised after the finish of the Marathon. However, it is not mentioned that the third Greek finisher, Spiridon Belokas, was later disqualified after he was found to have ridden part of the way in a carriage. Gyula Kellner of Hungary was elevated to third place.[4]
  • When athletes first competed in the Olympics, they only represented their clubs or their schools. They did not start participating on official national teams or marching in a Parade of Nations until the London Games of 1908.[5] Also, the first team to appear in the (anachronistic) Parade at the opening ceremony of the Games is Australia, but the Commonwealth of Australia was not officially formed until 1901.
  • Robert Garrett is incorrectly portrayed as being a participant in the marathon. Arthur Blake was the only American entrant in the event, and he did not finish.[6][7]
  • In an incident similar to the one with an oversized discus, Robert Garrett is seen trying to enter the shot put with an oversized shot put. In reality, unlike the incident with the discus (which is very well documented), there is no record of a similar incident with the shot put having taken place.[8][9]
  • James Connolly is portrayed as having emigrated to America from Ireland, but he was actually born in Boston in 1868[6]; it was Connolly's parents who emigrated to America.
  • Blake is shown placing second in the 800 meters in a thrilling finish, and Edwin Flack brings him onto the first place podium. In reality, Blake was actually second to Flack in the 1500 meters - which was decided in the last 100 meters - and didn’t run the 800. The 800 meters silver medal went to Nándor Dáni of Hungary, with the actual winning margin being five meters.

Awards and nominationsEdit

Primetime Emmy Awards

Year Category Award Nominee(s) Result
1984 Outstanding Achievement in Music Composition for a Limited Series or a Special (Dramatic Underscore) Emmy Bruce Broughton Won
1984 Outstanding Art Direction for a Limited Series or a Special Emmy Michael Stringer (production designer)

Fred Carter (art director)
Petros Kapouralis (art director)
Terry Parr (set decorator)


Writer's Guild of America, USA

Year Category Award Nominee(s) Result
1985 Original/Adapted Multi-Part Long Form Series WGA Award (TV) Charles Gary Allison (teleplay/story)
William Bast (teleplay)

Casting Society of America, USA

Year Category Award Nominee(s) Result
1985 Best Casting for TV Miniseries' or TV Movie of the Week Artios Fran Bascom Nominated


  1. ^ O'Connor, John J. (May 20, 1984). "Squeezing Inspiration from the 1896 Olympics". The New York Times. Retrieved May 23, 2018.
  2. ^ The Complete Book of the Olympics: 1908 Edition, David Wallechinsky and Jamie Loucky, London, Aurum Press Ltd., 2008, p. 227
  3. ^ The Complete Book of the Olympics: 1908 Edition, David Wallechinsky and Jamie Loucky, London, Aurum Press Ltd., 2008, p. 86
  4. ^ The Complete Book of the Olympics: 1908 Edition, David Wallechinsky and Jamie Loucky, London, Aurum Press Ltd., 2008, p. 134
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^

External linksEdit