Alfred Edward Thomas Watson.

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means, in spite of the almost continuous state of inter-tribal warfare
and contentions which existed among the individual states of Greece,
the Olympian Games rose to the dignity of a national festival, and
became the visible expression of Hellenic unity. The games took
place in the first full moon after the summer solstice. At the
beginning of the sacred month, the Eleans, who had been left in
undisturbed possession of the sanctuary since 580 B.C. or there-
abouts, sent heralds to proclaim the existence of a state of universal
peace throughout Greece. The competitors and spectators of the

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festival streamed in from far and near, the larger states represented
by embassies which were frequently of surpassing magnificence.
The function lasted for five days. The central point was a series of
great sacrifices to Zeus and other gods, under the solemn manage-
ment of priests, some of whom dwelt continually at Olympia. The
sacrifices were accompanied by athletic contests of the most varied
description, foot races, hurling the discus, wrestling, boxing, chariot-
races, etc., carried on under the direction of the Hellenodikae or
** Judges of the Hellenes," who were at the same time the highest
political body in Elis.

The original and most important event in the games was the


foot race, at first one length of the course but afterwards two or
more. In the i8th Olympiad (708 B.C.) the Pentathlon, or fivefold
contest, was introduced — a combination of leaping, hurling the discus,
running, wrestling, and boxing — so arranged that only the victors in
the first contests could compete in the later, and that the final
contest should be a boxing match between the two best competitors.
In 680 B.C. was held the first chariot race with four horses; in
648 B.C. the first horse race took place and the Pankration, a combi-
nation of wrestling and boxing, was introduced. Subsequently special
competitions for boys in most of these sports were arranged, and in

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520 B.C. the Haplitodromas, or ** soldiers' race in heavy marching
order," was added.

The competitions were restricted to free-born Greeks of un-
stained character, though '* barbarians " might be spectators.
Women, with the exception of the Elean priestess of Demeter, were
not permitted to view the sports. Before the contest the partici-
pants had to take an oath that they had undergone the prescribed ten
months' course of training and would obey the Olympian laws and
the regulations of the games. They then entered the Stadium by a
special entrance, the heralds announcing the name and country of


each athlete as he appeared. The palm was handed to the victor
immediately after the contest. The prizes proper, simple olive
branches from the sacred olive tree planted by Hercules himself,
were distributed at the end of the games to all the victors at the
same time. The Greeks attached the most extraordinary value to
the Olympic olive branch. Its acquisition was not only a lifelong
distinction for the winners, but reflected also the highest honour on
their families and on their states, and their countrymen were wont
to testify their gratitude by triumphal receptions, banquets at the
public expense, and often by exemption from taxes. In Olympia
itself the champions dwelt at the public expense in the Prytaneion,
and had the right of erecting a statue in the Altis, which, in the
NO. cxxxi. VOL. xxu.—June 1906 Z Z

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case of a triple victory, was allowed to bear the features of the

The foregoing sketch of the foundation and progress of the
original Olympian Games is necessary for a proper understanding of
the present revival of the festival, which is conducted, as far as
present-day conditions will permit, in accordance with the manners
and customs of the ancients. It is not generally appreciated, |>er-
haps, that the Olympian Games of 1906 were by no means confined
to the Stadium, but owing to the widely varying natures of the
different sports comprised in the programme, were held at many


points. The athletic and gymnastic events proper took place in the
Stadium ; the aquatic numbers — boating, swimming, diving, etc. —
were held in the Bay of Phaleron, off that stretch of the Pirjean
littoral known as New Phaleron, a favourite bathing resort of the
Athenians. The bicycle races and football matches took place at
the Velodrome in the outskirts of the same town, which is situated
on the coast about three miles from Athens, being connected with
the capital by steam and electric tramways. The very excellent
rifle ranges and traps at Callith^e — about half-way between Athens

1 For many of the details of the ancient Olympian Games 1 am indebted to Herr Karl
Baedener's '• Greece." — E. A. P.

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and New Phaleron — were the scene of the shooting contests; the
lawn-tennis tournaments were contested on the courts of the Lawn-
Tennis Club of Athens, the fencing in the halls and courts of the
great exhibition building known as the Zappeion, and the discus
throwing on the grounds of the National Gymnastic Society.

That the arrangements left much to be desired in certain
respects cannot be denied, but on the whole the organisation and
direction of the mammoth affair was admirable. Although men of
the English-speaking nations formed a very large proportion of the
competitors, there was no
printed matter whatsoever
in that language, a fact which
caused some slight annoy-
ance among the represen-
tatives of Great Britain,
America, Australia, and
Canada. The general pro-
gramme, bound in such form
as to be altogether too un-
wieldy for the public use, was
complicated in its arrange-
ment, and required as careful
study as a Bradshaw. The
police arrangements particu-
larly stand in need of the
greatest improvement before
another ten years roll round.
Police duties were performed,
for the most part, by troops
of the regular army, few if
any of whom understood any

language beside their own, or an evzonk of thk royal bodyguard

betrayed any signs of more

than ordinary intelligence. As a result of this ill-advised military
regime there occurred many vexatious incidents and petty annoy-
ances which might well have been avoided by a properly handled
force of well- trained and reasonably sensible civilian police. The
arrangements for feeding and lodging the athletes themselves
proved totally inadequate and wholly unsatisfactory, nearly the
entire English-speaking contingent finding it necessary to leave
the Zappeion, where free accommodation had been provided by
the authorities, for quieter quarters and food more adapted to their

That the Athenians lost their heads in the face of the great

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flood of visitors which poured into their city there can be no doubt.
Every comfortable room in Athens and the vicinity was booked for
months in advance, and the most exorbitant prices were demanded
for the most miserable of quarters. A certain fashionable hotel
received £ioo per day for its best rooms, and I saw bedrooms in the
most undesirable parts of the town bring from ^i to £2 per
night. The restaurants in many cases doubled their prices, and
even then their facilities proved quite inadequate to feed the hungry
multitude. As a matter of fact, Athens was quite unprepared to
receive so great a number of visitors, and obtained, in consequence,
an object lesson which will prove of incalculable benefit to the
visitors of 1914.

No athletic meeting in the history of modern sport has ever
had so glorious a setting or been witnessed by so vast and brilliant a
concourse. Imagine, if you can, a magnet-shaped amphitheatre,
larger than the Colosseum at Rome, more dazzling in its whiteness
than the Grand Palais in Paris, its only roof the blue iEgean sky. Im-
agine a gathering of spectators — unequalled in proportions, perhaps,
since the days of the Circus Maximus in Imperial Rome — displaying
in their apparel that brilliancy of colouring which is found only
beneath a southern sun. It was indeed a spot where East met
West. Swarthy Turks in irreproachable frock-coats and red fezes
sat beside Englishmen in flannels and solar topees ; evzones of the
garde royale in gorgeously embroidered jackets and the plaited white
petticoats called justanelle stood shoulder to shoulder with bronzed
jack tars from the British fleet and green-jacketed hussars in gold-
laced kepis. There were turbulent, sullen-faced Cretans in baggy
trousers and high yellow boots of untanned leather ; priests of the
Greek Church with untrimmed beards, their long hair braided like a
woman's ; Albanians with turned-up scarlet shoes and kilts so stiffly
starched that they looked for all the world like the skirts of a French
ballet dancer ; grandes dames from Athens, from Rome, from Cairo,
from Constantinople, so smartly gowned that they might well have
come straight from the Rue de la Paix. But the cynosure of all
eyes were the athletes themselves, who came from half the countries
on the civilised globe — Englishmen wearing the dark blue or the
light blue of the great universities ; Americans with the stars and
stripes embroidered on caps and jerseys ; Frenchmen in tricoloured
jackets; sabre-scarred German students topped by the round
caps of Bonn and Heidelberg; Norwegians with jaunty upturned
sombreros that made them look like troopers of the African Light
Horse ; and, conspicuous above all others, a band of rosy-cheeked
Danish girls — the only women to take part — who elicited round after
round of applause whenever they appeared.

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Exceptional brilliance was lent to the inauguration ceremony
by the presence of a most unusual group of royalty — King Edward
and Queen Alexandra, King George and Queen Olga, the Prince
and Princess of Wales, the Crown Prince and Princess Constantine,
Prince George, the High Commissioner of Crete, and his brothers
Andrew and Nicholas, Prince Louis of Battenburg, and the Grand
Duke Boris of Russia.

A very picturesque event, which is more or less a survival
of the ancient games at Olympia, is the throwing of the discus.
The Greek discus, which
weighs something little
short of 4 lb., is made of
wood encircled with iron,
and has bronze plates on
the two faces. The thrower
stands on a slightly raised
pedestal, similar to that
employed in putting the
shot, holding the discus
with both hands. He
turns his body slightly to
the right and bends sharp-
ly so as to bring the left
hand when free to the
right knee, and the right
hand, still holding the
object, as far back as the
shoulder wi 1 1 permit.
Then, by a sudden and
simultaneous extension of
the whole body, the ath-
lete throws the discus

straight in front of him. throwing the discus, classic style

Besides the distance First position

covered, the ** form ** of

the throw is also considered in the judging. This peculiar Greek
event was won by an American, M. L Sheridan, of New York, who
incidentally broke the world's record with a throw of 41*46 metres
(about 136 feet), it being particularly worthy of note that the winner
had never held a Greek discus in his hand prior to this contest.

Sheridan, who was also the winner in the shot-putting competi-
tion, and who took second prize in the weight- throwing event, was
quite the hero of the games, for all Athens had heard the story
of how he won his way to Greece. In private life Sheridan is a

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New York policeman — *' one of the finest," as the stalwart members
of New York's force are termed. A well-known amateur athlete, he
had already been selected by the American Athletic Union as a
member of the American Olympic team ; but when he applied for
leave of absence he met with a prompt refusal. Some weeks later,
having given up all hope of being allowed to take the trip, Sheridan
was pacing his beat in the fashionable residential district of Upper
New York, wild screams and the clatter of galloping hoofs attracted
his attention, and he saw a pair of driverless horses, mad with fear.


charging down upon a group of children, who, all unconscious
of their danger, were playing in the street. Sheridan, without an
instant's hesitation, sprang forward and caught one of the horses
by the bit, thus swerving them from their course and saving the
children. Bruised, bleeding, and almost senseless, he still clung to
the animals* heads, eventually stopping them a mile or more away.
The following day, wounded and battered as he was, he was sum-
moned to appear before Colonel Bingham, the Commissioner of
Police. ** I am told,*' said that official, " that you desire to take
part in the Olympian Games at Athens. Is that true?'* *' It is,

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sir," answered Sheridan, with a beating heart. ** Very well. You are
granted leave of absence to recuperate. Good-bye." And that
is how Sheridan won his way to Greece.

The aquatic events at New Phaleron were scarcely as interest-
ing, from a spectator's standpoint at least, as might have been
desired, though this may be largely accounted for by the very
inadequate arrangements for the accommodation of spectators. A
large portion of the ticket-holding public was sent aboard a vessel
anchored in the harbour, and as a result these unfortunates were at


no stage of the proceedings within a quarter of a mile of the finish.
Perhaps the greatest enthusiasm was evoked by the Greek victory in
the 3,000 metres race for sixteen-oared long-boats of warships, repre-
sentatives of the Greek Navy carrying off both first and second
honours, while third place was taken by an Italian crew. The
Italians turned the tables in the 2,000 metres race for six-oared gigs,
however, the crew of an Italian battleship crossing the line first,
with Greek boats second and third, an Italian crew also winning in
the four-oared contest.

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The victory of the American team was scarcely a surprise to
those who had had an opportunity of seeing the men at practice,
for exceptional judgment had been displayed in the selection of the
athletes who were to represent the Republic. Their victory was,
moreover, a vindication of American training methods, which I,
travelling with the team from Corfu to Athens, had some opportunity
to appreciate. The men not only carried their own water with them
throughout their long journey, but arranged for their own food as
well. Every possible opportunity was utilised for practice, both on
shipboard and on land, every halt of the train during the railway
journey from Patras to Athens being taken advantage of for
momentary practice dashes and the exercise of their unused muscles.
As a result the Americans were in the pink of condition on the
opening day, and even after the disablement of several of their best
men as the result of a shipboard accident, had but little difficulty in
holding their own. Of all the events in which Americans were
entered there was only one in which they did not secure a place.

The greatest surprise of the week was the winning of the great
classic event by the plucky Canadian runner, M. D. Sherring.
This is the race that is dearest to the Greeks ; an event that was
won ten years ago by a Marousian butcher's boy, and on the winning
of which this year was set the heart and soul of every man, woman,
and child in Hellas. From Marathon to Athens is slightly over
twenty-six miles (42 kilometres), and the race is run along the
sparsely shaded highway. The competitors start from the isolated
knoll in the middle of the Plain of Marathon which marks the spot
where the struggle was hottest on that glorious day in September,
490 B.C., when the Athenians under Miltiades drove back the Persian
hosts, crosses the flat plains of Attica, follows the fairly regular but
somewhat uphill road, and ends before the royal box in the
Stadium at Athens. The nature of the race, it is almost needless
to §ay, demands a natural hardihood and a minute acquaintance
with the peculiarities of the course, and it is here that the Greek
mountaineer possesses an enormous advantage. In the contest of
i8g6, of the total number of competitors who started from Marathon
only five finished, the winner, Louys by name, covering the distance
in 2 hours 53 minutes. Twenty-six miles in less than three hours
over a public road was a record which it might well prove impossible
for any foreign contestant to beat.

The scene in and about the Stadium on the afternoon of
Marathon Day baffles description. It seemed as if all Greece had
taken a holiday. The great amphitheatre was packed to its utmost
capacity, the crowds extending in dense black masses for miles along
the Keplusia Road, down which the runners were to come. The

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course was held by troops throughout its whole length, an entire
army corps being utilised for the purpose. For mile after mile, as
far as the eye could reach, the blue of the infantry alternated with
the bottle-green of the cavalry and the white kilts of the guard.

It was just three o'clock when the starter's pistol cracked, and
seventy-odd contestants leaped forward on their long journey to
Athens, and a little more than two hours and a half later when a
dust-covered captain of cavalry, riding the fourth of a series of


remounts, dashed up to the Stadium and handed over the watches
to the official time-keepers.

Twenty minutes later a mighty roar came from the crowd out-
side the gates, and a white-clad runner, bearing on his breast the
Irish shamrock and waving a Canadian ensign, trotted down the
lane of soldiery, dashed beneath the victor's arch, and, paced by
Prince George himself, sprinted down the last hundred yards in
beautiful form, then bowing his acknowledgments to the applauding
king. Sherring, of Canada, a man from an alien soil, had won the

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blue ribbon of the athletic world in the record time of 2 hours
51 minutes 23I seconds. Seven minutes later came John Svanberg,
the Swedish representative, and two minutes after him W. G. Franc,
the American. The first Greek to finish took eighth place, a bitter
disappointment to the silent thousands who lined the marble tiers,
their blue-and-white flags drooping forlornly in their hands.

It has been arranged, I understand, to hold the Olympian Games
henceforward every four years, an arrangement which will doubtless
meet with the unqualified approval of all the competing nations.
When, therefore, the heralds proclaim the opening of the games of
igio it is to be hoped that the Grecian sun will blaze down on an
even greater assemblage of athletes than that which made the con-
test of 1906 the most remarkable in the history of modern sport.

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The Complete Cricketer. By Albert E. Knight. With
50 Illustrations. Methuen & Co., London. 1906.

In these days every cricketer's achievements are widely discussed
and elaborately analysed, and all who are interested in the game
know the capacity of Albert Knight. Probably it would not have
been presumed that literature was his strong point. His name
appears, however, as the author of this book, and though he
expresses indebtedness to Mr. E. V. Lucas for having read through
the proofs, there is no hint of his having been helped in the com-
position. That he is a master of his subject need not of course
be said; his book contains much instructive comment and many
valuable observations ; it will go far to make spectators who follow
the game appreciative of its details, though it is much to be wished
that the author had condescended to express himself with more
simplicity. He is frequently carried away by attempts at fine
writing, the effect of which is far from happy, as his little essays in
this direction are based on a bad model. Getting over our objec-
tions to the volume before we come to praise what is admirable,
we find ourselves differing absolutely from Mr. Knight's views on
the qualification of players. " At first sight," he says, " it would
seem most akin to the sporting instinct that only a birth qualification
should be considered in county representation," and for our own
part what seems so ** at first siglit " seems even more so when closely
examined. Knight, however, pronounces this sentiment to be
wholly absurd, the absurdity being that ** the mere accident of birth
confines a man to a particular county. Within a few yards is a
bordering county, which, appreciating his services, would ensure for
him a larger income year by year and a prospect of a handsome
benefit, in lieu of a poor income and a small benefit which must be
his portion at home." The absurdity to us, on the contrary, seems
to lie in the fact of a Yorkshireman, for instance, playing for Lanca-
shire — county cricket should surely be contested between counties,
and we would have this rule rigidly observed — indeed, we should be
inclined to think that if a player had not the birth qualification he
should not be allowed to represent any other county unless he had
resided in it for at least three years, and, moreover, had not taken
up his residence with any special design of qualifying. The author
describes a visit to a football match between two professional teams,
when he was assured that ** not a man on either side was a native of
the towns whose colours he wore and whose sporting genius he was
representing." This seems to us utterly wrong, either in football or
cricket ; by all means let good teams be got together from all
quarters, but do not let them call themselves by names which do

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not belong to them. Sometimes, instead of playing for his county,
a man is actually found playing against it, for the honour and glory
of a rival county in another part of England. Because, again,
certain bogus amateurs are professionals in disguise, that is no
reason why there should not be a line of demarcation between the
genuine amateur and the real professional. Professional cricket
is a most honourable calling, of following which no man need be
ashamed ; but for many reasons it is desirable that the distinction
between amateur and professional should be recognised.

The author goes back to the earliest times of the game.
Notices of cricket matches are to be found in the press of 1700, he
observes, though the first fully recorded match was that played
between Kent and All England on the Artillery Ground, London,
on June 18, 1744. The earliest wicket, prior to 1702, consisted of
two stumps one foot high and two feet apart, with another stump
laid across the top, a long basin-like hole doing duty for a popping
crease. We are inclined to agree with Mr. Knight that cricket can
hardly be termed cricket prior to the days of length bowling, the
straight bat, and the 22 by 6 wicket ; but long before this came into
vogue bowling had developed. In the first games played bowling
was what is here described as ** burrowing trundling,'* but in the
days of Nyren a player called Lambert introduced a break from the
off which that famous old historian of the game stigmatised as a
" cursed twist " ; and Noah Mann, a left-handed bowler, is said to
have been the first recorded exponent of the swerve which has been
so much discussed of late. The chapter on Batting extends over
fifty pages, and deals with practically all known strokes. Of these
the cut is set down as ** the most beautiful in the whole of the
batsman's armoury " ; in truth all strokes are beautiful when well
made. When we see a real vigorous drive smashing into the
pavilion we are inclined to think that nothing can be more attrac-
tive, and yet when Ranjitsinhji makes one of his characteristic
glances it occurs to us that this is one of the most fascinating
refinements of the bat.

As regards bowling, the author agrees with a remark made else-

Online LibraryAlfred Edward Thomas WatsonThe Badminton magazine of sports and pastimes → online text (page 51 of 52)