Thursday, April 19, 2012

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Brings Spyros Louis' Marathon Cup Back Home to Greece - Let's Bring the World to Greece for the Marathon!

 Breal's Silver Cup presented to the winner of the first  
Marathon race in the 1896 Olympics, 
 Spyros Louis
Photo Source: Christies

'Bréal’s Silver Cup will be shared with the public and serve as a reminder of our history, heritage and resilient spirit. Our hope is that the cup inspires and rekindles Greek pride, just as Louis’ victory did on the last day of what would become the Modern Olympic Games.'

Andreas C. Dracopoulos, co-President and Member of the Board at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, announcing the Foundation's successful bid for the cup presented to the winner of the first  Marathon race in the 1896 Olympics, the legendary Spyros Louis

 Spyros Louis
from Marousi's water carrier to Marathon Gold Medallist
Photo Source: Wikipedia

Inspired by the tale of Phidippides' legendary 42 kilometre run from Marathon to Athens to announce the Athenian victory in the epic Battle of Marathon, French philologist Michel Breal suggested the race's inclusion in the first Modern Olympics in 1896 and donated the prize named for him.

The cup was sold at auction, yesterday 18 April 2012, by Christies, as the 100 day countdown began for the London Olympics.

With a value estimated between 120,000 and 160,000 pounds, and in a heated bidding competition which included Spyros Louis' hometown, the City of Marousi, backed by a 300,000 Latsis Foundation pledge, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation secured the cup's return to Greece with a bid of 541,000 pounds, breaking the world record price for an item of Olympic memorabilia.

We were particularly interested in Associate Professor of History at Haverford College and distinguished Olympic historian, Alexander Kitroeff's analysis of the significance and symbolism of the cup, in this statement on the Niarchos Foundation site :

“The significance and value of the silver cup won by the Greek runner Spyros Louis and kept in his family’s possession since then is far greater than almost any other Olympic memorabilia dating from those first modern Olympics held in Athens. 

The cup symbolizes the idea behind running a marathon race and including it in the Olympic program, thus creating a race whose cultural significance grew exponentially throughout the twentieth century. 

The person who came up with this idea was the French linguist, philologist and philhellene Michel Bréal a member of the French Institute, at a sports conference convened in 1894 by the founder of the modern Olympics, the baron Pierre de Coubertin. 

The conference launched the modern Olympics. Bréal proposed the race that was based on the legend of Pheidippides and his famous run from Marathon to Athens in 490BC even though the run was not part of the Ancient Olympic sports. Bréal also offered a silver trophy to whomever would win such a race. Coubertin embraced the idea of the race and the cup – even though it represented an exception because the plan was to award winners only medals and olive branch wreaths. The cup included an inscription in Greek.

The additional significance of the cup is of course that it was won by a Greek, and Coubertin and others are on record stating that Louis’ victory on the final day of the Games unleashed a wave of Greek pride and helped in establishing modern Greece’s embrace of the Olympics.

Finally, the fact that the family managed to preserve the cup through more than a century of tumultuous events including several wars and foreign occupation of Greece symbolizes the importance that Greeks attach to their ancient heritage and the Olympic Games.”

The cup will be shared with the Greek people at a temporary location to be named by the Foundation until its  permanent display at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center upon its completion in 2015.

Our congratulations to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation for taking the initiative to bring this significant part of Greece's Modern History back home - a home it left after Spyros Louis, the winner's grandson, recently took the difficult decision to sell it, to ensure the financial security of his children and only after he tried to get the relevant Greek authorities to purchase it, without luck.

We would like to take the opportunity presented by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation's initiative to reiterate something we said on the occasion of the Classic Marathon which takes place each year in Athens. 

In 2010, Greece celebrated the 2500th anniversary of the original Marathon and there was a tremendous turnout for it.

Here is a golden opportunity for Greece to celebrate and promote its magnificent history by reinstating the Athens Classic Marathon as the one and only Marathon. The Marathon that every marathon runner should aspire to run in.  

Let's all work to spread the word around the world.
Let's get the world to Greece for the Original Marathon each year.

20,000 this year, 30,000 next year!
Spread the word, become a part of history!
 The Athens Classic Marathon is the Marathon of Marathons! 

No matter how many Marathons you've run, you haven't run a real Marathon until you've run the original!

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