It is now 64 years since the mustachioed idealist Baron Pierre de Coubertin went to Athens to realize a passionate ambition—the revival of the Olympic Games. There have been 13 Olympics since, and each has left a legacy of unforgotten moments and splendid heroes: Dorando Pietri staggering to a disqualification in 1908; Aileen Riggin, at 12, winning the dive in Antwerp; Jim Thorpe, who astonished the Swedes with his athletic feats by day and his revelry by night; the taciturn little Finn, Paavo Nurmi, who won seven long-distance championships; Jesse Owens, whose four gold medals in Berlin brought a scowl to the face of Adolf Hitler; and Emil Zatopek who, lacking natural speed, became by will the most marvelous of modern long-distance runners. On these pages, they live once more in memory.
Tom Burke (second from left) won 100-meter dash and 400-meter run for U.S. in first modern Olympics in Athens. Princetonians Albert Tyler (2nd, pole vault), Francis Lane, (5th, 100-meter), Herbert Jamison (2nd, 400-meter), Robert Garrett (1st, shotput, discus; 2nd, broad jump; 3rd, high jump) further helped small U.S. band dominate Games.
Ray Ewry of U.S. triumphed in the standing high jump in Paris.
Capri Candymaker Dorando Pietri (above) created deathless controversy in marathon. Entering London stadium, Pietri turned wrong way, collapsed (above right). Muddled officials helped him up, turned him around. Pietri was finally assisted across finish but disqualified, and Johnny Hayes, a New York department store clerk who finished second, was declared the winner.
Prodigious Jim Thorpe won gold medals in decathlon and pentathlon at Stockholm but, accused of professionalism, was forced to return them.
Charley Paddock wins 100-meter in Antwerp, sharing honors with (right) Dick Landon (1st, high jump), Aileen Riggin, age 12 (1st, springboard diving), Joe Pearman (2nd, 10,000-meter walk), Mike Devaney (5th, steeplechase).
Johnny Weissmuller (right, with Andrew Charlton, Australia), who later swung to movie heights as Tarzan, won three gold medals in Paris. Finland's Paavo Nurmi won an unprecedented four distance races, and, as tennis bowed out of the Games, Helen Wills and Vinnie Richards took singles titles.
Lord David Burghley (left), sixth Marquess of Exeter, was surprising victor in 400-meter hurdles in Amsterdam. He later organized the 1948 Games as head of the British Olympic Association, became Governor of Bermuda.
Against a bristling backdrop of oil derricks at Long Beach, Calif., Germany (left) defeated Italy in four-oared shells with cox for gold medal Meanwhile, in the Los Angeles Coliseum, Mildred (Babe) Didrikson (right), then just 18, won 80-meter hurdles and javelin throw, finished second in the high jump.
Jesse Owens, member of Nazi-designated "black auxiliaries," broke world records in the broad jump (below), 200-meter dash in Berlin, won 100-meter dash and (right, handing off to Ralph Metcalfe) was on winning relay team.