Evangelis Zappas and the modern Olympics

The 1821 Greek War of Independence, which lasted almost eight years, led to the creation of the modern, independent state of Greece. Its Christian-Orthodox inhabitants strove to separate themselves from over 400 years of occupation by the Ottoman Empire and to build on elements of language and history harking back to Ancient Greece.

In the 1850's, when the issue of reviving ancient ceremonies and contests was being discussed in Greece, Evangelis Zappas, a native of the Greek province of Epiros, lived in Romania where he had made his fortune. He began to consider how such institutions could be revived, and even proposed that they be called 'Olympic'. 

It was the poet Panagiotis Soutsos, founder of modern Greek Olympic ideals and the man responsible for inspiring Zappas, who essentially introduced the concept of establishing parallel cultural activities and exhibitions modeled on the first world's fair in London (1851).
Zappas drafted a memorandum proposing that a new institution be established that would help Greece keep pace with the industrial revolution. The memorandum was sent early in 1856 setting forth the proposal that the contests be organized in Athens on March 25th,1857.

Zappas would bear the cost of this event, as well as that of constructing an Olympic building to house an exhibition of samples of Greek art and industry. The building would also function as a museum displaying antiquities . To expedite this plan, he immediately sent 2000 Austrian florins to cover the costs of the First Olympia, which was also called the First Zappeian Olympiad.

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