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July†11, 2012

Vol. 112, No. 15

Campus Notebook

From Princeton’s vault

Tigers helped give us the Olympics

By W. Barksdale Maynard ’88
Published in the July†11, 2012, issue


PHOTO: RICARDO BARROS

What: Hurling this discus on opening day of the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens – known as the I Olympiad – Robert Garrett 1897 astonished the world by beating the Greek champion. Success of the underdog American was crucial in ≠fanning transatlantic interest in the revived Olympic Games ... still going strong as the XXX Olympiad gets under way July 27 in London.

Some thought it zany to bring back the Olympics, extinct for 1,500 years. A chief American proponent was Princeton history professor William Sloane, who encouraged four students – track team members and friends from Tiger Inn – to participate. Garrett’s mother, a member of the banking family that owned the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, funded the trip, which lasted weeks.

Another small group from Boston made up the remainder of this first U.S. Olympic team, a far cry from the 600 or so Americans competing this summer in London.

Garrett first laid eyes on a discus – oak with an iron rim – when he stepped into the restored ancient stadium in Athens on the day of his event. His mighty throw of 96 feet was enough to humiliate the Greek champion of “magnificent physique” — but only two-fifths of today’s world record.

Where: Princeton Memorabilia, Princeton University Archives

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2 Responses to From Princetonís vault

Gaetano Cipriano í78 Says:

2012-07-10 10:59:24

Robert Garrett's father and grandfather were among the richest men in American history. I suggest the author verify his facts - it must not have been his mother who was the Garrett, it had to have been his father. If one googles Robert Garrett B+O Railroad the results will be impressive ó true tycoons.

W. Barksdale Maynard í88 Says:

2012-07-11 10:13:50

Regarding the question of who was a member of the railroad-owning family, Robert Garrett's mother was a member of the Garrett family by marriage, not birth.
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