Stamata Revithi: The first Olympic protester

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“No women at all competed in the modern Games of 1896, as Pierre de Coubertin felt that their inclusion would be ‘impractical, uninteresting, unaesthetic and incorrect.'”

“However maverick Greek woman Stamata Revithi took on the Olympic organizers and, although banned from competing, ran the marathon the day after the official race. She completed the course from marathon to Athens in around 5.5 hours, organizing witnesses to verify her running times. Sadly, she was denied entry to the Stadium to cross the finishing line…”

I first read the above account in a book by Open Agency, Olymp/pics.

Looking for more details Revithi’s story, I learn that Revithi was about 30 years old, blonde (as can be seen from the above drawin) and poor. She was from Piraeus and was walking to Athens with a 17 month old child in search of work when she met a fellow traveller, who responded to her request for alms by inviting her to run in the marathon at that year’s Olympics. (The traveller, presumably, had not heard of de Courbertin’s ban on female athletes).

Revithi presented herself to the Olympics organising committee, and was rebuffed. She then travelled to Marathon, where her cause was taken up by the press. Local officials persuaded her not to run as part of the men’s race, but told her that a team of American women would compete a week later, and she should wait for them.

When it became clear that they would not materialise, Revithi ran the entire distance alone. Asked about her time, she is supposed to have said that she would have run the distance in under 3 hours if she had not stopped at various shops to buy oranges.

Her shoes were falling apart when she finished.

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