Thursday, 12 January 2012
I can't let the day pass without commemorating the chap in the skirt, who is Spiridon Louis, born on this day in 1873. In the 1896 Athens Olympics, he became a Greek national hero when he ran to victory in the first-ever modern marathon, fuelled along the way by wine, milk, beer and perhaps cognac, an Easter egg, and half an orange. When he arrived in the stadium, the crowd went wild, and two Greek princes leapt from their seats to greet him and accompany him on his final lap. Amid wild celebrations, Louis was kissed and embraced and carried in triumph to the retiring room to recover from his exertions. When the King offered to give him anything he wanted, he requested a donkey cart to help him in his water-carrying business. He retired to his home town, where he reportedly enjoyed free shaves all his life, and he never ran competitively again. What fun the Olympics used to be - where did it all go wrong?