Spiridon n°0 - February 1972
"April 1896. The first modern Olympic Games are about to end. 25 athletes gathered at Marathon..."
MARATHON is a small village with pretty white houses, tightly packed around the church. Erected in the public square, a monument speaks of those who fell during the war.
Downstream, a vast plain covered with olive and orange trees. This is where, according to mythology, lived a raging bull, the monster killed by the hero Theseus. And in the plain, there is this tumulus erected in memory of the 192 Athenians (ironically: the helmet of Miltiades, their leader, is exhibited in the museum...of Olympia) who perished there around 490 BC .
"The riders are at the start. Greeks for the most part, but also the American Blake, the Australian Flack and the Frenchman Lermusiaux. The Greeks are driven by an implacable will to win. To win in order to ''save honor of the homeland".
"The competitors are accompanied by riders responsible for controlling the regularity of the event. Flack, Lermusiaux and Blake lead in turn. No Greek in the lead? Nervousness is growing among the 70,000 spectators who fill the stadium..."
It is the old Panathenaic stadium, designed by Lycurgus in 350 BC and for the occasion rebuilt in 18 months. Everything is in magnificent Pentelic marble, that white hill which dominates the plain of Marathon. "The first Olympic Games of the modern era are coming to an end. Not the slightest Greek victory!..."
"But we learn that Blake gave up on the plain of Spata. That Lermusiaux, then Flack also gave up. A Greek would even be in the lead, the tall and thin SPIRIDON LOUIS".
For some, Louis was a shepherd; for the others, he would have held a job as a temporary postman to better prepare for this race. Be that as it may, completely unknown at the start, SPIRIDON became a national hero in less than three hours (exactly 2 h. 58' 50").
"HE'S COMING..." The crowd rose in one movement, in a thunder of cheers". "The crown prince and his brother rush towards him", grab him and hoist him up to the steps marble, where the king stands, pale with emotion "
All Greeks want to celebrate SPIRIDON. A hotelier immediately signs him meal vouchers for every day of each of the next ten years... "Seventeen runners reached the goal, seven Greeks among the first eight. No one was dead, we would start again four years later, in Paris at the Stade de la Croix-Catelan”.
(according to the newspapers of the time)