The winner’s cup from the first Olympic marathon at the Athens 1896 Games is to stay in Greece after being bought by a foundation at an auction at Christie’s. The Breal’s Silver Cup, presented to Greek Spyridon (Spyros) Louis, was bought for €450,000 by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
It is believed to be a world record amount paid for an item of auctioned Olympic memorabilia.
Spyros Louis was presented with the cup, a silver medal, an antique vase, an olive branch and a diploma by Greece’s King George I for his Athens victory over 25 miles (40 kilometers) — slightly shorter than the modern marathon.
Spyros Louis Cup
Last March, auction house Christie’s said the engraved 6-inch (15-centimeter) cup had been in Louis’s family for 116 years but it would be sold by his grandson on April 18.
Louis’s grandson, also called Spyros, had, he would give proceeds estimated at 120,00-160,00 pounds (143,000-190,000 euros) to his children.
«Our family has been very proud to have the honor of looking after this important historical sporting trophy for the last 116 years,» Spyros Louis said. «And my grandfather’s achievement of winning the first-ever marathon at the first modern Olympic Games will remain part of my family’s heritage forever.
«However, it is time to look to the future, not the past. I have two children and the most important thing for me is to ensure that they are looked after as well as possible. It is always going to be impossible to split a cup.» (ekathimerini)
Grandson Louis had earlier said that he had offered the cup for sale to Greece’s culture authorities and organisations but there was no sign of interest.
Now the cup will be put on permanent public display in Athens from 2015. The Niarchos Foundation, which was set up in 1996 in honour of the Greek shipping magnate, is establishing a cultural centre in the Greek capital where the cup will be held.
According to BBC Olympic historian Alexander Kitroeff said: “The significance and value of the silver cup is far greater than almost any other Olympic memorabilia dating from those first modern Games in Athens.
“The cup will serve as a reminder of our history, heritage and resilient spirit.”
It was sold by the runner’s grandson Spyros Louis (junior), who said: “I could never have imagined the auction of my grandfather’s cup would generate such international interest, and raise such significant funds to secure the future of my family.
“I am overwhelmed by the global admiration felt for my grandfather and his Olympic victory for Greece in 1896, and I am proud to have witnessed another historical Olympic event as my children and I watched the auction unfold live online.”
The cup, which has been on private display in the Louis family home for 100 years, was expected to fetch between £120,000 and £160,000.
Christie’s said the previous world record price was achieved in April 2011, when an Olympic torch from the 1952 Games, held in Helsinki, was sold at auction in Paris for €290,000 (£239,000 at the current exchange rate).
The auction was held as London 2012 organisers marked the 100-day countdown to this summer’s Games.
A Bravo to Niarchos Foundation for keeping the Cup in Greece. Private initiatives win, where the state fails!