1896 Olympic marathon cup sold at London auction
A silver cup awarded to the winner of the first modern-day Olympic marathon sold for more than 540,000 pounds ($865,000) Wednesday, Christie's auction house said.
Spyros Louis was presented with the cup by Greece's King George I for his Athens victory in the 25-mile (roughly 40-kilometer) race in 1896, a course which was slightly shorter than today's 26.2-mile-long marathon.
The engraved 6-inch-high trophy had been in Louis' family for 116 years, but Louis' grandson, also named Spyros, said he had two children and that he wanted to look after them. In a statement Wednesday, he said that the money would "secure the future of my family."
The elder Louis finished fifth in a qualifier for the inaugural 14-nation Olympics, but he took the lead within a couple of miles of the end of the race after a competitor ahead of him collapsed. He was cheered across the line by more than 80,000 spectators at the Panathinaiko Stadium.
Louis was the only Greek athlete to win at the games and was hailed as a national hero.
"It is hard to believe that such a small trophy represents so much in sporting and Olympic history," Christie's said after the sale was announced.
The auctioneer said that the cup was bought by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, established by the eponymous Greek shipping tycoon. The plan is to have it for public display at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens, due to be completed in 2015.
Other Olympic items sold Wednesday included a vintage poster advertising travel to the first London Olympics in 1908 and an Olympic torch from the 1948 Games, also held in London.