March 9, 2012 / 3:39 PM / 5 years ago

Greece wants to hold on to first marathon trophy

The statue of Greek marathon runner Spyros Louis, gold medalist in the 1896 Olympic Games, is framed in cranes next to Athens' Olympic stadium July 8, 2002.Yiorgos Karahalis

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's Olympics Museum has pledged to ensure a trophy won by Spyros Louis in the first Olympic marathon in 1896 will stay in the country.

Louis's grandson, also called Spyros, was putting the 15-centimetre, silver cup up for auction on April 18, three months before the start of this year's London Games, auctioneers Christies announced on Thursday.

"As one of the most historic symbols of the Olympics, directly linked to the Greek sporting and cultural history, it is the duty of all of us to ensure that it remains in our country and (can) be inherited by future generations of Greeks, preserving the historic memory of one of the greatest moments in modern Greek history," said board member Voula Patoulidou via the museum website.

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 40 kms in the first modern Olympics.

His grandson said he intended to give the sale proceeds - expected to be between 150,000 and 200,000 euros ($199,100-$265,500) - to his two children.

Patoulidou is leading a campaign to secure funds through sponsorship so that the museum can bid for the cup.

"This historical object belongs to Greece and the committee will take all necessary steps to preserve this piece of our national heritage," added Patoulidou.

Louis was the only Greek athlete to win at the 14-nation 1896 Games and was hailed as a national hero.

He won the race after Edwin Flack, an Australian runner, collapsed in the final few kilometres. Louis was cheered across the line by more than 80,000 spectators at the Panatheneic Stadium.

Greece's current Olympic Stadium, used for the 2004 Games, is named after Louis.

(Editing by Clare Fallon; clare.fallon@thomsonreuters.com; +44 20 7542 7933; Reuters Messaging: clare.fallon.reuters.com@reuters.net)

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