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The "Athens' National Gymnasium I. Fokianos" was founded in the late 19th century and is named after Ioannis Fokianos, a former president of the gym back in 1879 and a primary introducer of PE in schools. It is located at the Zappion, opposite the Panathenaic Stadium. The indoor facilities cover an area of approximately 1000 square metres including the clubhouse, offices, locker rooms, warehouses and other ancillary spaces and open outdoor area of 3,000 square metres. The Gymnasium operates under the supervision of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports.

John Fokianos was one of the first Greek physical education coaches, writer of sports books and important personality of the Greek sports from the 1870s to the end of the century. Born in Athens in 1845, he studied at the physics faculty of the University of Athens in the 1860s. He was a student of Georgios Pagonas and Julius Henning in Municipal Gymnasium, before becoming their assistant and eventually succeeding them in 1868.  In 1875 he resigned from his post and moved to Thessalonica, where he became a physical education teacher in the schools of the Greek community of the city, which had been founded with the help of the Society for the Propagation of Greek Letters.

In 1878 Fokianos was found again in Athens. At the same time, the construction of the Central Gymnasium was completed and the following year Fokianos was appointed director. In 1879 Athens hosted the first congress of educational associations that operated within and outside the borders of the Greek state. During the congress, the introduction of physical education was discussed and, indeed, in 1880 physical education became compulsory in public education, while in 1882 the first State Physical Education School was founded.  At the same time, in the early 1880s, Fokianos was appointed superintendent of public gymnasia and published the Handbook of Gymnastics, one of the first books about sports written in Greece.

At the same time, a small group of athletes begun to develop around Fokianos, mostly patrons of Central Gymnasium, which several years later was renamed "Fokianos Gymnasium' in his honour.  It was in this space, therefore, where Fokianos created the foundations to organize the fourth Zappeian Olympiad in 1889, the sporting competitions of 1890 and the establishment of the National Sporting Club, of which he was the first chairman (1891-1896). Fokianos died suddenly, a few weeks after the end of the first modern Olympic Games.