Site: Paris, France
Dates: May 20 - October 28
Total Athletes: 1,330
Paris, France, was the host of the second modern day Olympic Games. However,
historians were very critical of these games due to lack of organization. The
symbolism displayed in Athens four years earlier, was nearly extinguished by
the committee preparing the Games in France.
The problems arising from these Games ultimately served as a seminar on how not
to host an international event such as the Olympics. A circus-like atmosphere
permeated the Games. There was for instance, no opening or closing ceremonies.
Events were spread out over a span of six months and were so scattered that
today, it is difficult for historians to determine which events were classified
under the Olympic flag. Due to this, it is difficult for historians to
accurately determine the significance of women in these Games.
IOC President Baron Pierre de Coubertin, while promoting physical education for
girls and women, was not in favor of their public competition. As such, the IOC
never officially approved the participation of women, although the French
Exhibition authorities staged events for them anyway.
Historians are puzzled as to whether to credit Swiss Helene de Portales as the
first woman Olympic champion for her performance in yachting. Portales won the
event on May 25, some 1 ? months shy of what has been tabbed the actual start
of track and field events (July 14). Great Britain's Charlotte Cooper would
seem to have the same problem, capturing the tennis event on July 11.
Using that criteria, does the distinction of the first woman Olympic champion
go to Margaret Abbott of the United States, who captured the golf event on
October 3, although golf was never approved as an Olympic sport and would never
appear on any future Olympic program?
Ironically, these three women were totally unaware that they were participating
for a medal. These were staged as international exhibitions during the course
of the Olympics by the French committee, thereby clouding what events were to
be attributed to the Olympic Games.
Frenchman Michael Theato did not find out until 12 years later that he had won
the marathon. He was fortunate, as many athletes were never informed they were
Swimming events were held in the Seine, bereft with boats, waves, heat and
Track and Field competitions were held on the grass turf of the Racing Club de
France in the Bois de Boulogne. The disorganization led to very few
The Americans dominated track and field as they did in Athens, winning 17 of 23
gold medals, while increasing their all-time Olympic total to 26 firsts in 35
The Parisians treated the Games as an affair of state, promoting national
presitige over international and global unity. The surprise here was the
Coubertin held little influence over the direction of the games amongst his own
Coubertin attempted, with minimal success, to create a private Olympic Games
organizing committee populated with Parisian notables. Needless to say, this
was denounced swiftly from the global committee. Coubertin was forced to
disband the committee and except for the benefit of the international community
that a second modern Olympic Games had been held in France.