History of the Olympic Games

1900 Olympics

Site: Paris, France
Dates: May 20 - October 28
Nations: 22
Total Athletes: 1,330
Sports: 17

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 Olympic champions.

Swimming events were held in the Seine, bereft with boats, waves, heat and garbage.

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 spectators.

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 events.

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 people.

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.

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