History of the Olympic Games


Site: Paris, France
Dates: May 4 - July 27
Nations: 45
Total Athletes: 3,092
Sports: 17

This would be the last Olympics for IOC founder and president Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who had reigned over the Games since 1896. As a honor to him and an attempt to incur his resignation, the committee awarded the 1924 Games to Paris. Paris rewarded Coubertin's faith by making up for the disaster of 1900.

Paris nearly lost its chance as host in 1923 when the French economy slipped miserably, thus putting Los Angeles on alert, that they could inherit the Olympics in 1924 should France be unable to pool its resources. That, in conjuction, with the flooding of the Seine River, only helped to aggravate an already tedious situation. Fortunately, France was able to rebound in time, thus pushing LA back to 1932.

Growth and expansion would continue as the national Olympic Committees grew to 44 and the number of participants to 3,000. Delegations were limited to one team per contest and four competitors per individual event. The committee also limited the number of medal events in an effort to standardize the sports programs.

Women participation continued to grow to 130 in great part because of the growing number of sports federations and by the overall acceptance of women and their issues during the "Roaring 20s." Unfortunately, the IOC did not share the opinion of others towards women.

Now, six years after World War I, 44 nations, 15 more than in Antwerp, turned out to participate in the Parisian Olympiad. Because of Paris' tremendous accessibility and central location, more spectators than ever before turned out to witness the events. It is believed that "scalping" got its origin at these Olympics and in particular for the Opening of the Games, which was presided over by French President Gaston Doumergue.

The Americans, who dominated certain events in previous Olympics, solidified their dominance in virtually all events. The only sports in which they struggled were cycling and gymnastics, although Frank Kriz performed well enough to earn a gold medal for the Americans, the first time it had occurred since 1904.

Johnny Weissmuller gained fame and even carried the torch of Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku, who dominated swimming in 1912 and 1920. Weismuller captured three gold medals in swimming and a bronze in water polo. He would later gain fame for his role as TARZAN in the movies.

Robert LeGendre, who set a world record in the long jump despite failing to qualify for the U.S. long jump team, was a rising star in the Games. LeGendre, participating in the penathalon, comprising the long jump, javelin, discus, and 200-and-1,500 meter runs, LeGrendre jumped 25 feet, 5 3/4inches, nearly three inches more than William Dee Hubbard of the U.S., the official long jump champion.

Benjamin Spock, who would later gain fame as author of the acclaimed bestseller The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, was the No. 7 rower in the shell that won the eight-oared shell with coxswain.

But no one stood out more than the amazing Finn, Paavo Nurmi, who solidified his place in history by winning four gold medals and actually would have won a fifth possibly had the Finns not pulled him from the 10,000-meter run. Another Finn won that event, Vilho "Ville" Ritola. Overall, the Finns earned 10 gold medals, second to only the U.S., which won 12.

France had its taste of victory when countrymen Armand Blanchonnet set a sizzling pace in cycling, winning by a lopsided time of 10 minutes, the most dominating victory in Olympic history.

There were eight world records and 25 Olympic records established on the track and in the pool.

The Games were not without its incidents. Due to the extremely high temperatures (113 degrees) or the length of the Games, partisanship reared its ugly head, no more so than during a U.S./France rugby game, which saw the Americans win. The victory sparked a riot in the stands, resulting in several injuries.

And despite the protests and pleas of the IOC, the French Government was adamant in their banishment of Germany and Austria for the 1924 Games. Consequently, this led to some ill will and some international incidents by militantly policing the visa process.

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