Despite strong pressures from Greece for the exclusivity in
the rights of organizing the Games in the future, Baron de Coubertin's instigation
won over and the 1900 Olympics were voted to be held in Paris. But de Coubertin
made a serious mistake in having the Games as part of the 1900 Paris Universal
Exposition. Within this event the Games were shrunk to a mere sideshow of the
exposition. Generally there were few and not really enthusiastic spectators
who became less enthusiastic and much fewer when the '96 discus Olympic winner
dispatched the emplement, on all three throws, into the crowd!
France, the host country, appeared with a record-size team numbering 884, while the Americans were still represented by college students and a few club athletes. There was some friction created when some student athletes refused to compete on Sundays, having come from church controlled universities. A mystery that hasn't yet found a solution is that of the leader of the Dutch coxed pairs. The team won easily the gold medal but the boy that led them to the victory (some said that he was only ten years old) disappeared right after the event and he was never to be found. A detail that adds to the mystery is that his name was also erased from the official Olympics participation list...
Press coverage was barely apparent, with many events not even being mentioned and for years later there was much confusion and dispute as to the names and the nationalities of even the gold medalists. Thus, it was that the first Olympic medals won by Canada, a gold along with a bronze given to George Orton, were not discovered for some years as Orton, being an American University student, was billed as American! Even more recently it has been discovered that the marathon winner, Michel Theato, who was believed to run for France, was actually a citizen of Luxembourg. That's a mistake that France never bothered to correct. While the Athens Olympics left a pleasant taste to all, in the contrary the Paris Games had the world to wonder whether the Olympics would ever find their Ancient Greek Spirit identity...
Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos
1900 Paris Olympics: Various WebPages
Originally scheduled for Amsterdam, the Olympiad was transferred
to Paris after de Coubertin's persistence, in the hope that the dark image he
caused in 1900 could be erased.
In the Paris Games we get acquainted with the newly instituted Olympic motto CITIUS, ALTIUS, FORTIUS attributed to Father Henri Didon.
Paris Olympics give us also the first black American to win the long jump. That was William DeHart Hubbard (leap: 7.44m). The track events were dominated by the Finns with their resurgent stars Paavo Nurmi and Ville Ritola. Nurmi was the first athlete to win five gold medals in one Olympiad, a record then. Nurmi was worshipped as a semi-god in his native Finland. A statue of oversized dimensions still catches the visitor's eyes when entering the City of Helsinki. It is of Nurmi, the Finns' idol. Oddly enough Nurmi had received money to advertise a well-known milk brand. And again oddly enough the IOC did not bother, while 12 years earlier the same people voted against Jim Thorpe to retain his medals...
In 1924 Olympics we see the rise of a new swimming star. That was tall and handsome Johnny Weissmuller who collected three golds. Johnny took part and won more golds in the next Olympics also. But this time, on his return to the U.S. among the cheering fans there was also Mel Rothstein, a shrewd Hollywood scout. He approached the tall champion and gave him his card. "Call me", he said, "not later than tomorrow, I'm only in town for two days". Three years later the world was charmed by the best Tarzan that came out of Hollywood. Weissmuller acted in more than fifteen Tarzan pictures and his phrase "Me, Tarzan... You, Jane" is still quoted on several occasions.
We have another American gold winner in the Amsterdam Olympics, Benjamin Spock of the boat-race team. Years later, Spock managed to become world famous for his radical theories in his bestseller book about child behavior, a book that brought a real revolution among child psychologists, pediatricians and school teachers. His theories are still recognized today by many and his book, though not a bestseller anymore, is still on sale...
Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos
1924 Paris Olympics: Various WebPages
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