THE IInd OLYMPIAD
May 20 -
October 28, 1900
Mascot - none
(incl. RUS, CUB, IND)
1066 athletes (19 women) - 884 from France alone
17 sports, 88 events
Opening - none
Torch lit by -
Assigned by Pierre
Along with his compatriot Alvin
Kraenzlein, John Tewksbury dominated the sprint on the track at the
Racing Club of France. The tall American won the 400m hurdles and 200m
titles as well as picking up silver medals in the 60m and 100m. He
completed his medal haul with a bronze medal in the 200m hurdles.
The year of the International
Dreaming of a huge festival in his
own country, baron Pierre de Coubertin appeared disappointed in 1900 by
the second Games, of which he had taken over the responsibility in Paris
in spite of Greece's insistence for a permanent site in Athens.
Coubertin was resented by many chauvinistic French sports officials
because of his international outlook and because of what was seen as his
desire to import English ideas about education into the country. As a
result, the 1900 Games almost didn't happen and, when they did happen,
they were very poorly organized.
Progress began only after
Coubertin resigned from the Union of French Athletic Associations (USFSA)
in 1899. The USFSA then decided to hold the Olympics in conjunction with
the Universal Paris Exhibition of 1900. That led to some absurdities,
such as the fencing competition being held as a sort of sideshow in the
exhibition's cutlery area.
That year, Paris was preoccupied with the International Exhibition, of
which the Eiffel Tower had been the showpiece. Whilst the baron wanted
to use this event as a springboard, it proved more of a hindrance. With
no opening or closing ceremonies the Games were spread out between May
20 and October 28, in indifference and confusion, to the four corners of
the capital. De Coubertin would say later: "It's a miracle the Olympic movement survived these Games".
Because there were other sporting
events held in connection with the exposition, there was a great deal of
confusion about which were Olympic contests and which weren't. Some
athletes didn't even know they were taking part in the Olympics, while
others thought they were in the Olympics when they really weren't.
Despite all the confusion, 1,330 athletes, including 11 women, competed
in 1900, representing 22 countries, according to the official IOC
numbers, which have been revised several times. Competing in makeshift
venues, they took part in 17 (18 disciplines) different sports. Some of these were open to women, notably tennis and golf. England's
Charlotte Cooper became the first woman champion when winning both
singles and doubles in the tennis tournament.
Swimming, wrestling, and
weightlifting were dropped from the program and gymnastics was reduced
to a single event, the all-around competition, while shooting was
replaced by archery. Cricket, croquet, equestrian events, golf, rowing,
rugby, soccer, tennis, and water polo were added, though several of
those sports disappeared from the Olympics almost immediately.
As an example of the confusion,
Margaret Abbott of the United States won a nine-hole golf tournament,
which she entered as a lark. She is now on record as the first woman
ever to win a gold medal but she died in 1955 without knowing it.
Another problem was that the
French staged some events on Sunday, when a number of American athletes
refused to compete because they believed in honoring the Lord's Day,
including both entrants in the 1500-meter run and the country's Prix des
Nations equestrian team.
The star of these Games was America's Alvin Kraenzlein, who excelled on
the athletics track. In winning four individual titles in the course of
one Games he was to set an unprecedented Olympic standard. Kraenzlein
collected gold in the long jump, 60m, and both the 110m and 200m
hurdles. Ray Ewry of the U. S. won three now-obsolete events, the
standing high jump, standing broad jump, and standing triple jump.
Irving Baxter won an unusual double, in the high jump and pole vault,
and Walter Tewksbury won gold medals in the 200-meter dash and the
400-meter hurdles. All told, the United States won 17 of the 23 track
and field events.
Yet, as in Athens, the locals laid down the law, walking away with 96
titles, (26 gold medals). But, with help from athletes such as
Kraenzlein, it was the Americans who dominated the athletics events. In spite of the Republic's president, M
Loubert, being present at a
number of events, these Games were neither grand nor striking. They wound up as they had started, with little panache and the hope that
St Louis would stage them in 1904.