The Olympic Saga in France

The great journey of the modern Olympic Games that started in Athens in 1896 continued for decades to come. However, after the initial success in 1896, the Olympics struggled. The Olympic Games in Paris (1900) and St. Louis (1904) were overshadowed by the World’s Fair exhibitions in which they were included.

The 1900 Olympics, greatly disappointed Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games. Even after the games were organized in his own country, Coubertin and International Olympic Committee (IOC) lost control on the games and the French government took over the organization of the Games. At least 1,066 athletes participated in Paris Olympics, representing 19 countries. This was an unprecedented number in the history of Olympics and gave a glimpse of the coming success of this sporting extravaganza.

It was during the Paris Olympiad that women first participated as contestants. The woman participation met with conflicts only in its proposed year. In spite of much more participation and enthusiasm in participants, Paris Olympics failed to make an impact on the progress of Olympics. Much of its credit went to the then French authorities who didn’t have any experience of organizing an event as big as the Olympics. There were problems like scheduling conflict, track problems, small grounds for events like discus and hammer throw. The swimming events were conducted in the Seine River which had an extremely strong current and so were not just tough but dangerous as well!

The St. Louis Olympics, which were held in 1904, also did not do so well. The reasons for failure were the distance of St. Louis from other parts of Europe and that it was seen as a rural area by many Europeans. This left St Louis Olympics with very less publicity, and so only 681 athletes participated from 12 countries and were mostly from U.S. and Canada. No athletes represented England, France, or Sweden. The only significant contribution of 1904 Olympics was the addition of Boxing as a game.

The next Olympic was organized again in Athens, but only after a time of two years from the former Olympic Games, in 1906. These Olympics were basically organized to regain the lost reputation due to the 1900 and 1904 Olympics and also to celebrate the ten years of the start of the modern Olympics. Initially, IOC gave its recognition to these Olympics, but later withdrew it.

The 1908 Olympic Games were originally scheduled to be hosted by Rome, but were shifted to England due to eruption of Mount Vesuvius Volcano in southern Italy. The London Games were carried out in a much better fashion than its previous four versions. First time Olympics had an Opening Ceremony and the teams were made to march behind the flags of their respective countries. For the first time the Olympic creed, “the most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part” was publicly proclaimed.

The 1908 Olympics also followed establishment of standard rules for sports and judges were selected from different countries rather than just from the host country. London Games first included Winter Games which were held months after the main Olympics. During London Games, the exact distance of a marathon was established as 26 miles and 365 yards. Diving was added as an additional for this year. Approximately 2,000 athletes participated in London Olympics, representing 22 countries. The tradition of Olympics continued over the coming years with the shades of conflicts and glories. We will be with the journey!

Saurabh Sharma

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