- Participating nations: 24
- Number of athletes: 1,225 (1,206 men - 19 women)
- Time of year: May 14 - October 28
- Number of events: 86
In Paris the success of the Olympic Games in Athens would surely be repeated. After all, we´re now on Pierre de Coubertin´s home court. A world fair in Paris had been planned for the same year, and Coubertin´s previous experiences of cooperating with the organizers of the world fair were good. After various problems, the original organization committee was dismissed and the organizers of the world fair were left in charge of the Games. This decision was not in line with Coubertin´s conviction, but he really had no choice if he wanted to prevent a drawn-out battle. After the Games were over, Coubertin said that he regretted not taking that battle and letting the Games be organized by its own committee.
All this led to Olympic Games that were very spread out over time (May 14 - October 28), and it is difficult to determine which events were specifically Olympic, separate from the activities of the world fair.
But it is estimated that the Paris Games consisted of 85 events in 18 sports, twice as many as during the Athens Games. Two of the events were open to women - tennis and golf.
Sweden was better preparedThe Swedes, and Viktor Balck in particular, were better prepared this time. Balck had founded the Central Organization for the Promotion of Sports in 1897, and it took on the functions of a national Olympic Committee. Balck was hoping for a team of 92 men, and he estimated that the trip, including room and board, would cost 270 crowns per person.
The Swedish participation would cost 25,000 crowns, and half of this amount came out of the national budget. The rest of the money came from collections. At the end of May, Balck traveled to Paris as the head of a team of 56 athletes. Their only reason for going was to take part in the show of the Games; they were not entering any competitions.
The track and field competition started on July 14, the French national day. It was extremely hot - 38° C (100° F)!
The Swedes had a hard time dealing with the heat. The fact that they had arrived only two days before the first day of competitions was also a problem.
Some of the Swedish results, when looking at how the Swedish athletes placed, did not reflect the real effort involved because they had been made on a Sunday!
This was because the Americans refused to compete on Sundays, for religious reasons. After discussing the matter at length, the organizers, who were under pressure from the British, decided that competitions could also be held on Sundays.
In the tug-of-war competition, the only countries who had signed up for it in advance were the United States and France. Sweden wanted to enter a late application, but there were not enough strong men on the team. The Swedes then wanted to strengthen their team by adding a few men from the Danish Olympic team. After talking it over for a while, the two countries decided that the combined team should consist of three Swedes and three Danes.
When the tug-of-war competition was about to start, it happened to coincide with the hammer throw final. The United States had three men from the tug-of-war team in the hammer throw final and decided to drop out of the tug-of-war competition. Suddenly, Sweden/Denmark was matched up with France in a final, a match Sweden/Denmark won fairly easily.
The First Hooligans in History?Later that day, following the hammer throw final, the American team challenged the Swedish/Danish team. The Americans won the first round, but were very close to losing the second when suddenly some American spectators came to the rescue. The whole thing almost turned into a full-blown fight, but it was possible to separate the two sides in time. The match wasn´t completed, and we see here a first seed of today´s widespread problems with hooliganism.
A clipping from “Ny Tidning för Idrott" (The New Magazine for Sports) describes the situation:
“Now followed an incredible intermezzo, which almost developed into a public fight. The officials stepped in and put an end to the disturbing scene".
Today, one automatically assumes that Olympic marathons were taken for granted at this time. But that was not the case in Paris at the turn of the last century. The Swedes didn´t hear about the marathon until two weeks before it was scheduled to take place. Despite very little time to prepare, Sweden entered two runners, Ernst Fast and Johan F Nyström. The lingering heat wave in Paris was a problem for Nyström who was unable to make the adjustment, he had also become sick with stomach flu. He had to drop out of the race after only a few laps in the stadium.
The winner was French runner Michel Théato whose time was 2.59.55. Many say that the French victory was due to the fact that not only the winner, but several of his countrymen as well, took some short cuts along the poorly indicated track.
The marathon runners each had a guide riding a bicycle to make sure that they stayed on the right track. Unfortunately, they often didn´t know the way either. That´s what happened to Ernst Fast whose guide had to stop several times to ask the local population for directions. With five kilometers to go, it was all over for Fast. Neither he, nor his guide knew the way. At that point, Fast actually thought he was in the lead. When he realized that they were lost, he got so upset that threw himself in a ditch, ready to give up. It took the guide a long time to persuade Fast to finish the race. We don´t know how long he was in the ditch or how much time he lost because of the badly marked course and the guide´s lack of knowledge of the local area. He crossed the finish line forty minutes after the winner, which means that he probably would not have won the race anyway. But you never know. If the French hadn´t made all those short cuts, and Fast hadn´t had such a hard time, who knows what could have happened?