Paris 1900

The chaos of 162 days

II. Olympic Summer Games
Date May 20 - October 28
Participants 25 nations
1.637 athletes
(20 women)
Sports 18
Events 87
Patron Alexandre Millerand (Secretary of Trade)
Visitors 200,000
 

After the games of Athens four years ago have been celebrated as a great success Greece liked to be now continuosly the location of the Olympic Games. But that imagination was not equal to Coubertin's one, whose goal were rotating games and the begin should be take place in the capital of his home country: Paris. Since he did not entrust his fellow countrymen to Olympic queries, the world exhibition, where new great acquisitions from the areas of science, technology and art could be marvelled, was convenient for him. The Greek king had to surcease from his idea to be the host all the time, because he had lost one year after the games the war against Turkey, and therefore the debts of his country were inflated more and more.

Coubertin has thereupon appealed the organisation of the games within the world exhibition. But discussions with the exhibition organisators and with the French president Félix Faure hisself whom Coubertin could win for the honorary presidentship on the 2. Olympic Congress in Le Havre have ended without any successes. On the one hand he had a private financier, the diplomat Charles de la Rouchefoucauld, but difficulties with the leadership of the world exhibition and with USFSA (the French sport federation, whose secretary-general Coubertin was) have still existed; an organizing committee broke down two months after its establishment in 1899.
A final committee has then been founded on the part of the general-secretary of the world exhibition in the beginning of 1899 and confirmed. For the director of the exhibition, Daniel Mérrilon, in whose eyes Coubertin was only a dreamer without any correspondence to reality, the sportsmen were only exhibitors or consumers, but for all that he became secretary-general for the sportive competitions.
The "games" begun with the first events in fencing and automotive sports on 20 May. Believe it or not, five months later they have ended with the rugby finale match between France and Germany. The Hungarian historian Ferenc Mezö whose opus "Sixty Years Olympic Games" has been decorated the Olympic Order, wrote: "Olympia played during the exhibition only an underpart; the games were considered as "add on" and therefore they were protracted in such a manner that between the first and the last competition day more than five months have elapsed." The reason for the underpart is circumscribed by an article of the German Rundschau: "The World Exhibition of Paris is the closing ceremony of the 19th century and not the celebratory opening of the 20th... it wants to give an overview about the acquistions of the lapsed century that was in its beginnings a century of philosophy, historiography and music, following it became the century of natural science, industry and commerce. The demand to show how much we have marvelously amounted to, is pushed everywhere and let us discover the seed of new and becoming only with an effort."

Eiffel Tower 1900
Eiffel Tower 1900

The II. Olympic Games of the modern era thus were demoted as an appendage of the world exhibition and had not survived the chaos that was caused by a missing leadership, after the thought was not even ten years old. For Coubertin it was a bitter defeat whereby his proud did not allow to admit that. It only owes the survival of the Olympic Idea to Greeks, Germans and Americans. Die II. Olympischen Spiele der Moderne wurden daher zu einem Anhängsel der Weltausstellung degradiert und hätten das Chaos, das vornehmlich durch eine fehlende Führung verursacht wurde, nicht überlebt, nachdem der Gedanke noch nicht einmal zehn Jahre alt war. Es war für Coubertin eine schmerzliche Niederlage, die einzugestehen sein Stolz freilich nicht zuließ. A lot of athletes have not known that the competition are about Olympic Games, but international competitions so that e.g. the Swiss shooter have first found out after many years that their wins had been Olympic. And the female golfer Margaret Abbott has never been known that she had won the Olympic golf tournament. Even in press the competitions were only called "world championships" in the most cases.

The world exhibition that ought to be marvelled by 48 million visitors, has lifted the French self-confidence whose state president Emile Loubet, successor of Faure, has solemnly evoked the harmony of peoples. This was necessary more than ever, since there were the Boer War in South Africa, the Boxer Rebellion in China and the German naval product range, Alfred von Tirpitz had changed with that the balance of power between Great Britain and Germany in favour of the Germans. For the Europeans the end of the Mahdi Rebellion in Sudan and the peace in the Spanish-American War were also farther as the independence of Cuba announced in Paris on 10 December 1899.

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Medal Tally
# Country G S B
1 France 28 42 36
2 USA 19 15 16
3 Great Britain 18 9 11
4 Belgium 7 4 5
5 Switzerland 6 1 1
6 Germany 3 2 2
7 Australia 3 0 4
8 Denmark 2 3 2
9 Italy 2 2 0
10 Netherlands 1 2 3