Monday, 31 May 2021

Week 22: Paris chosen to host the 1924 Olympics - thanks to an imaginary project!

100 years ago this week: Week 22

In the night of June 2, 1921, the International Olympic Committee voted 16 to 4 to select Paris as the organising city for the next Olympic Games, to be held in 1924. The news was not greeted with much interest in the press, with journalists perhaps aware that the city had no actual facilities or sporting culture. That would all change though in time for the Olympics...or would it?

On your marks, get set, go...


Paris will organise the next Olympic Games

The stadium, swimming pools and sporting arenas will be built at the Porte de Versailles.
This time it's certain. The International Olympic Committe, who met on Thursday evening under the presidence of the Baron de Coubertin, has attributed the organisation of the 1924 Olympic Games to France. The Netherlands will organise the 1928 games.

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When looking 100 years into the past, one of the most interesting things is the power of hindsight. Throughout the 20th century, the Olympic Games grew into a gargantuan mix of money, politics and egos, with a little bit of sport thrown in, but 100 years ago it was still a sedate and innocent get together that inspired little interest in the press. 

We know that the 1924 Games helped change this conception of the event, with the beginnings of visual media coverage and a little story telling (Johnny Weissmuller - 'Tarzan' winning three golds in the pool, the 'Chariots of Fire' rivalry between sprinters Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell on the track), but it seems Paris won the right to stage the games with a completely imaginary project.

A stadium for 100,000 spectators in Paris
Details on the bid Paris presented to the IOC - if indeed there ever was an official written bid - are difficult to come by, which is not surprising when we consider that even the announcement of the attribution struggled to make newspaper front pages. The principal sporting paper, L'Auto (forefather of today's L'Equipe) announced the news on its front page (see above), but not in the headline slot and in a purely factual manner. In other papers, you needed to turn a page or two to find mention mention of the decision, but this is where the story gets more interesting (to me at least!).

In Excelsior, the announcement is reported in the sporting news section on page 4, The paper adds that to host the Games, Paris would build a vast sporting facility at the Porte de Versailles in the south of the city, combining an athletics stadium for 100,000 spectators, a swimming complex and a separate football stadium. None of this was ever built, and seemingly never even got close to a drawing board.

The site would surely have been where the Thiers fortifications around the city stood, which were slowly being dismantled in 1921. Just a couple of years later, the Paris Expo exhibition site was built here, undoubtedly trumping a sporting facility in the budget considerations of the city, even with an Olympic Games to organise. 

Olympic venues - a recurring conundrum for Paris
In three years time, Paris will once again organise the Olympic Games, this time using an exisiting facility - the Stade de France. Having become bloated and burdonsome, the Games today seek a minimum of sustainability, with 'legacy' being the key marketing buzzword. Very little remains from the 1924 games however, which I previously investigated in a couple of posts that you can look back on here:

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