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Paris 1900 - Overview

The year of the international exhibition

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.

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".

Makeshift venues

Competing in makeshift venues around a thousand athletes from up to 20 countries 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.

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.

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, the Americans 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.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.

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