America's First Olympics: The St. Louis Games of 1904

By George R. Matthews | Go to book overview

Introduction

David Francis wanted the 1904 Olympic games. While governor of Missouri he had lost the 1893 World’s Fair to Chicago, and it still rankled. But now St. Louis was to host the Louisiana Purchase Exposition and Francis, president of the exposition, was determined that his fair would be the largest, most spectacular festival the world had ever witnessed. Chicago newspapers announced in February 1901 that their city would make a bid for the Olympics at the May meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Paris. A competing international event like that in any American city, but especially in the rival Midwest city of Chicago, would only detract from the St. Louis Exposition. Although not a sports fan, Francis was aware of the tremendous popularity of athletic competition in turn-of-the-century America, and was determined to make the Olympics an asset to the exposition, and not a coup for Chicago.

Francis, however, faced a small dilemma. There should really be no conflict, because the Louisiana Purchase Exposition was scheduled for 1903, and the Olympics for 1904. But Francis knew that two years’ preparation for the fair was unrealistic. He fully intended to request a year’s delay from the U.S. Congress, which had only that March granted official recognition and funding. But it would be politically embarrassing to ask for a delay just a month later, and an admission that Francis realized that two years’ preparation was inadequate even as he made the proposal to Congress. Unable, for the present, to make any public moves, Francis was still certain that the exposition would be delayed until 1904. And so, he discreetly maneuvered to secure the Olympic games for his city.

In April 1901, one month before the IOC meeting, an envoy arrived unannounced at the Paris apartment of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder and president of the IOC. Count Henri de Penaloza, a thirty-oneyear-old French national, had been living in St. Louis since 1897. His

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America's First Olympics: The St. Louis Games of 1904
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • A Tale of Two Cities 3
  • The Ghost of Plato 40
  • Transfer Accepted 93
  • St. Louis Olympian Games 113
  • Place in History 201
  • Notes 213
  • Bibliography 223
  • Index 231
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