Olympic Marathon: A Centennial History of the Games' Most Storied Race

By Charlie Lovett | Go to book overview

2
The Games of the II Olympiad: Paris, 1900

If the victory by Spiridon Louis assured the future of the Olympics by rousing the spirits of the Greek and foreign spectators at the Athens Games, the next two Olympiads nearly succeeded in burying the movement. The Games of 1900 and 1904 were held in Paris and St. Louis respectively and in both cases they were held in conjunction with International Expositions. The events were spread out over a period of several months in both cities with little press coverage and few spectators. Many of the competitors did not even know they were competing in the Olympics. Michel Théato, the winner of the Paris marathon, received a medal in the mail twelve years later and discovered that he had won the Olympic Marathon.

By bringing the 1900 Olympic Games to Paris, Baron Pierre de Coubertin hoped to merge the country of his birth with the competition of his dreams. He envisioned a grand Olympic complex, modeled on the Greek stadium, where all the events would be held. The organizers of the Universal Exposition, however, quickly squelched Coubertin's vision, and put Daniel Merillon in charge of planning the "International Championships." From beginning to end the five-month Paris Games were poorly organized, and no race demonstrated that better than the marathon.

The marathon course began with four laps on the track of the Racing Club de France, then passed through the Bois de Boulogne, and wound through the narrow streets of Paris, near old city walls and through slums, before returning to the starting point. Despite its convoluted path, the course was poorly marked

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