London Spy

Olympic history: Paris 1924

London Spy

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Poster for the 1924 Games

Baron de Coubertin succeeded in his efforts to give Paris the chance to atone for the failings of the 1900 Olympics, and the French capital responded with a successful event.

In fact the French delivered two Olympics in the same year, having already held the inaugural Winter Games at Chamonix. The significance was that such events as skating and ice hockey, which had occasionally appeared in the summer schedule, now had a home of their own.

Germany was again absent. Ireland, Romania and Poland all appeared in their own right for the first time and the Olympic motto 'Citius, Altius, Fortius' — 'Faster, Higher, Stronger' — was introduced.

These were the Games that inspired the Oscar-winning 1981 film Chariots Of Fire, which is usually viewed with a wry smile by historians who recognise artistic embellishment when they see it.

But Britain's Harold Abrahams was indeed one of the stars of the Games as the first European to win the 100m, and the devoutly religious Eric Liddell did drop out of the competition because the heats were scheduled for a Sunday. Liddell won gold in his alternative event of 400m - but he became aware of his dilemma, and made the decision to switch, well before the Games had begun.

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Harold Abrahams wins the 100m

The real stars of the Games, and of the athletics competition in particular, were the Finns. They finished second only to the United States in the medal table, and they collected 10 gold medals for track and field compared to 12 by the Americans.

Paavo Nurmi again led the way, this time winning all five of his events including the 1,500m and the 5,000m, which were held within 90 minutes of each other. The schedule was so congested that Nurmi pulled out of the 10,000m which was duly won by another Finn, Ville Ritola, who had finished second in the 5,000m. In fact it was only Edvin Wide's silver at 10,000m and bronze at 5,000m that prevented the Flying Finns from cleaning up the distance medals — and while Wide ran under the Swedish flag, he was actually born in Finland.

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Jack Beresford in the single sculls

Bob LeGendre of the United States set a world record in the long jump, but he only won the bronze medal because he did it as part of the pentathlon. Roger Ducret won three fencing golds and two silvers for France and Johnny Weissmuller became swimming's first superstar.

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Tarzan in a former life

Not content with winning freestyle gold at 100m and 400m, Weissmuller lined up in the United States relay team that took gold in the 4x200m freestyle and went on to pick up a bronze for water polo. Two more gold medals followed in 1928 but it was after his retirement from swimming that Weissmuller found real fame, as an actor who played Tarzan in 12 films.

The footballers of Uruguay won the first Olympic gold for their country in the football tournament, beating Switzerland 3—0 in the final.

The United States hadn't won a tennis medal at the Games since dominating the event as hosts in 1904, but in Paris they completed a clean sweep of the medals in what would be the sport's last appearance until a demonstration event in 1968. The Americans also won what proved to be the last rugby union event - and so they will resume as defending champions when the sevens version of the game is contested in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Top three performances

1- Paavo Nurmi (FIN) - Gold in the 1500m and 5000m, which were held within 90 minutes of each other, plus individual cross country, team cross country and team 3000m.

2- Johnny Weissmuller (USA) - Won freestyle swimming gold at 100m, 400m, 4x200m freestyle and picked up a bronze for water polo. Weissmuller went on to play Tarzan in 12 films.

3- Harold Osborn (USA) - Won gold medals in the high jump and the decathlon. His 6' 6" high jump remained the Olympic record for 12 years.

Did you know?

- The Games inspired the Oscar-winning 1981 film Chariots Of Fire - Britain's Harold Abrahams and the devoutly religious Eric Liddell both won golds.

- The Olympic motto 'Citius, Altius, Fortius' — 'Faster, Higher, Stronger' — was introduced in Paris.

- The United States won what proved to be the last rugby union event - they will resume as defending champions when sevens is played in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

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The opening ceremony

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