The first modern Olympics was held in Athens, Greece in 1896, and was so successful that
organizers suggested to permanently hold the Games there. But after some debate, it was
planned to hold the competition every four years in a different city.
Paris was the host for the second Olympiad in 1900, but it was a considered a failure. France deemed athletics a frivolous compared to more academic concerns such as art and literature. Hence, badly needed sports facility updates did not happen.
Olympic officials wanted to make sure than the 1904 Olympic Games would be a success. Early on, New York, Berlin, and Stockholm were the possible cities to host the Third Olympiad, but in 1900, London was considered the forerunner. During the IOC meetings in 1990, the first American city mentioned was Philadelphia. Frank Ellis was selected to promote the city on the committee. Months later the rumors started to mention Buffalo as a 1904 Olympic host.
Baron Pierre de Courbetin (the man responsible for the revival of the modern Olympic Games), announced in November 1900, that the 1904 Games would be either in New York or Chicago. Since New York City did nothing to promote their city, Chicago easy became the new forerunner.
The city of Chicago had won the original bid to host the 1904 Summer Olympics, but Fair president- David Rowland Francis wanted the St. Louis to host the Olympics. With a new state of the art facility, he and the exposition organization lobbied that if St. Louis didn't host the Olympics, they would put on a huge show of sports activities, that would eclipse the Chicago Olympic Games.
Pierre de Coubertin was put in a difficult position, he preferred the games in Chicago away from the attention of Francis' World's Fair, but the founder of the modern Olympic movement, gave in fearing that the St. Louis Exposition would draw visitors away from the Chicago Games. He was forced to award the games to St. Louis. Francis' brilliant maneuvers wrestled the Olympics from St. Louis' rival city.
Unfortunately, St. Louis organizers used the 1900 Summer Olympics in Paris as a template for the 1904 Games. Competitions were lost in the chaos of other, more popular cultural exhibits. Fair President David Francis, opened the Games and, on July 1 himself in a short, scaled-down ceremony.
The Olympics were included under the umbrella of the Fair’s Department of Physical Culture.
Though the Games organizers planned to have an event a day, the bulk of the athletics events of the recognized Olympic sports were held from on the six days from, Monday, August 29th to Saturday, September 3rd. The Olympics were held at the state of the art Francis Gym and Francis Field, which was the first concrete stadium in the U. S. (seat capacity- 35,000 spectators). Swimming events were held at the U. S. Lifesaving Lake located near the corner of Skinker and Forsyth. The gymnasium equipment was donated by sporting goods magnate Albert Spalding.
Though the St. Louis 1904 Olympics was the third `modern' Olympics held, they were a far cry from the slick political Olympics of today.
Most of the classic Olympic events were held (track, wrestling, weightlifting, swimming boxing, etc.), but there were other events such as tug-of-war, golf, bowling, cricket, and lawn tennis.
The St. Louis Olympics was the last Olympic Games where the competition centered more on individuals than on nations.
This was the first Olympics where Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals were awarded.
On a few nations outside the United States entered. American athletes comprised 500 of the 651 athletes - 645 men and 6 women representing 12 countries.
European participants had to make a transatlantic voyage plus a long train ride to Missouri to get there, and while many Europeans envisioned St. Louis as small town on the wilderness frontier, it wasn't difficult to guess that international participation was slight.
Because of the expense, many of the top atheletes (many from Euope), could not attend the 1904 Olympics.
With little poor international competition, the U.S. took most of the events including 21 of the 22 track and field events. Second-place Germany won 5 gold medals, while the U.S. won 80. However, only 42 events of the 94 included athletes who were not from the United States.
One of the most bizarre races in the history of the Olympics was the 1904 24-mile marathon that ran through St. Louis County. Despite the 90 plus degree weather, only one water stop was allowed along the way, and only 14 runners finished the race. Around the nine mile mark in the race, Fred Lorz seized up with cramps. He was picked up by a car, which broke down after traveling 11 miles. After his cramps loosened up, Lorz jogged into the stadium and, to his surprise, was hailed as the winner of the marathon. Before he was crowned with the olive wreath, the truth was discovered and the officials awarded British-born American- Thomas Hicks the victory in 3:28:53. During the race, his trainers gave him several oral doses of strychnine sulfate mixed into raw egg white (with some brandy as well), to keep him going. After the race, it took four doctor's to get Hick's into good enough shape just to leave the grounds, before he fell asleep on a trolley.
Lorz claimed that he It took four doctor's to get him in good enough shape just to leave the grounds, eventually falling asleep on a trolley. It was never meant to fool anyone- he just couldn't resist the praise and adulation of the roaring crowd. Banned for life by the AAU, Lorz was reinstated a year later and won the 1905 Boston Marathon.
The marathon included the first two Africans to compete in the Olympics- two sideshow Zulu tribesmen named Lentauw and Yamasani (who finished twelfth). Lentauw finished ninth despite being chased nearly a mile off course by a large aggressive dog.
During the marathon, an accident happened when two of the patrolling officials driving in a brand-new automobile was forced to swerve to avoid hitting one of the runners, they slid down an embankment and were severely injured.
George Coleman Poage, running for the Milwaukee Athletic Club became the first African-American athlete to win medals in a modern Olympics. He won bronze medals in the 200 and 400-meter hurdles. After the Fair, games, Poage settled in St. Louis to teach at Sumner High School.
One of the most remarkable athletes was the American gymnast George Eyser, who won six medals even though his left leg was made of wood.
At the 1904 Olympics, track competitor Martin Sheridan threw the discus
a record 133 feet and 6.5 inches. The regulation discus at the time weighted 4.5 pounds and was made of wood ringed with steel and weighted in the center with brass-covered lead.
The lowest point to the Game included- "Anthropology Days" which was held on August 12 and 13, 1904. "Costumed members of the uncivilized tribes" would compete against one another in: mud fighting, rock throwing, pole climbing, spear throwing, etc. It was nothing more than a sideshow.
In all, the 1894 Olympic Games saw 13 Olympic records and four world records broken.