St. Louis 1904 Summer Olympics

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The third olympic games took place from the 1st of July to the 23rd of November in St. Louis 1904 in the state of Missouri, USA. As in Paris four years earlier the olympics were once again chosen to be part of the world exhibition and the organisers repeated all the mistakes that were made in Paris. Again the olympic programme in St. Louis was spread out during the entire period of the exhibition. And again a number of events were introduced that had little relation to the olympic ideals and foundation. Thirdly, the olympic events in St. Louis were overshadowed by the world exhibition.

Originally the IOC had decided to award the olympics to Chicago but St. Louis was the venue for the world exhibition and the city worked very hard to make the olympics part of this programme. Among others the American president Theodore Roosevelt supported this solution and the IOC decided to go along with St. Louis as olympic host city in 1904.

Just like in Paris 1900 the olympic historians disagree on the number of olympic events in the St. Louis olympics. Among the countless competitions which took place in St. Louis 1904 the games-encyclo website list 86 events in 16 sports. In comparison to the Paris olympics there were seven new sports in the programme: Basketball, boxing, wrestling, lacrosse, roque, diving and weightlifting. On the other hand eight sports were removed from the programme: Cricket, cycling, golf, polo, equestrian, rugby, sailing and shooting.

In the St. Louis olympics began the tradition that number one, two and three in the events were awarded a medal of gold, silver and bronze respectively.

It is a long way from Europa to the USA - in 1904 before the time of air travel it was almost a four week sea voyage between the two continents. In addition to this came more transport across USA as St. Louis is located far from the coast. These circumstances refrained most of the European nations from participating in the olympics. The first African participants in the olympics, however, found their way to St. Louis to take part in the marathon, among these Yamasani, but the African athletes were just as much a part of an exhibition about the Boer War in Africa.

All in all app. 700 athletes from only 12 nations participated in the St. Louis olympics. Among these more than 500 were Americans. In about half of the events only Americans competed for the medals.

The third olympics therefore more resembled the open American championships in a number of sports than a sports meeting that should join together athletes from all over the world.

This however did not prevent big achivements in the competitions. This was especially true in the athletics events where Archie Hahn's olympic record of 21,6 sec. in the 200 m race was not bettered before the olympic games in 1932. And throwers Ralph Rose, John Flanagan and Martin Sheridan who all won gold medals in St. Louis 1904 were athletes that would later dominate the throwing events up until World War I.

The competitions were of course in general dominated by the American athletes. Americans won nearly all medals and only gave away a little more than 30 medals.

Follow this link for a detailed and interactive medal standing for St. Louis 1904.
The story about the St. Louis Olympics 1904 is based on the official Olympic reports and the Olympian Database.
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