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Athens 2004

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If Paris was bad, the next Games were awful. Once again they were staged in the shadow of another event, this time the World's Fair in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase.

Most European countries and even Coubertin did not turn up to an event unsurprisingly dominated by the Americans during a Games which stretched out over 4-1/2 months.

Archie Hahn, "The Milwaukee Meteor", won gold in the 60, 100 and 200 metres dashes and gymnast George Eyser won six medals even though his left leg was made of wood.

The marathon was again controversial with Thomas Hicks getting the gold medal when it was discovered that his American team mate Fred Lorz had covered most of the distance in a car.

The most distasteful aspect of the Games was "Anthropology Days", where representatives of the so-called "uncivilised tribes", including pygmies and Sioux, competed against each other in mud-fighting and a tug-of-war.



** The IIIrd Olympic Games of 1904 was originally allotted to Chicago but at the request of US President Theodore Roosevelt, also president of the US Olympic Committee, the venue was changed to St Louis to coincide with the World's Fair.

** The Americans had failed on its promise to supply a ship to visit all the European ports to gather competitors for the 1904 Games.

** As it happened in the previous Olympic Games in 1900, there were very few overseas entrant for the 1904 edition. Even Baron de Coubertin did not attend!

** Eighty-five percent of the competitors for the 1904 Games were from the host nation and not surpris ingly they won 84% of the medals.

** The main diet for the athletes at the 1904 Games was the buffalo meat, which was so unpalatable for the Europeans that they survived largely on boiled potatoes and milk.

** The 1904 Games were the first at which gold, silver and bronze medals were actually awarded for first, second and third place.

** The cycling events in the 1904 Games had no foreign entrants and it was a straight fight between the cyclists from the host country.

** The swimming events in the 1904 Games was held in an asymmetrical lake, which made it impossible for the competitors to keep to their lanes.

** In the 400m track of the 1904 Games race no heats were held and all the 13 entrants ran in the final.

** The rowing events for the 1904 Games were held in 1.5 mile course which entailed making a turn.

** Lentauw from South Africa, a Zulu in St Louis as part of a World's Fair exhibit, became the first black African to take part in the Olympic Games when he finished in the ninth place in the 1904 marathon.

** In the track and field programme of the 1904 Games only two events went to non-Armericans.

** Americans Joseph Stadler (silver medal in standing high jump) and George Poage (bronze medals in the 200m and 400m hurdles) during the 1904 Games became the first black men to win medals in the Olympics.

** In the 1904 marathon American Fred Lorz who was the first to reach the finishing line had actually received a lift in a car. Although he later claimed it as a joke, he was banned for life.

** Thomas Hicks who was awarded the marathon gold in 1904 when fellow American Fred Lorz was disqualified, finished the race in a daze due to being administered strychnine by his handlers as a stimulant - a practice then common and allowable.

** Samuel Duvall, who won the silver medal for archery in the 1904 Games remains at 68 years 194 days the oldest American Olympic medallist of all time.

** American Frank Kungler, who won a silver in wrestling, a bronze in tug-of-war, and two bronzes in weightlifting in 1904, became the only Olympian to win medals at three different sports at a single Games.

** American gymnast George Eyser, who won three gold medals, two silvers and one bronze in the 1904 Games had a wooden leg. His left leg had been amputated after he was run over by a train.

** One of the most unusual event of the 1904 Games was the plunge for distance. Contestants dived into a swimming pool and remained motiionless for 60 seconds or until their heads broke the surface of water, whichever came first. William Dickey of the United States won the event with a plunge of 19.05 meters (62 feet 6 inches).


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