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An Alternate History Of The Olympics: The First 7 Games

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In honour of failed bids, John Birmingham and trying to find even more stuff to chew the fat over in the forums...a little bit of what may have happened if things had run slightly differently. Most of the real historical influences hopefully are right, but this is more about exploring 'what if...':

1896: Athens (abandoned)

The first modern Olympics failed to eventuate after a split within the IOC over the demands of founder of the modern Olympic movement, Pierre de Coubertin who wanted the games to be held first in London, then reluctantly in Athens, and those IOC members who preferred Budapest, or to wait until 1900. When George Averoff rejected Greek King Constantine's plea for funding of the Panathinaiko Stadium the final financial rescue plan for the inaugural modern games collapsed and the IOC decided to wait until 1900.

1900: Paris

With the 1900 Exposition Universelle as a partner the IOC's first modern Olympics opened with great fanfare in the home country of de Coubertin. Great Britain's involvement in the second Boer War led to several countries demanding that their athletes not attend, including Germany and the Netherlands. However the boycott was not a success as most attending athletes participated as individuals. The 1900 Paris games included new official sports including cannon shooting, motor car racing and fire fighting (the last two sports continue to be part of the program whilst cannon shooting was dropped after the abandoned 1936 games.

1904: Chicago

The IOC brought the modern Olympics to the Americas in 1904, which almost failed to eventuate in the Windy City thanks to some scurrilous politicking by Louisiana Purchase Exposition chief David Francis. However US President Teddy Rooseveldt and IOC President de Coubertin negotiated a settlement that St Louis (host of the exposition) would be awarded the rights to an Olympics 'if and when the games returned to the US'. Avoiding the mistakes of Paris, these were a far shorter games, running only for one month. Non-American competitors performed brilliantly, making sure that a much feared home town domination of the games would be avoided.

1906: Athens

The so-called intercalated games, Athens 1906 was a great success. The move to make these games possible was born from the failure of the 1896 games to eventuate. One notable absentee country was Russia, who's society had fractured the previous year into civil war after defeat at the hands of the Japanese and a violent socialist revolution. Mooted plans to hold 'Panhellenic' games every 2 years after the preceding Olympics were agreed upon, and these so-called 'mini-Olympics' continued until the Greek Civil War of 1945-48.

1908: Rome

Whilst the eruption of Mount Vesuvius caused untold damage to the Italian city of Naples the year before, the financial and political costs of this disaster were not enough to stop Rome hosting the fourth Olympic games. In a controversial home town decision Italian marathon runner Dorando Pietri was awarded the marathon gold medal after his American rival Johnny Hayes was assisted over the line when near collapse by visiting British medic Arthur Conan Doyle. With the threat of an American withdrawal from the games (also prompted by Italian Carabineri wearing their police boots when in the tug of war gold medal match beat a team of US sailors wearing plimsolls) casting a pall over the Rome games King Emmanuel awarded Hayes a silver trophy at the closing of the games.

1912: Stockholm:

The Swedes hosted a successful games avoiding much of the controversy of Rome's games 4 years previous in 1912. Star performers included professional baseballer Jim Thorpe who won the decathlon, and American army officer George S Patton who won the modern pentathlon. A rather unique aspect of these games were that in the same year a so-called Winter Olympics were held in the Falun, a centre for Swedish ice and snow sports. This was initially resisted by the IOC, however the organisers of what was to have been the 1911 Nordic Games were able to persuade de Coubertin to allow skiing, ice skating, bobsled and curling into an expanded winter program after allocating monies raised for their event to the IOC. In a defeat for women's suffrage and feminists women were banned from the 1912 Games after Australian favourite for swimming gold Fanny Durack was found to have stolen the Olympic flag from the Swedish royal palace.

1916: Berlin

With the 1914 War over for 16 months (thanks to the incisive manoeuvres of the German army when it captured Paris with the so-called Von Schlieffen Plan) the 1916 Olympics proved to be a three cornered race between the host nation, the USA (who had failed to enter the war on either side) and the Unified Team of the British Kingdoms (formed after the collapse of the central British government and dissolution of the home countries when defeated by the Germans and Austrians). France, Serbia and Belgium were banned by the Berlin Olympic Committee from sending athletes, whilst the Menshevik Republic of Russia refused to acknowledge these games, holding instead a so-called Workers and Serfs Olympics, or Spartakiad as it was to be known for the 90 year history of the M.R.R.

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