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St. Louis 1904 - Overview

The Games falter once more

In 1900, the Olympics in Paris played second fiddle to the World's Fair. In 1904, a similar thing happened. The U.S. Olympic Committee, following the suggestion of President Theodore Roosevelt, voted to move the 1904 Games from Chicago to St. Louis after the organization of another international exhibition, the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition. The Games took place from July 1 to Nov. 23.

But the mix of the events produced another organizational disaster.

Sparse participation

Only about 650 athletes from only a dozen countries competed in St. Louis, and about 580 of them were Americans. The long Atlantic Ocean crossing discouraged many teams from showing up.

But the Americans who made the journey watched their fellow citizens win about 85 percent of the medals.

St. Louis produced a local hero -- Archie Hahn, who won three medals (in the 60 meters, 100 meters and 200 meters) in track and field events.

But a scandal erupted: The winner of the marathon, American Fred Lorz, was disqualified for accepting a ride in a car during the race. Initially, he was hailed a true hero at the finish. But Alice Roosevelt, the president's daughter, had photographed his ride, and he was later disqualified. Fellow American Thomas Hicks received the gold, even though he also was aided by two shots of strychnine and several glasses of cognac. At that time, anti-doping controls were nonexistent.

For the first time, winners received gold medals. Americans won the majority, winning 78 gold and 239 medals in total.

But, as in Paris, the Olympic Games did not really come to life. Too many categories were too spread out, and there were too many other attractions at the Louisiana Purchase Exhibition. Only about 2,000 spectators watched the actual sporting events.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.

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