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The 1904 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the III Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event which was celebrated in St. Louis, Missourimarker, in the United Statesmarker from July 1, 1904 to November 23, 1904, at what is now known as Francis Fieldmarker on the campus of Washington University in St. Louismarker.


The city of Chicagomarker had won the original bid to host the 1904 Summer Olympics, but the organizers of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis would not accept another international event in the same time frame.

The exposition organization began to plan for its own sports activities, informing the Chicago OCOG that its own international sports events intended to eclipse the Olympic Games unless they were moved to St. Louis. Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic movement, gave in and awarded the games to St. Louis.

The Games

St. Louis organizers repeated the mistakes made at the 1900 Summer Olympics in Parismarker. Competitions were reduced to a side-show of the World's Fair and were lost in the chaos of other, more popular cultural exhibits. David Francis, the President of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, declined to invite anybody else to open the Games and, on July 1 did so himself in a scaled-down short and humdrum "ceremony".

Officially, the games lasted for four and a half months; in fact, James Edward Sullivan tried to hold an event every day for the duration of the fair. The Olympic caliber events were again mixed with other sporting events, but whereas Paris hardly ever mentioned them, Sullivan called all his sports events "Olympic." The IOCmarker later declared that 94 of these events were Olympic.

The participants totaled 651 athletes - 645 men and 6 women representing 12 countries. However, only 42 events (less than half) actually included athletes who were not from the United States. The actual athletics events that formed the bulk of the recognized Olympic sports were held from Monday, August 29 to Saturday, September 3.


Felix Carvajal on his way / St. Louis Olympic's Marathon
  • European tension caused by the Russo-Japanese War and the difficulty of getting to St. Louis kept many of the world's top athletes away.
  • In a number of sports, because there were no competitors from other nations, the U.S. national championship was combined with the Olympic championship (and other events such as a local YMCA swim competition).
  • Boxing, dumbbells, freestyle wrestling, and the decathlon made their debuts.
  • 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.
  • Chicago runner Jim Lightbody won the steeplechase and the 800 m and then set a world record in the 1500 m.
  • Harry Hillman won both the 200 m and 400 m hurdles and also the flat 400 m.
  • Sprinter Archie Hahn was champion in the 60 m, 100 m and 200 m. In this last race, he set an Olympic record in 21.6, a record that stood for 28 years.
  • In the discus, after American Martin Sheridan had thrown exactly the same distance as his compatriot, Ralph Rose (39.28 m), the judges gave them both an extra throw to decide the winner. Sheridan won the decider and claimed the gold medal.
  • Ray Ewry again won all three standing jumps.
  • The marathon was the most bizarre event of the Games. It was run in brutally hot weather, over dusty roads, with horses and automobiles clearing the way and creating dust clouds.
    • The first to arrive was Frederick Lorz, who actually was just trotting back to the finish line to retrieve his clothes, after dropping out after nine miles. When the officials thought he had won the race, Lorz played along with his practical joke until he was found out shortly after the medal ceremony and was banned for a year by the AAU for this stunt, later winning the 1905 Boston Marathon.
    • Thomas Hicks (a Briton running for the United States) was the first to cross the finish-line legally, after having received several doses of strychnine sulfate mixed with brandy from his trainers. He was supported by his trainers when he crossed the finish, but is still considered the winner. Hicks had to be carried off the track, and possibly would have died in the stadium, had he not been treated by several doctors.
    • A Cuban postman named Felix Carbajal joined the marathon. He had to run in street clothes that he cut around the legs to make them look like shorts. He stopped off in an orchard en route to have a snack on some apples, which turned out to be rotten. The rotten apples caused him to have to lie down and take a nap. Despite falling ill to apples he finished in fourth place.
    • The marathon included the first two black Africans to compete in the Olympics; two Tswana tribesmen named Len Tau (real name: Len Taunyane) and Yamasani (real name: Jan Mashiani). But they weren't there to compete in the Olympics, they were actually the sideshow. They had been brought over by the exposition as part of the Boer War exhibit (both were really students from Orange Free Statemarker in South Africa, but this fact was not made known to the public). Len Tau finished ninth and Yamasani came in twelfth. This was a disappointment, as many observers were sure Len Tau could have done better if he had not been chased nearly a mile off course by aggressive dogs.
  • The top foreign athlete was Emil Rausch of Germanymarker, who won three swimming events.
  • Zoltan Halmay of Hungarymarker and Charles Daniels of the United States each won two swimming gold medals.
  • Galt Football Club from Canadamarker won the gold medal in football.
  • The organizers of the games held "Anthropology Days" on August 12 and 13. Various indigenous men from around the world, who were at the World's Fair as part of the exhibits, competed in various events for anthropologists to see how they compared to the white man.


18 disciplines, comprising 16 sports, were part of the Olympic program in 1904.

Participating nations

Athletes from only twelve nations competed in St. Louis. Numbers in parentheses indicate the number of known competitors for each nation.

Medal count

The Silver Medal of the games for the 800m run.
1 (host nation) 78 82 79 239
2 4 4 5 13
3 4 2 3 9
4 4 1 1 6
5 2 1 1 4
6 1 1 0 2
1 1 0 2
8 1 0 1 2
1 0 1 2
10 0 0 1 1


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