The 1924 Olympics had been scheduled for Amsterdam, but in his final act as IOC President Pierre de Coubertin transferred the Games to Paris (despite the misgivings of many). He wanted to give his native France a chance to redeem itself after the many difficulties of the Paris 1900 Games. To everyone’s pleasure, it did.
The 1924 Games was a spectacle featuring many firsts. The Olympic motto, “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (“Swifter, Higher, Stronger”) was introduced, athletes stayed in a “village” of wooden cabins (a forerunner of the Olympic Village), and the Closing Ceremony ritual of raising three flags, the Olympic flag, the Host Nation’s flag, and the next Host Nation’s flag, was introduced.
Paris marked the arrival of the Olympic Games as a major international event. Competitors came from 44 nations, the main stadium could accommodate a crowd of 60,000, a swimming pool was especially built for competition, and 625,000 spectators and 1000 journalists attended.
The United states dominated the medal table, winning 45 gold – more than three times the 14 gold won by Finland, the second placed team.
The Paris Games are sometimes known as the “Chariots of Fire” Olympics by movie lovers. It was the gold medal wins of British athletes Harold Abrahams in the 100m and Eric Liddell in the 400m that inspired the Academy Award winning film of that name. Another Hollywood connection was American Johnny Weissmuller, who was the star swimmer of the meet, winning three gold medals, plus a bronze medal in water polo. He would later become a cinema idol, playing the role of Tarzan in a string of popular movies.
Uruguay, which was later to win the first two football World Cups, won the football gold medal – the first time it had contested the sport at the Olympics. Another special victory was by Richard Williams, who, together with his American team-mate Hazel Wightman, won the mixed doubles title in tennis. Williams had survived the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, spending hours in the freezing water before being rescued. Doctors had wanted to amputate his legs, but he recovered to become a champion.
Two Finnish giants, Paavo Nurmi and Ville Ritola, dominated the track events. Nurmi won five gold medals, an unprecedented total for a Games competitor, and Ritola four gold and two silver medals. Nurmi won the 1500m and 5000m events within two hours of each other. Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj would repeat the feat in 2004, but with days rather than hours between the two finals.