It happened today - April 22, 2016
As you know, the Olympics have rather overblown ambitions to unite the human race. In a pointless quarrel of the sort we specialize in, as often as not. Including this business of the “intercalated” games to be held in Athens in between the traveling familiar four-year spectacle.
Oh. You didn’t know that? Well, neither did I. But it turns out that the organizer of the original Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, had wanted them to be held in Paris in 1900. Not because France had any claim to the original but because he was, you know, French. Instead the organizers decided to put them in Greece just because it had invented the whole idea or something.
So Coubertin decided they should not be fixed in one place where they could get experienced, have permanent facilities etc. Instead they should move around so nations could bicker over glory, celebrate the Aryan race except the bit where the black guy won the race and so forth.
Curiously, many years later I independently hit upon the idea of parking them in Greece instead of moving them around. It went nowhere that time either. But back in Victorian times, as a compromise, Greece was meant to hold them in the even-numbered years between the traveling road show. They weren’t able to get geared up for 1902 so they did it in 1906.
Those 1906 Games in Athens were quite a hit. They weren’t agonizingly protracted or overshadowed by other events like, say, the 1900 Games in Paris. They added the javelin throw and the pentathlon and as noted had the first separate opening ceremony, including King Georgios I doing the honours, athletes entering as national teams behind their flags and a big crowd. No dopey mascot as far as I know, though.
The games saw political controversy. One Peter O’Connor of Ireland won gold in the “hop, step and jump” which is a name I certainly prefer to “triple jump” and, in protest at being on the British team, scaled the flagpole and hoisted an Irish flag, protected by Irish and American athletes and spectators. The unity of mankind is an inspiring sight.
Oh, since Canadians want to “own the podium” or something I should mention that Canadian Billy Sherring spent two months in Greece beforehand to get acclimatized and won an upset gold in the marathon, accompanied by Prince George on the final lap. And in case you’re Finnish instead of Canadian, these were Finland’s debut games, and Verver Jarvinen won the discus. But he can’t keep his medal. At least not in the official display case.
You see, the Intercalated Games sadly fizzled for some reason. They were held in 1906 and then again in never. And the medals won there are not considered real official Olympic medals. Still, we’ll always have the opening ceremony. Yay. I guess.