Monday, October 20, 2008

And The Winner Is ....

More on the 194 Olympics, from the wonderful QI show

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, Missouri in the United States from July 1, 1904 to November 23, 1904, at what is now known as Francis Field on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis.

Highlights of the games include:
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 cloud:
  • 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 TswanaLen 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 State 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.

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