Philip Barker

Paris 2024 made sure of the headlines when they announced they wanted breakdancing on their shortlist of preferred sports.

The Organising Committee have proposed its inclusion along with surfing, sport climbing and skateboarding. They claim the move "has met with widespread approval among French people". 

An opinion poll "showed how willing French people are to play a more active role in the Games and to see their country stage Games that are both spectacular and youth-oriented", it is claimed.

At the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires last year, the dance competition was known as "breaking". It was described as "a unique sport that embodies music and expression".

There were three medals on offer.

The dancers used nicknames during competition so the ''B Girls'' gold went to "Ram", also known as Ramu Kawai of Kanagawa in Japan. "Bumblebee" became the ''B Boys'' champion. At home in the Russian town of Voronezh he is known as Sergei Chernyshev.

If the sport does get the nod, the requirements of record keeping and doping tests may mean that the nicknames do not make it to the dance floor.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will have the final say on the Paris proposals, but throughout the history of the Games, the sporting programme has always been fiercely debated.

In 2024 it will be exactly a century since the Games were last held in the French capital. It is a city with special resonance for the Olympic Movement. The French nobleman Baron Pierre de Coubertin was born at Rue Oudinot in the seventh arrondissement and the decision to revive the Olympic Games was made at the Sorbonne in 1894.

In 1900, Paris became the second city to host the Games, albeit in conjunction with the Paris Exposition. There were many sporting events but to this day arguments still rage over just what constituted part of the Olympic programme.

Breakdancing is in line for Paris 2024 after appearing at Buenos Aires 2018 ©Getty Images
Breakdancing is in line for Paris 2024 after appearing at Buenos Aires 2018 ©Getty Images

Some conventional sports came with a twist. Aquatics in 1900 included underwater swimming and an obstacle race.

These were held on the River Seine. The crowds also flocked to the riverbanks to watch the rowing which made its debut at these Games. Rowing had been scheduled in 1896 but bad weather forced its cancellation.

Athletics included tug of war. Also on the programme were standing long jump, high jump and triple jump. These were won by the prolific Ray Ewry of the United States.

There was one very important innovation. Women were permitted to compete for the first time although only 23 did so.

Sailing made its Olympic debut and can claim the first female competitor. Helene, Comtesse de Pourtales, was a crew member for the Swiss yacht Lerina alongside her husband Hermann and cousin Bernard. The Countess is generally considered to be the first female medallist.

Tennis had been included in 1896 and returned with an expanded programme which included a ladies' singles event and mixed doubles.

Charlotte Cooper was well known. She had already won Wimbledon three times by the time she came to Paris.

"It was Cooper who easily won the ladies' championships," said the official report. She beat Helene Prevost of France in straight sets.

In the mixed doubles she teamed up with Reggie Doherty, another celebrated player of the era.

The competition included 13-year-old Katie Gillou of France who went on to win the French Championships - now the French Open - on four occasions.

Golf also had competition for men and women.

Charles Sands from New York won the men's competition played over two rounds.

The women's event was over nine holes and won by Chicago socialite Margaret Abbott. She told reporters she had won because "all the French girls apparently misunderstood the nature of the game and turned up to play in high heels and tight skirts".

There was also croquet, the only time it has been included in the Games.

Jeanne Marie Henriette Filleul-Brohy joined her brother Marcel Haentjens, Marie Ohier and a Madame Despres, the wife of Andre Despres, who was President of the French Croquet Association.

The most successful player was 15-year-old Gaston Aumoitte, the son of a French official in the diplomatic service.

It might come as a surprise to find that cricket was on the programme. There was to have been a four-team tournament with France, Great Britain, Belgium and The Netherlands.

Rugby taking place at the Paris 1924 Olympic Games ©Getty Images
Rugby taking place at the Paris 1924 Olympic Games ©Getty Images

The Dutch and Belgians withdrew but the match between the French and England took place in the centre field of the Velodrome de Vincennes.

A team from Blundell's school and Castle Cary Cricket Club won a 12-a-side match played over two days against a French team made up mostly of expatriate workers who were members of the Standard Athletic Club.

On the same field, football was part of the Games for the first time. The German and Swiss teams both withdrew leaving three sides remaining.

The French, represented by Club Francais, lost 4-0 against Upton Park from London, described as an "English team of honourable strength".

The French did win their other match against a team recruited from university players by Georges Pelgrims, captain of Leopold Football Club de Bruxelles. The French won 6-2. 

"The Belgians had little time to train and there was no cohesion between players," it was reported. "Many of them were meeting for the first time."

In October, rugby union also made its debut at the Games. Not sevens as today, but 15-a-side.

Organisers claimed it was "the event which was most successful from the point of view of the public".

The French beat Eintracht Frankfurt in the opening match.

Moseley Rugby club, written in the official report as "Mooseley" Wanderers, came from the outskirts of Birmingham. They had journeyed through the night and arrived in Paris at 6am on match day. 

Perhaps it was little surprise that they were not at their best and lost to the French team 27-8.

"The general opinion was that it was one of the best matches seen in France," said Tous les Sports with some generosity.

Horses also took part in the Olympics for the first time. There was a mixed jumping competition, a four-in-hand carriage driving event and long and high jump competitions.

Louis Napoleon Murat, great nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, won the "Hacks and Hunters" which saw riders perform over trot, canter and hand gallop. It was on the programme for the only time in 1900, although dressage and other equestrian events were later introduced.

Italian Elvira Guerra on Libertin was one of the two female riders taking part. Her uncle Alessandro was a circus owner. He had promoted a show appropriately called the "Cirque Olympique".

Polo was also included at the 1900 Games. It was won by the Foxhunters of Hurlingham.

In archery there were seven events, all for men and the most successful archers were Hubert Van Innis of Belgium and the Frenchman Henri Herouin.

Pelota Basque appeared in 1924 as a demonstration sport ©Getty Images
Pelota Basque appeared in 1924 as a demonstration sport ©Getty Images

Baseball was also included. A single match was played between two American teams but the names of the individual players remain unknown.

In addition there were some 18 demonstration events. These included ballooning.

Pelota had been scheduled but one of the teams scratched. As there was only one other pair, it made competition impossible. The sport did reappear when the Games returned to Paris in 1924.

At their meeting in Lausanne in 1921, it had been decided that an Organising Committee might organise "demonstrations of two sports which are not on the programme". In some ways the idea was very similar to the concept of Agenda 2020.

One of these was to be a "national sport". Pelota Basque was selected. The matches were played in a specially built arena at Billancourt. The competitors wore traditional white uniforms.

This time, Spanish and French teams gave demonstrations in bare hand and with a "chistera".

It proved popular and some 2,300 spectators made their way to watch. The top price tickets were 20 francs and over a third took advantage of the cheapest, priced at five francs.

"These four days of competition were followed with a lively interest," said the official report of the Games.

Later, it was decided to add a second national sport. Savate, or "boxe Francaise", a type of kick boxing, was demonstrated by some of the masters of the sport. They also showed the variant "canne" which used sticks.

The regulations also allowed "a sport that was foreign to the organising country".

For this, the French Olympic Committee invited the Canadians to give a demonstration of canoeing.

Participants came from Toronto and Montreal. Some Americans also came over from the Washington canoe club. Over three days, they demonstrated racing in single, double and four-men canoes.

In little more than a decade, canoeing became a full medal sport at the Games.

There was also a day of Jeux D’enfance or Childrens' Games.

Female tennis players in action at Paris 2024
Female tennis players in action at Paris 2024 

"There were plans to allow the YMCA to organise sports demonstrations at these Games," wrote Frantz Reichel, secretary to the Paris 1924 Organising Committee.

An American army man called Louis Schroeder was put in charge.

"He succeeded in arranging a remarkable ensemble of demonstrations, notable for their diversity and ingenious combinations," said an admiring official.

Basketball, baseball and volleyball were all introduced, long before they became part of the Olympics.

The official 1924 sports programme had started to resemble the line-up seen today but in athletics, there was still no place for women. Boxing, football, gymnastics, hockey, rowing, wrestling and weightlifting were strictly for the men.

Women's fencing was introduced in 1924 but only the foil was contested.