On Olympic ‘pride’ and bad statues
Lately, Washington University discovered a rekindled pride in the 1904 Olympic Games, choosing to display this pride with an obnoxiously large Olympic “Spectacular” statue. Receiving permission to associate the Olympic rings with these particular games was an exciting development considering the games themselves predated the existence of the rings as an icon. This may seem strange, as it should. Why is Wash. U. so obsessed with these games that happened so long ago that the Olympic rings never even existed? Instead of letting this strange and frankly embarrassing obsession stop with the rings, the overlords of Wash. U. decided to rename Francis Field “Francis Olympic Stadium.”
Now, before diving into how revolting and ridiculous the games were, I would like to address the field itself. It is a field. It is a field that is smaller than some high school football fields in terms of seating. Now the size of the field is fine—it is big enough and it gets the job done. However, using the term “Olympic Stadium” to describe Francis Field is just setting the little guy up for failure.
Now as far as the 1904 Olympics themselves, they were an utter disgrace. They were disgustingly racist, featuring “Anthropology Days” in which they made “natives” taken from human zoos compete against white men to see how they matched up (please check out this op-ed).
The Olympics are meant to be a gathering of the world, an international competition. The 1904 Games failed epically at this. Only 12 countries showed up. America won a whopping 238 medals with Germany in second place with a medal count of 13.
The 1904 Olympic Marathon was also strange. Athletes had to run through roads covered with inches of thick dust, dodging traffic that sprayed them with said dust. Water was only available at miles six and 12 because it was decided that this failure of an Olympics was the best time to test the effects of dehydration. Super logical. One runner’s esophagus was so coated with dust that his stomach lining ripped and he nearly bled to death. Another runner was chased for a mile of track by stray dogs. Yet another runner fell ill from bad fruit and decided to lay down and take a nap. After waking up he eventually hitched a ride in a car which he rode in till near the finish then ran across the line with an accompaniment of cheers. The winner of the race only made it through by washing rat poison down with brandy, which became the first reported drug use in the Olympics. During the race, he was given a bath and repeatedly begged for water but was only given brandy. His trainers had to pick him up and carry him over the finish line while he flailed his legs. A true Olympian.
The 1904 Olympics were not just a massive failure, but a disgusting show of racism. It is a stain on the city of St. Louis and Wash. U.’s infatuation with it is just embarrassing. The 1904 Games should not be glorified or immortalized in “Olympic Spectacular;” we should not play sports on the “Olympic Stadium.” Finally, for the love of God, do not make a common phrase out of “meet me at the rings”.