1904: The Worst Olympics Ever

By Grace Taylor
Full-length portrait of Felix Carvajal de Soto, Cuban athlete, who competed in the marathon, standing on the track of an athletic field in St. Louis, Missouri, during the 1904 Olympic Games. (Getty Images)

Not every Olympics is a hit, but the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis, Missouri really won the gold when it came to the worst games ever. To be fair, the Olympics as we know them today were brand new, as the International Olympic Committee (I.O.C.) wasn't established until 1896, and the 1904 games were only the third held since the end of the ancient Olympics in the fourth century. Still, the hilarious catastrophe of the sporting event seems like it could have been pretty easily avoided with basic planning and some plain old common sense.

Off To A Bad Start

Originally, the 1904 games were to be held in Chicago, but organizers of the World's Fair in St. Louis worried the sporting event would steal attendance from their exhibitions. The World's Fair was a significantly more popular attraction at the time, but insecurity got the best of the Gateway to the West, and soon enough, St. Louis decided to host its own sporting championship, the Amateur Athletics Union, to lure sports enthusiasts away from Chicago. The I.O.C. threw in the towel pretty quickly and just gave St. Louis the Olympics for fear of no one showing up. A meager 12 countries even bothered to send athletes to the event, so the vast majority of competitors were from the United States or Canada, and the audience was likewise lacking. The competitions drew on for a staggering five months due to location and organization failures.

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