1906 Intercalated Games Helped the Olympic Games to Survive

After two less-than-stellar showings in 1900 and 1904, the Olympic Games and Pierre de Coubertin’s Olympic Movement may have been in danger, had it not been for the 1906 Intercalated Games in Athens.

The Intercalated Games was a result of a compromise between the Greek Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee. Many believed that the Olympic Games should be held in Athens each year, as Athens was the home of the early Olympic Games. De Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic Games, however, believed that the Olympic Games should tour from capital to capital, in an effort to grow popularity and support of Olympic ideals.

The solution: Athens would host an the International Olympic Games in Athens in the middle of the four-year Olympic quadrennium. The 1906 Intercalated Games, also called the Second International Olympic Games in Athens, were the last ever to be contested.

Olympic Traditions Grew From Intercalated Games

Though no longer recognized by the International Olympic Committee as an Olympic Games, the popularity of the Intercalated Games quite possibly saved the Olympics, allowing the Games to survive today. At the very least, the Intercalated Games introduced many new traditions that have become accepted parts of the current Olympic Games.

Some of these traditions included the first opening ceremonies, the first parade of nations, the first closing ceremony and the first Olympic Village. In front of the 19 countries competing, the Greek also introduced the current awards ceremony by raising flags for the winners for the first time.

American Ray Ewry dominated the Games, earning two gold medals in the only two standing jump events offered at the Intercalated Games. Paul Pilgrim won the 400m dash and 800m run, a feat which would not be accomplished again until 1976.

Held in the same stadium as the 1896 Athens Olympic Games, the 1906 Intercalated Games were their own event, lasting only 10 days. Thirteen sports, including the newly-added javelin throw and pentathlon, were contested in the Intercalated Games. In total, 19 countries earned 236 medals – none of which are recognized today as Olympic medals by the IOC.

Intercalated Games, AKA International Olympic Games in Athens

Despite the fact that the Intercalated Games are not were not an official Olympiad, most historians agree that the success of 1906 Games saved the Olympic Games and de Coubertin’s movement. In addition, because the Intercalated Games introduced so many new traditions that are continued today, these 1906 Games were the most influential of any of the early Olympiads.

“Olympic Heritage.” London 2012 Website
The Olympic Games: Athens 1896-Athens 2004, pp. 17-19. Dorling Kindersley Limited, London, 2004.