The Year Ballooning Was an Olympic Event
NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM
Posted on Jul 28, 2021
By: Elizabeth BorjaMelissa A. N. Keiser
Postponed a year due to the coronavirus, the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics are finally here. Four brand new sports have been added to the schedule—surfing, sport climbing, skateboarding, and karate—and men’s baseball and women’s softball have returned. Some sports have added new events, such as 3×3 basketball. These are a far cry from the unusual events featured in the 1900 Olympic Games, held in Paris as part of the Exposition Universelle (World’s Fair), which, in addition to the standard wrestling, swimming, track and field, etc., included automobile racing, motorboating, fireman’s drills, and carrier pigeons. 1900 was also the only year in which ballooning was an official event.
Some Olympic historians argue that there could be a case made for not counting 1900 as an Olympic games at all. The first of the “modern Olympics” was held in 1896 in Athens, organized by Pierre de Coubertin and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The 1900 event was officially titled “Concours Internationaux d’Exercices Physiques et de Sports” and was planned by Daniel Merillon, the president of the French Shooting Federation, not the IOC—so it could be argued that 1900 was not an IOC-sanctioned games. It has been reported that approximately 1200 athletes (notably, 11 or 12 women competed for the first time) from 22 nations participated in the games. Fifty-three athletes traveled from the United States, according to the Director of Sports.
Story credit: NATIONAL AIR AND SPACE MUSEUM; https://airandspace.si.edu/stories/editorial/year-ballooning-was-olympic-event