This Day In History: May 4

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On May 4, 1924, more than two decades after Paris hosted its first Olympic Games in 1900, the French capital launches its sophomore Olympics, becoming the first city to host the Games twice. The 1924 Paris Olympics, the seventh occurrence of the modern Olympic Games, signals the acceptance of the elite international sporting competition as a major, global event with worldwide appeal.

The 1924 Paris Olympics—held in the City of Lights as a tribute to Pierre, baron de Coubertin, the retiring president of the International Olympic Committee—drew 44 participating countries, a big increase over the previous 29. More than 1,000 journalists from around the world covered the Games, in which 3,088 athletes competed in 126 events. This was the first Olympics that featured women’s fencing.

Notable athletes at the 1924 Games include American swimmer Johnny Weissmuller, who won three gold medals and one bronze, and went on to win two more golds in 1928; Weissmuller later starred as Tarzan in movies. Finnish runner Paavo Nurmi won an historic five gold medals. American Helen Wills won gold medals in singles and doubles tennis events; tennis was later dropped from the OIympics and did not return until 1988. American Richard Norris Williams, a tennis player who survived the sinking of the Titanic in 1912—and barely missed having his legs amputated—won mixed doubles gold.

The 1924 Paris Olympics—which ran May 4 to July 27—became famous in pop culture decades later, as the subject of the 1981 movie Chariots of Fire. The movie is based on the true story of British runners Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams.

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