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Incredible Photos Showing What the Summer Olympics Were Like Over a Century Ago

Incredible Photos Showing What the Summer Olympics Were Like Over a Century Ago

From July 26-August 11, 2024, many countries around the world will come together to compete in the Summer Olympics in Paris, France. There’s something really inspiring about watching athletes from your country compete against many others in the hope of bringing home the gold, silver, or bronze medal. The excitement got us thinking about the past and what the Olympics looked like back then. So, we scoured the internet and found these amazing images of the Summer Olympics over a century ago.

The photos date back to the first modern Summer Olympics in 1896. During this visual journey, you’ll see images of Olympic events that no longer exist, such as the standing long jump and standing high jump. You’ll also see pictures of female athletes competing in gymnastics. Though gymnastics wasn’t an official Olympic sport back then, they still gave it their all, and you’ll see them in action. 

There are other unique images here that show Olympians engaging in events like you’ve never seen them before, like Olympic diving in a lake instead of a pool and Olympic hockey being played on the ground instead of on the ice. All in all, we think you’ll be amazed by these incredible pictures.

To find the pictures of the Summer Olympics over a century ago, 24/7 Tempo checked various sources on the internet and used historical sites, such as History.com, the International Society of Olympic Historians, Olympics.com, and more. We tried to find a variety that would really showcase how much things have changed over the years. To get an even better idea of how different things are today, check out this list of the newest summer Olympics sports.

Men’s 1500 Meters Event 100 Years Ago

Source: Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The first image of the Summer Olympics over a century ago shows several athletes from different countries, including America, India, South Africa, Belgium, Switzerland, and Britain competing in the men’s 1500 meters event. They’re all competing in the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, France. Swiss athlete Willy Scharer came in first and British athlete Douglas Lowe came in second. The victories secured both men’s position in the final.

An American Makes History

Source: Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In this photo, which took place during the Summer Olympics over a century ago, American DeHart Hubbard competes in the men’s long jump. This took place during the 1924 Olympics held in Paris, France. DeHart Hubbard won the gold medal for this performance. It was the first time in history than an African American won an Olympic medal in an individual event.

Cross Country in 1924

Source: Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This photo shows a very spirited race during the 1924 Summer Olympics. This is the men’s event where guys from around the world are going for the gold in the middle of the Colombes suburb of Paris, France. Just like today, the Olympic event is being photographed by a professional for prosperity while spectators cheer on their favorite athletes from behind the brick wall.

Women’s Doubles Tennis in 1924

Source: Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Another picture taken during the Summer Olympics in 1924 shows two fit women playing a rousing game of doubles tennis. The players are Helen Wills and Hazel Wightman. This was the final match. If it looks like the women are giving it their all, it’s because they are. The two won this match and beat British opponents Kathleen McKane and Phillis Covell. The court is located in the Stade Olympique de Colombes in Paris, France.

Opening Ceremonies of the 1924 Summer Olympics

Source: Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This photo shows us the Summer Olympics over a century ago. It’s the opening ceremonies of the 1924 Olympic events that took place in Paris, France. The group here is the Austrian team. The flag bearer leads the group. The sign at the beginning says “autriche,” which is how they spell Austria. They are waving a variant of the Roman salute.

A Winning Performance in Men’s Pole Vault

Source: Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In this photo, we see American athlete Lee Barnes compete in the men’s pole vault event during the 1924 Paris Summer Olympics. It was this year that Lee Barnes leapt 3.95 meters, which was enough to win the gold medal in the event and secure his place in history.

The Men’s 3000 Meters Steeplechase

Source: Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This action packed photo took place during the Summer Olympics over a century ago in 1924. This event is the 3000 meters steeplechase. It’s essentially an obstacle race which gets its name from horse racing. The three men are French athlete Paul Bontemps, Finnish athlete Ville Ritola, and American athlete Marvin Rick. Once the race was finished, Ritola won gold, Bontemps won bronze, and Rick ended up in fourth place.

A Young Athlete Shows Incredible Strength

Source: Photo by Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This is an image of American Ralph Hills. He previously won a bronze metal during the 1924 Summer Olympics in the event of shot put. This picture shows him continuing to prove his amazing talent at the shot put event at the England v United States International Athletics meeting.

A Balance Beam From Long Ago

Source: Photo by Topical Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This unidentified Danish gymnast is showing incredible talent as she crosses a long balance beam. This took place at the 1908 Summer Olympics in London, England. At this point, women’s gymnastics was not an official Olympic event. Instead, this gymnast and the others behind her are showing their stuff during a non-competitive event.

Athletes Compete in Bicycle Polo

Source: Photo by Topical Press/Getty Images

This image was taken during the 1908 London Olympics. Here we see athletes from the German and Irish teams going head to head in a game of bicycle polo. This wasn’t an official event in the Olympics. Instead, it was a demonstration sport to show what it would look like if it became an official event. The Irish won 3-1.

A British Weightlifter Shows His Stuff

Source: Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This photo was taken during the Summer Olympics that took place in the Netherlands in 1928. This is British Olympian Alf Baxter. It’s unclear how much he’s lifting, but he’s clearly impressing as the audience and fellow competitors who look on from the back.

Greco-Roman Wrestling

Source: Photo by Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The event known as Greco-Roman wrestling was included in the very first Summer Olympics over a century ago, which took place in 1896, and it’s been around ever since. The men in this photo are wrestling during the 1908 Summer Olympics in London. The winner of this match was Finnish wrestler Verner Weckman.

The Winner of the Standing Long Jump

Source: Photo by Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This image shows us the winner of the standing long jump event during the 1908 Summer Olympics in London. This is American athlete Ray Ewry. In the standing long jump, the athlete must stand still with their feet flat on the ground and see how far they can jump. Americans won many of the events during these long-ago Olympic events.

Practicing for the Olympics

Source: Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

While these men are in London, England are prepping to compete in the London Olympics, this is just practice. They’re getting ready to run the 100 and 200-yard sprint. Only the people in attendance know if any of them ended up winning the gold.

The Standing High Jump

Source: Photo by Topical Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This picture from the Summer Olympics over a century ago shows American athlete Frank Homes competing in the Standing high jump during the 1908 Olympics in England. In this sport, the athlete had to see how high they could jump without getting a running start. It was a difficult feat that is no longer an event in the Olympics. It was only featured from 1900 to 1912.

The Men’s Single Sculls Event in 1928

Source: Photo by Central Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This incredible image shows men competing in the men’s single sculls event during the 1928 Summer Olympics held in the Netherlands in 1928. The term “sculls” refers to the oars the men are using to propel the boats forward. The two men in the photo are American rower Ken Myers and South African rower Hendrik de Kok. Myers would go on to win the event.

Before the Marathon

Source: Photo by FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images

This image shows men from many different nations and backgrounds as they prepare to compete in the marathon during the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, Belgium. It’s wild to see so many different people coming together for the opportunity to win gold, silver, or bronze.

Women’s Competitive Archery

Source: Photo by Topical Press/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This photo, taken at the Summer Olympics over a century ago, shows various female competitors proving their skills during the women’s double National Round of the 1908 Summer Olympics in London, England. They’re dressed in their finest attire for this exciting event.

The First Olympic Village

Source: Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

If you’ve paid attention to the Summer and Winter Olympics over the years, you’ve likely heard about the Olympic Village. It’s where all of the Olympians stay while waiting to compete. This image shows the first ever Olympic Village that was set up in Paris, France during the 1924 Summer Olympics. It doesn’t look like much now, but it was a really neat addition to the famous games.

A Marathon in 1908

Source: Photo by London Stereoscopic Company/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This was the marathon that was part of the 1908 Summer Olympics in London. While athletes from around the world competed for the win, it was American John Hayes who took the victory. He completed the marathon in two hours, 55 minutes, and 18.4 seconds. At that time, it was an Olympic record.

An Epic Dive

Source: Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

In this epic image, we see a finalist competing in the diving finals at the 1912 Summer Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden. It’s unknown how well this incredible athlete did once he completed his dive, but his form looks pretty good. You’ll notice that there is no indoor swimming pool here. Instead, this Olympian is diving right into the local lake.

Throwing the Hammer

Source: Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

This image was taken during the 1908 Summer Olympics in London. The man in this picture is American Matthew McGrath, and he’s competing in the hammer throw. At this point, McGrath was the World Record holder for this sport. However, in the 1908 Olympics, he finished second to John Flanagan, a fellow American. Some Olympic sports, including the hammer throw, haven’t changed much over the years.

Gymnastics in 1908

Source: Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

This image shows a Danish female athlete performing an incredible feat on a pommel horse during the 1908 Summer Olympics in London. Though the picture looks old, most of the equipment was not too different than as it is today.

An Olympic Winner

Source: Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

This triumphant display took place during the Summer Olympics over a century ago. The man on the table is American John Hayes. He won the marathon during the 1908 Olympics in London. He was named the winner after the real first-place finisher, Dorando Pietri, was disqualified. Still, although it was a victory by default, the men were still very excited and we get to enjoy this joyous photo today.

Olympic Hockey

Source: Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

This is the British hockey team competing during the 1908 Summer Olympics in London. The British ended up winning the gold medal during the contest. It’s interesting that this form of hockey was played on the ground instead of the ice.

Ray Ewry Wins the Gold

Source: Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

This image shows a great Olympian, Ray Ewry, as he competed in the Standing High Jump event. This is where the athlete would jump as high as possible from a still, standing position. This performance won him the gold medal. Ray Ewry was a great talent. During his Olympic career, he won 10 gold medals. Most of his victories were in jumping-related events.

Stockholm Stadium

Source: Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Here we have a bird’s eye view of Stockholm Stadium. It was used during the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm. It wouldn’t be long before this stadium was full of athletes and spectators. How amazing it would be to see it in person.

Lining Up at the 1896 Olympics

Source: Photo by Getty Images

In this ancient photo, men from various different countries line up to compete in the 100 meters sprint during the very early 1896 Olympic Games in Athens. This was the first every Olympic Games during the modern era and it was a very exciting event for people around the world.

Robert Garrett Wins the Gold

Source: Getty Images / Handout /Getty Images Europe

In one of the oldest Summer Olympics pictures on this list, Olympian Robert Garrett is throwing the discus during the 1896 Olympics that were held in Athens. Garrett (an American) won the gold medal for this performance.

Dorando Pietri During the Olympic Marathon

Source: Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

This historical photo was captured during the Summer Olympics over a century ago in 1908. The athlete is Dorando Pietri, and he was competing in the marathon. He almost got to the finish line when he began to pass out. His compatriots helped him across the finish line. Technically, he was first place, but since he was helped along, he was disqualified and the winner by default was second place finisher American John Hayes.

A Grand View of the Early Olympics

Source: Photo by Getty Images

It’s amazing to look back to see the grand scale of the Olympic ceremonies going back in time. In this wonderful image, we see the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympic Games that were held in 1920 in Antwerp, Belgium. Many countries are represented here, and it’s wild to see how the world continues to come together every few years.

Opening Ceremonies in 1912

Source: Photo by Getty Images

This incredible image shows a grand view of the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics that took place in Stockholm, Sweden. The event took place in 1912, and it was only the fifth Olympic event ever. Here, we see all of thenations coming together as they introduced their athletes to the world and prepared for an epic competition.

A Gymnast at the Summer Olympics

Source: Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

This image is of a Danish gymnast who is showing incredible skills while at the 1908 Summer Olympics in London. Though her performance was impressive, remember that gymnastics was not an official event at this time. It wasn’t included as a competitive event until 1924.

Nations Unite

Source: Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In this image, we see the opening ceremonies of the 1908 London Summer Olympics. All of the nations marched through while introducing their best athletes. This image shows the Swedish and Norwegian competitors marching along. Many of them would win their events. Who knows. Many of these competitors may have been on this list of the oldest Olympic athletes in sports history.

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