The St. Louis Games are set against the backdrop of a much larger concurrent event, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, also known as the St. Louis World’s Fair, which featured displays and demonstrations of art, culture and technology from around the world. Despite this distraction, the St. Louis Games still produced its share of memorable Olympic champions. There is the story of the gymnast George Eyser, who won six medals in one day in spite of his wooden leg; the sprinter Archie Hahn, who won three golds and set a record in the 200 metres that would stand for 28 years; and two Tswana tribesmen, in St. Louis for the Exposition, who competed in the marathon and thus became the first black African Olympians.
The focus then turns to Athens 1906, also known as the Intercalated Games, which were held only once. The book tells the story of the American Ray Ewry, who added two golds in Athens to extend his Olympic total to eight from three Games; Billy Sherring of Canada, the unlikely winner of the marathon, who raised the money to travel to Greece at the horse races; and Peter O’Connor of Ireland, who won gold and silver competing reluctantly for Great Britain, then scaled the stadium flagpole to hoist the Irish flag.
Juan Antonio Samaranch, former President of the International Olympic Committee, called The Olympic Century, “The most comprehensive history of the Olympic games ever published”.