The backdrop for the book is the decadent Paris of the Moulin Rouge and the Folies Bergeres, the art of Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse and Gauguin, and the revolutionary “Metro” with its now iconic Art Nouveau architecture. The Games would be contested over five months and subsumed into the 1900 Exposition Universelle, a concurrent celebration of art, culture and technology. Alongside typical events like athletics, gymnastics and swimming, The II Olympiad explores unlikely events like auto racing, ballooning and croquet that characterized the Paris Games.
In the wake of the confusion of Paris, the focus of the book shifts to the war for control that would threaten the very survival of the Games. But while the fate of the Games was in doubt, an enterprising Swedish sportsman named Viktor Gustav Balck created an event that would have long-term implications for the Olympic movement. The book concludes with a detailed look at Balck’s Nordic Games, first staged in Stockholm in 1901, and draws a direct line to the ultimate creation of the Winter Olympics, first celebrated in Chamonix, France in 1924.
Juan Antonio Samaranch, former President of the International Olympic Committee, called The Olympic Century, “The most comprehensive history of the Olympic games ever published”.