Ballooning, using gas balloons (which require no power, fuel or motors), was on the Summer Olympic Games programme in 1900. The aeronautical pioneer Henry de La Vaulx set two world records for distance and duration piloting a balloon flight.
Events at the 1900 Games that satisfied four retrospective selection criteria — restricted to amateurs, open to all nations, open to all competitors and without handicapping — are now regarded as Olympic events. Although ballooning met these criteria, the ballooning events have generally not been classified as official.
Hot air balloons for manned flight were invented in 1783, but requiring fuel, they proved less practical than the hydrogen balloons that followed almost immediately. Hot air ballooning soon died out, and gas balloons dominated ballooning for nearly 200 years. Gas balloons used hydrogen or coal gas until switching to helium well into the 20th century.
The height or altitude of a gas balloon is controlled with ballast weights that can be dropped if the balloon gets too low. In order to land some lifting gas must be vented through a valve. Gas balloons have greater lift for a given volume, so they do not need to be so large, and they can also stay up for much longer than hot air balloons.
First three pilots in each event (excluding handicapped events) were as follows (teammate in parentheses, where known):
Distance: Comte Henry de La Vaulx FRA 1237 km, Jacques Balsan FRA 1222 km, Jacques Faure FRA 1183 km
Duration: Jacques Balsan FRA 35:09, Comte de Castillon de Saint-Victor FRA 18:00, G. Hervieu FRA 17:51
Elevation: Jacques Balsan FRA 8417 m, Georges Juchmès FRA 6867 m, Comte Henry de la Vaulx FRA 6820 m
Target without Stop: Comte Henri de la Valette FRA 800 m, L. Cruciere FRA 2000 m, E. Lassagne FRA 2100 m
Target with Stop Total: Jacques Faure FRA 16,400 m, E. Godard FRA 21,200 m, Comte Henry de la Vaulx FRA 24,000 m
Distance and Duration Overall: Comte Henry de la Vaulx (and Georges Castillon de Saint-Victor), FRA 5080 pts, Jacques Balsan FRA 4360 pts, Jacques Faure FRA 2910 pts
In many works, it is read that the IOC later met to decide which events were Olympic and which were not. This is not correct and no decision has ever been made. No discussion of this item can be found in the account of any Session.