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The Intercalated Olympic Games were to be a series of International Olympic Games halfway between what is now known as the Games of the Olympiad.

This proposed series of Games, intercalated in the Olympic Games cycle, was to always be held in Athens, and were to have equal status with the international Games. However, the only such Games were held in 1906.

Origin

The first Intercalated Games had been scheduled by the IOC in 1901 as part of a new schedule, where every four years, in between the internationally organised Games, there would be an intermediate Games held in Athens.

This was a compromise: after the successful Games of Athens 1896 the Greeks suggested they could organize the Games every four years, as they had the venues, had proven to be able to hold well-organised Games, and had received substantial public support.

However, Pierre de Coubertin had originally intended for the first Games to be in Paris in 1900, and he had no intention of losing not only the première for Paris, but the Games as well. Thus, the second Games were held in Paris in 1900.

Unfortunately, these Games were overshadowed by the Exposition Universelle: to make matters worse, their organizing committee disagreed with de Coubertin's ideas to such an extent that he resigned. The organization of the 1900 Games appears haphazard by today's standards. Although some events, such as archery, drew widespread attention, many others were poorly attended. Historians' opinions still differ over which events should be considered "Olympic".

The IOC subsequently supported the Greek idea by granting them a second series of quadrennial Games between the first series. All of the Games would be International Olympic Games, though half of them would follow De Coubertin's idea of organising them in different countries to make the Olympic Movement more international: the other half would follow the Greeks' idea of a permanent home, with the Greek NOC as experienced organisers.

While this was a departure from the ancient schedule, it was expected that if the ancient Greeks could keep a four-year schedule, then the modern Olympic Movement could keep a two-year schedule. As 1902 was now too close to be logistically workable, and Greece was also experiencing political and economic difficulties, the 2nd Olympic Games in Athens were scheduled for 1906.

Unfortunately, the 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis, Missouri were overshadowed by the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, and their organization was even worse than that of Paris 1900, while travel difficulties meant that only 20% of the athletes were non-American; of these, half were Canadian.

It was clear the Olympic Movement was in a dire situation, and desperately needed to recapture the spirit of Athens 1896: it also needed to do so quickly, as to those who did not participate in St. Louis, Rome 1908 was a gap of eight years, by which time there would be little if any goodwill left for the Games.

To make matters worse, Rome was also planning an Exhibition at the same time as the Games, which had been responsible for the failures of Paris and St. Louis.

To the IOC, the 1906 Athens Games being just around the corner would have been a lifeline: while De Coubertin still opposed the idea, and did not do anything more than his function required him to, the IOC as a whole gave the Greek NOC full support for the organisation.

First Intercalated Games

Main article: 1906 Intercalated Games

The 1906 Games were quite successful. Unlike the Games of 1900, 1904 or 1908, they were not stretched out over several months, and unlike 1900 and 1904, they were not overshadowed by an international exposition. Their crisp implementation was most likely instrumental in the continued existence of the Games.

These games also were the first to have:

These, and several more less visible changes, are now accepted as traditional.

Decline

The Greeks were, despite their best efforts, unable to keep the schedule for 1910. While there had been serious political tensions in the Balkans, the modern Greeks found out their ancient ancestors were right: a two-year interval was too short. There had been effectively a gap of six years before Athens 1906, due to the predominately American nature of the 1904 St. Louis Games, but Athens 1910 would have left a gap of two years after the 1908 London Games, which would have made it virtually impossible to prepare.

With Athens 1910 being a failure, the faith in the Intercalated Games diminished: as a result, plans for Athens 1914 got even less support before the outbreak of World War I, meaning any further Intercalated Games had to wait until after the war, which ended in 1918.

Since it had been twelve years since Athens 1906, and in any case, the next possible event would have been in 1922 - sixteen years after the first - the idea of Intercalated Games was given up entirely.

Downgrading

Since the 2nd International Olympic Games in Athens had become an exception, the personal views of various IOC chairmen caused the IOC to retroactively downgrade the 1906 Games, and their explanation for the Games became that they had been a 10th anniversary celebration.

Also, more stress was placed on the continuing sequence of four-year Olympiads, and the Games of 1906 did not fit into this. Hence, the IOC currently does not recognize Athens 1906 as Olympic Games, and does not regard any events occurring there (such as the setting of new records or the winning of medals) as official.

Despite this, the success of Athens 1906, however, may have been what kept the Olympics alive after the failures of 1900 and 1904. As the next Games are always built on the successes of the last, the innovations of Athens were used again in London, and eventually became Olympic tradition.

In fact, the influence of the First Intercalated Games pervades the Olympics, with the holding of the Games concentrated in a small time period in a small area.

Winter sports

Since there were no winter sports at the First Intercalated Games, the mistaken idea has arisen that this was because the IOC had made such an explicit requirement.

In fact, the IOC had always intended for winter sports to be part of the Olympic schedule. Before London 1908, however, none of the Games had included any winter sports.

The scheduling concept of the Intercalated Games – with additional Olympic games taking place two years after (and before) every Summer Olympics – was ultimately adopted for the Winter Olympic Games from the 1994 Games in Lillehammer, Norway.

See also