1924 Summer Deaflympics

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The First International Silent Games (French: Premiers Jeux Silencieux Internationaux), or First International Games for the Deaf (French: Premiers Jeux Internationaux pour les Sourds),[1] now referred to retroactively as the 1924 Summer Deaflympics (French: Sourdlympiques d'été de 1924), were the inaugural edition of the Deaflympics.[2][3] The Games were held in Paris, France, from 10 to 17 August 1924, as an equivalent to the Olympic Games for deaf athletes. They were organised on the initiative of deaf Frenchman Eugène Rubens-Alcais, who, just after the Games, co-founded the Comité International des Sports des Sourds with other "deaf sporting leaders".[4][5][6] (Rubens-Alcais had previously founded France's first sports federation for the deaf and mute, in 1918.[7]) The 1924 Games were "the first games ever" for athletes with a disability, preceding the World Wheelchair and Amputee Games in 1948, which became the Paralympic Games in 1960 but which did not include events for deaf athletes.[6][8][9][10]

Quick facts: Host city, Nations, Athletes, Events, Opening...
1st Summer Deaflympics
Host cityParis, France
Nations9 countries
Athletes148 athletes
Events31 (7 disciplines)
Opening10 August 1924 (1924-08-10)
Closing17 August 1924 (1924-08-17)
Opened byGaston Doumergue
Main venueStade Olympique Yves-du-Manoir

These First Silent Games were held just two weeks after the end of the 1924 Summer Olympics, also in Paris. The Games for the deaf were "modelled on the Olympic Games".[11]

Nine countries, "including six official national federations already in existence", sent 148 athletes to compete, in seven sports: athletics, road cycling, diving, football, shooting, swimming, and tennis. Demonstration events were also held in gymnastics. Not counting gymnastics, a total of 31 events were held.[4] Specifically, France, Belgium, Great Britain, Latvia, the Netherlands, and Poland "already had a sports federation" for the deaf, while Italy, Romania and Hungary each sent one athlete despite having no such federation yet.[11]

There were 147 male athletes, and only one female athlete: Hendrika Nicoline Van der Heyden, of the Netherlands. She "competed" alone in the 100m backstroke event for women in swimming, completing it in 2:03.6, which set a world record. It was the only walkover, as there were at least two competitors in each of the men's thirty events (three competitors in all but one).[12][13]

The host country, France, dominated, winning sixteen of the seventeen events in athletics; the sole exception was the javelin throw, where Belgian Nicolas François came first ahead of Frenchman Raymond Code. Frenchman Émile Van den Torren won the most events overall, coming first in the 1,500 metres, 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres in athletics. France also swept up all three gold medals in cycling, the only gold medal in shooting, one of the two gold in tennis, and won the football competition. By contrast, the six swimming events were much more open; France won none, and the six gold medals were shared between the Netherlands, Italy and the United Kingdom (competing as "Great Britain"). The British also won one of the tennis events: the men's doubles.[12]

The Games were deemed a success, and a second edition was held four years later in Amsterdam, with 212 athletes from ten nations – including, this time, fourteen women. (Amsterdam also held the Olympic Games that year.)[14] With the 1924 Games being the first in a regular series, the International Games for the Deaf were established as "the second oldest international multi-sport event in the world", after the Olympic Games.[15]