1924 Olympic Rugby

In 1924 the world gathered in Paris to participate in gentlemanly competition and sport.  This gathering was brought to modern memory, well… relatively modern memory, in the 1981 best picture winning film, Chariots of Fire.  In this film, and in history, a group of British runners excel against great odds to earn victory and honor.

That film missed the best part.

The day before the track and field events, the United States Rugby team defeated France to win the gold medal.

By 1924 the United States had fully embraced American Football and forgotten the oblong ball.  In the lead up to the Olympics, a group of interested men in San Francisco raised funds to send a team of Yanks to Paris.  They scraped up a few familiar with the game, then added a number of Stanford basketball and football players to round out the squad.  They learned the game while steaming across the Atlantic and arrived ready to play.

And play they did, beating Romania 37-0 and then capturing the gold against the hometown team 17-3.

Sporting the best looking uniforms the Americans have ever worn (true to this day), the Californians not only kicked, but stomped, the hornet’s nest.  In the opening acts of the game, Stanford basketball captain Lefty Rogers, knocked the French star unconscious.  By the end of the game a riot had erupted in the stands and the American national anthem could not be heard over the chorus of boos and rabble of the crowd.  One player was beaten with a walking stick and the team was granted a police escort to the locker room.

Rugby was never played in the Olympics again.

Next month the world will gather to play rugby.  The world cup, held every four years, is the planet’s fourth most watched television event.  The American’s are not expected to win… a game.  But the games have not yet been played and time will tell.

But there is more than hope on the horizon.  When the summer Olympic games kick off in Brazil, rugby will be represented.  We will enter the games as the sport’s defending gold medalists, and as such, we can dream of defending that award and hopefully we will be wearing that shield on our chests.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “1924 Olympic Rugby

  1. Planks

    Awesome write up! Thanks for educating me.

  2. Such a good post! How has this NOT been made a movie? It’d be a hell of a comedy. The snooty French team making disparaging remarks over wine and Baguette, the Americans arriving on the field with little idea what they’re doing and deciding to make up for their lack of skill with sheer blunt force trauma… I’d watch the hell out of that!

  3. Manuel

    Hi!
    My name is Manuel, I’m a 37 yrs. old lawyer from Argentina, and retired rugby player. I played for almost 20 years since my dad took me to his club when I was 6 years old, until I realized I sucked and left the game for good. No, really, I just was tired, too many resposabilities, and I also sucked. But having played this sport is one the best thing in my life and gave me lasting friendships, and great values, as well as a large numbers of scars. I played as a forward for most of the time.
    I didn’t know about the 1924 Olympics, very nice anecdote. I’m currently watching the World Cup, and I’m very surprised about the quite good game the americans are playing, and I would like to ask you where did you play, and where in the USA is Rugby played.
    Thanks and very nice Blog
    Regards
    Manuel

  4. Manuel, welcome aboard and I raise my gourd of mate to you.
    I have played officially for Utah State University, the Atlanta Renegades, Greenville Griffins (South Carolina), and the Wharton Wharthogs (University of Pennsylvania), and then a spattering of filling in on teams at various tournaments.
    I would say the hot beds of American rugby are California’s bay area, Los Angeles, and Utah. There are of course other areas that have good teams or clubs, but these three are the home of the best, be it high school (Highland and United in Utah), college (Cal, BYU, and Univ of Utah), or men’s clubs (San Francisco Golden Gate and Olympic Club).
    American rugby is on the rise, but most of the best young ruggers get stolen away with football scholarships. There is almost no such thing as a college rugby scholarship.
    It is changing, but American rugby has a history of being social first, and competitive second.
    I’m glad you like the blog, good luck to the Pumas… but I’m pulling for the All Blacks.

  5. Manuel

    Dear Brohammas
    You’ve played in more teams than a professioanl soccer player!! You must have gathered a great experience in our beautifull game. I’ ve played only in my club, Belgrano Athletic Club in Buenos Aires. Thanks for the info, I ‘ll go to the internet and read a little more about USA rugby. Regarding the social status of rugby in your country I must say that until very recently It was exactly the same in Argentina, but we have grown and developed quite a lot in the last few years, mainly because our best players, once they reach the junior national teams (Pumitas, Pampas XV) they are picked by english and french teams and they became professionals in the best rugby championships in the world. Then they pour all their experience in the national team, adding the special mystic and history of the Pumas. I really think that if the USA plays a little better next World Cup, the sport will develop accordingly because of the special and highly competitive nature of the american people, and the Eagles showed the right attitude towards the game, they never gave up.
    I’ll leave a post sunday after the match Pumas All Blacks, I don’t have many hopes (or any at all) that we will win, but our Pumas show their best in the worst possible situations. I’m sure they will give a great show. Thanks for your reply and Good Luck!!

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