Vintage Cricket: The 1900 Olympic Games

Poster advertising the Olympic cricket match between France and England (1900)
Poster advertising the Olympic cricket match between France and Great Britain

This is a poster advertising the only game of Olympic cricket that has ever been played. It happened over two days between France and Great Britain (referred to in this contemporary advert as England) at the 1900 Games in Paris.

It was a slightly odd match in the context of an Olympics which was a bit of a bizarre event in its own right. Held over five months as part of the World’s Fair, the Games almost seemed like an afterthought. So little effort had been put into promoting them that many of the athletes involved genuinely didn’t know they’d competed in them!

The cricket competition was one such. It was also somewhat ramshackle in other ways. For a start, despite being an Olympic match, it was not considered to be an official first class international since both teams fielded twelve players each instead of the regulation eleven, and it only lasted two days.

Then there was the fact that the two sides were not France and Great Britain as we would know them in the modern era – Great Britain were represented by a public school-dominated touring club from the West Country, and the French team were mostly British expats living in Paris.

Whatever happened over those two days, it was always going to be a British victory on French soil it seems…

And it was – Great Britain, who are still technically Olympic champions 119 years later, won by 158 runs with a mere five minutes to spare. Mostly ignored by both the French and British national media, this was in many ways an anonymous triumph.

Four years later, the Olympic cricket competition at the Games in St Louis was cancelled at short notice due to a lack of competitors and facilities. It has never been an Olympic sport since.

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