In the summer of 1924, Ireland did something extraordinary: hosting the world’s largest sporting event that year – even bigger than the Paris Olympics.

Thousands of competitors and thousands of spectators filled the space for the many events around Dublin that included not only athletics, swimming, horse racing, archery and other sports but also poetry, painting, dance and sculpture.

The inaugural Telton Games – named after an ancient version of the game that took place seven centuries ago – was designed to celebrate Irish culture and sporting prowess but with a modern, global twist.

The misconceptions discovered by the Irish included chess – 32 pieces representing 32 countries in Ireland – while sports such as football, rugby and cricket were excluded from what was considered English.

High-profile foreign athletes were invited, including US Olympic champion – and future star of Tarzan movies – Johnny Vesmuller. Ireland didn’t have a proper swimming pool so he swam in a pool at the Dublin Zoo – and won -.

This summer is a centennial year as the inaugural game was originally scheduled for 1922 and preparations were well advanced, while an art exhibition went ahead. Next week is the 90th anniversary of the 1932 – and final – Tailteann Games.

President Eamonn de Valera, Cardinal Macrori and JJ Keane, Director of Events, at the opening of the 1932 Telton Games.
President Eamonn de Valera, Cardinal Macrori and JJ Keane, Director of Events, at the opening of the 1932 Telton Games. Photo: Independent News & Media / Getty Images

Ireland commemorates the so-called “Decade of the Century” from 1912 to 1923, a transformative decade in which Ireland emerged as an independent state. The Tailteann game, however, is not celebrated.

“It simply came to our notice then. He has lost history, “said Paul Rouse, a professor of history at University College Dublin who worked on the 2006 TG4 documentary about the sport. “Despite many homes with Telton medals and picture scrap books, it has lost its public memory over time.”

But Rousseau and a handful of scholars have written about the games, which took place in 1924, 1928 and 1932 – they say it was a big ambitious undertaking by a new state to show Ireland as a viable nation.

Johnny Vesmuller, US swimming champion and star of Tarzan movies.
Johnny Vesmuller, US swimming champion and star of Tarzan movies. Photo: Everett Collection Historical / Alami

Mike Cronin, director of education at Boston College Ireland, said: “They germinated an idea from ancient Irish civilization, linked it to cultural renaissance, repackaged that dream in the context of the Olympics and delivered it – and that’s important,” said Mike Cronin, director of education at Boston College Ireland. Said.

During the Civil War of 1922-23 and the War of Independence of Britain in 1919-21, the logistical prowess of hosting the inaugural Games was more effective as parts of Dublin were still in ruins, Cronin said. “It’s easy to dismiss it as a curio, but it really matters. If it had gone wrong – problems at airports, trams, hotels, stadiums – it would have been reversed. The fact that they did it and did it is proof of their courage and determination. ”

According to nationalist mythology, the Irish High King Lugh held the original Telten Games, or Aonach Tailteann, in 632BC to honor his stepmother, Queen Telte, and continued intermittently for more than 1,000 years until the Norman invasion of 1169 paved the way for English. Some nationalists in the colony claimed that it was the inspiration for the ancient Greek Olympics, even though the sport began earlier.

The revival of Harling and other traditional Irish sports under the Gaelic Athletics Association (GAA) and the creation of the Irish Free State in 1921 prompted Ireland’s new, fragile government to revive the Telten Games in 1922.

The event was postponed until 1924 due to the Civil War, which allowed the organizers to schedule it after the Paris Olympics and to attract top international athletes, especially Americans from the port of Kobe. The New York TimesPathé News and other outlets covered the spectacle.

The inaugural competition at Croke Park featured an actress in a long dress and costume as Queen Telte and men dressed as Gaelic warriors with spears and wolfhounds.

The men’s-dominated games were open to Irish citizens and Diaspora members, with teams from Britain, the US, Canada, Australia and South Africa. Organizers reduced the Irish in exchange for celebrity stardust in the form of Wesmलरller, US high jumper Harold Osborne and other Olympic champions.

Cycling program in 1932.
Cycling program in 1932. Photo: Independent News & Media / Getty Images

Large crowds watched races of cars, motorcycles and planes, including the newly formed Free State Air Corps. There was also rowing, boxing and golf. Cultural events included seals, plays, and speeches by the poet W. B. Yates and other thinkers. More than 1,000 medals were awarded.

“The Irish people have survived colonialism for centuries, its civilization is intact and it was designed to show the world that the Irish people have taken their place among the nations of the earth,” Rouse said.

Attendance and enthusiasm for the 1928 Games waned after the Amsterdam Olympics, and even more so for the 1932 Games, which failed to harness the talents of the Los Angeles Olympics.

Despite the whimper ending, the games signaled a break with England, said Billy Shortell, a historian at Trinity College Dublin. “The authorities wanted to say: ‘We are a new state but we are an ancient nation’.” The glasses helped heal the Civil War departments and perhaps averted new conflicts, Shortel said. “Throughout the Games, from 1922 to 1932, Ireland became a stable democracy.”

Other historians believe that the Civil War splits helped to sink the game – that the Fianna Fell party of Amon de Valera, once in power, let them go because they belonged to the rival Cuman na Engel party. “But in a way the game was a success,” Cronin said. “After all the confusion, it was a message that Ireland is open for business.”

Games are not completely lost in history: this year GAA inaugurated a second-tier Gaelic football league called the Telten Cup.

Additional reports by Finn Logue