One of the most iconic structures in the world, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, doesn’t immediately scream cricket but the structure played an interesting role in the history of the game.
During the construction of the 324-metre wrought-iron lattice tower, a great many workers were required, and a large number came from across the channel.
British expatriate workers founded the Standard Athletic Club as a social club in Paris. The organisation is recognised as one of the first football clubs in France, and they also fielded a cricket team.
As one of only two members of the Union of French Athletic Sports Societies to play cricket, a group of the club’s British expatriates were selected to play for France at the 1900 Olympics in Paris.
The 1900 Olympic cricket competition was haphazard, even by the standards of the day. According to Olympic historian Ian Buchanan, both sides ‘were made up of distinctly average club cricketers’.
A single two-day 12-a-side match constitutes, to date, the sum total of cricket played at the Olympic Games.
The only evidence the match took place at all is the handwritten scorecard kept by ‘England captain’ John Symes. The match has never been recognised as an international and none of the players involved went on to earn a cap.
Only two members of the England team had any first-class experience, and naturally, none of the French team had attained such lofty heights.
Eight of that French side were expat social club cricketers, but they were officially awarded Olympic silver medals, though in actuality the French team got bronze medals. The English team were awarded silver medals and rank as the only Olympic champions in the sport of cricket.
Both sides were also given a miniature statue of the Eiffel Tower and believed their contest to be part of the World’s Fair. Only later would it be accepted that the match was the only instance of cricket at the Olympics.
A small group of British ironworkers went over to Paris to help build the Eiffel Tower and ended up representing France at the Olympics without even knowing.