After the Olympic Games were awarded to Paris in 1921, the Olympic stadium selection was the subject of intense discussion and serious prevarication for more than a year. For its part, the Pershing Stadium, built by the Americans in 1919 to host the Inter-allied Games, did not have a large enough capacity for the Olympic Games in 1924, but the City of Paris refused to fund the building of a new stadium. In 1922, the French government decided: the Parc des Princes was chosen, with a parliamentary subsidy of 20 million francs and the City of Paris contributing 10 million. But this situation did not suit the city politicians, who were keen to spend as little as possible on staging the Games. So the Racing Club de France (RCF) undertook to rebuild the facilities it owned at Colombes in exchange for 50 per cent of the revenue achieved by the French Olympic Committee (COF) during the period of the Games.
At the end of a tender process organised by the COF between seven specialist companies, architect Louis Faure-Dujarric (a former runner and captain of the RCF rugby team) was commissioned to renovate the stadium. This was on the site of a former horseracing track, and the 161⁄2 hectares were enough to allow the athletics stadium to be completely remodelled and a stadium for tennis and another for aquatic sports to be built.
To meet the budget constraints, the architect designed a very simple structure. Inside the stadium, there was an oval track, with an unusual length of 500 metres, with covered lateral stands for 10,000 seated spectators (stand of honour and marathon stand) on each straight. The 144-metre corrugated iron roof was supported by a metal framework. Its design was a technical achievement in itself, as, in order not to block the view of the spectators, the roof was supported on only 10 posts, placed every 16 metres. Around the two bends, there was room for 40,000 standing spectators, with no roofing. The stands were built on a mixed structure: an embankment for the lower part, with a reinforced concrete section on the upper part. This choice of two different construction techniques for the stands was a result of the desire to keep costs to a minimum. Under the stand of honour there were 35 changing rooms with a capacity of 1,200 athletes. This minimalist approach was also applied to the stadium surroundings, with only the wall around the stadium perimeter decorated with moulded athlete statues. Lastly, all the elements of the stadium had their own colour, creating a harmony of unity, and giving the stadium “an extremely happy, healthy and sporty character” (Quote by Francis Rod, an Arts et Manufactures engineer.). Indeed, while the outside was covered with yellow ochre paint, the doors were blue, the cinder track was a vivid red and its cement edging was painted white.
Before renovating the stadium and building the other facilities needed for the Olympic Games (pool and tennis courts), the Racing Club de France signed an agreement with the National Sports Committee (CNS) ( In 1894, a French Olympic Committee (COF) was created at the behest of Pierre de Coubertin, and a few years later, another body – the National Sports Committee (CNS) – was also created. From 1913 to 1925, the CNS and COF merged and shared a single headquarters and president. However, in 1925, both committees decided to have their own separate management, but with the COF under the responsibility of the CNS. Finally, in February 1972, both committees merged to create the current body, the CNOSF.) and agreed to make the stadium available to the CNS on 15 Sundays a year to promote the practice of sport. Both parties benefited from this, as the Racing Club de France obtained financial guarantees and the security of seeing its stadium become the biggest in France, while the CNS could use new facilities, all in the same location, without becoming the owner and taking on the related financial responsibility.
Even though, during the Games, the stadium was notable for the purity and simplicity of its architecture, some of the facilities, such as showers with hot water, electric lighting and heating, gave the athletes an impression of luxury and a feeling of modernity.
The stadium is a friendly place and it’s our home. It’s probably not the nicest looking one or the most comfortable, but it’s ours, and everyone knows that there’s no better place than home.Henry Chavancy Player and captain of the Racing 92 rugby team, which played at the Yves du Manoir Olympic Stadium until December 2017.
AFTER THE GAMES
The stadium was enlarged ahead of the football World Cup in 1938. Three matches were held there, including the final. In 1939, it was requisitioned by the French army. After that, until the 1970s and the reconstruction of the Parc des Princes, numerous French Cup finals and Five Nations rugby matches were held in the stadium, as well as other non-sporting events (Verdi’s opera Aida in 1932). After that, the stadium hosted fewer and fewer international events, and only the Racing Club de France continues to occupy the stadium with its various teams. Until December 2017, the stadium hosted rugby matches played by Racing 92 (the RCF’s new name).
For the Olympic Games Paris 2024, the stadium will host the field hockey matches.
DID YOU KNOW?
- During the work to reconfigure the stadium, the Racing Club de France continued to organise events on the central part.
- During the night of 20 to 21 July, 1,500 cubic metres of sand were brought in and spread on the pitch so the equestrian competition could be held there.
- For the final of the football tournament of the 1924 Games, more than 15,000 spectators had to remain outside the stadium because of the huge crowds wanting to watch the match.
- Uruguay, whose team won the football tournament, gave the name Colombes to one of the stands in its Centenary Stadium in Montevideo.
- Florence Pizzorni-Itié, Les yeux du stade: Colombes, temple du sport, Musée municipal d’Art et d’Histoire de Colombes, Éditions de l’Albaron, Thonon-les-Bains, pp. 72-91.
‒ Francis Rod, ”Constructions civiles: Le stade olympique de Colombes, près de Paris”, Le Génie Civil, 44e years, t. 85, no. 6, 9 August 1924, pp. 127, 128.
- Jean-François Fournel, ”Que reste-t-il des Jeux Olympiques de Paris 1924 ? ”, La Croix, 25 August 2017.
- Les Jeux de la VIIIe Olympiade Paris 1924: rapport officiel, Comité Olympique Français, Librairie de France, Paris, 1924, 45, 46, 50, 52, 53, 75, 225, 814, 815, 816.
- Michaël Delépine, ”Le stade de Colombes et la question du grand stade en France (des origines à 1972) ”, Sciences sociales et sport, 2014/1, no. 7, pp. 93, 96.
- Raymond Pointu, Camille Sève, Paris Olympique, Éditions du Panama, 2005, pp. 108- 112.
- Thierry Terret, Les paris des Jeux Olympiques de 1924, vol. 1, Les paris de la candidature et de l’organisation, Atlantica, Biarritz, 2008, pp. 127-150.
-VIIIe Olympiade, Paris 1924: Programme des Jeux Olympiques: Équitation, Comité exécutif des Jeux de la VIIIe Olympiade, Paris, 1924.
|Name:||Colombes Olympic Stadium, then Yves-du-Manoir Olympic Stadium (1928-2018)|
|Location:||12 Rue François-Faber, 92700, Colombes, France|
|Status:||Totally rebuilt for the Games. Currently in use.|
|Designers:||Louis Faure-Dujarric (architect), Société de construction Edmond Coignet (reinforced concrete), Établissements Haour Frères (metal structure).|
|Cost:||4 million French francs|
|Dimensions:||243m long and 161m wide|
|Additional information:||The stand of honour and the marathon stand were 144m long and 26.73m wide. 32 sets of stairs (eight in the stand of honour and the marathon stand, four in each of the other stands). Ten sprinklers every 48 metres to water the football pitch and competition fields.|
|Construction:||August 1922 - November 1923|
|Official opening:||4 May 1924 (Rugby match between France and Romania)|
|Events during the Games:||Athletics (start and finish of the marathon and the race walk, and finish of the cross-country), dressage and jumping for the equestrian events (including the team competition), gymnastics, football, and start and finish of the cycling road race. Opening and Closing Ceremonies.|