The International Journal of the History of Sport Vol. 24, No.

10, October 2007, 1281 – 1301

The Puliti Affair and the 1924 Paris Olympics: Geo-Political Issues, National Pride and Fencing Traditions
Thierry Terret, Cecile Ottogalli-Mazzacavallo and ´ Jean Saint-Martin

During the Paris Olympic Games of July 1924, there were a series of ‘incidents’ in the fencing competition that became known as the Puliti affair. At the centre of the troubles was the Italian Oreste Puliti. The ‘affair’ had to be discussed by the ‘jury d’honneur’ recently set up by the IOC. Both the IOC and the International Federation were concerned with this issue for four more years. This article uses the Puliti affair to discuss several aspects of nationalism in the mid-1920s: the growing tensions between Fascist Italy and democracies such as Hungary and France, the specific Olympic status of fencing challenged in Paris after three centuries of confrontation between the French and Italian schools of fencing, and ongoing tensions between the IOC and the international federations. Finally, the press perceptions of the incident in various countries are briefly discussed.

During the 1920s, the need to reconstruct Europe stimulated a growing nationalism in the countries, which had been particularly involved in the First World War. [1] International sports competitions, [2] including the Olympic Games which, according to Alfred E. Senn, were still in their ‘formative years’, played a role in this process. [3] During the eighth Olympic Games, which took place in Paris between 5 and 27 July 1924, some sports were more closely tied to national cultures than others, and thus had greater power to rouse patriotic feelings. In fencing, for instance, the weight of national heritage characterized countries such as Italy, Hungary and France. For centuries, these three countries had developed rival schools of masters and specific techniques; sport was merely a new field to assert their supremacy.

´ Thierry Terret, Cecile Ottogalli-Mazzacavallo and Jean Saint-Martin, University of Lyon, France. Correspondence to: ISSN 0952-3367 (print)/ISSN 1743-9035 (online) Ó 2007 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/09523360701505429


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In this context, various unpleasant incidents occurred during the Olympic fencing tournament of 1924. The first took place on 30 June, during the final round-robin pool in the team foil event between France and Italy. The referee awarded a point to the Frenchman Lucien Gaudin – but the point was claimed by the Italian Aldo Boni, cheered on by the frenzied Italian spectators. When the referee held to his decision, the Italian team left in a huff to the sound of the Fascist hymn rising from the bleachers. The whole team were disqualified, and when they refused to apologize officially, they were scratched from the individual foil event scheduled for the next day. The hostile atmosphere continued during the other events, and reached its climax a few days later during the individual sabre event, in what the 22 July issue of The Times described as ‘Italian violence’. The focus of the conflict was Oreste Puliti, the leading Italian fencer, who was disqualified by one of the Hungarian judges, Georges de Kovacs. [4] The protagonists took the whole thing very seriously, turning to the IOC’s recently set-up jury d’honneur. The international Fencing Federation also stepped in, further complicating diplomatic relations, and the ‘Puliti Affair’ was not settled until 1928. In this article, the Puliti Affair is used to analyse several aspects of nationalism in sport during the immediate post-war period. [5] First, the affair must be placed in its political context at a time when Italian society was moving towards Fascism. Second, the specific nature of fencing as a traditionally ‘national’ sport must be addressed for a better understanding of certain underlying issues. Third, the IOC’s position was revelatory of the tensions between it and the international federations, and of the difficulty of finding a diplomatic balance in view of the individual national attitudes involved. Finally, the Puliti affair involved ‘men of honour’, for whom values of class and masculinity were crucial: their behaviour illustrates how strongly sport was linked to gender and culture in the making of Europe at the beginning of the 1920s. [6] It was precisely in response to nationalistic tensions and ‘incidents’ at the 1920 Olympic Games that the British proposed solutions to curb unsportsmanlike conduct, including violence, among contestants, leading to the IOC discussing the subject in 1923. [7] A proposal to appoint the IOC executive committee as a jury d’honneur was put forward. [8] The name chosen for this new structure was obviously rooted in the code of chivalry shared by the IOC aristocratic members. The jury d’honneur was created, first and foremost, to provide an administrative framework for settling all non-technical structural disputes. [9] It complemented the juries proposed by the international federations, namely the field juries that refereed and managed the events themselves and the juries of appeal for each discipline that ruled on any technical components or sporting matters that the field jury was unable to deal with. [10] The Swiss citizen Godefroy de Blonay presided over the IOC executive committee from 1921 to 1925, with the Belgian Henri de Baillet-Latour as vice-president. The other members were Pierre de Coubertin and the Marquis Melchior de Polignac from ¨ France, Sigfied Edstrom from Sweden and Jiri Guth-Jarkowsky from Czechoslovakia, who gave up his seat to Reginald Kentish (Great Britain) for the 1924 games. In their

The Puliti Affair and the 1924 Paris Olympics


capacity as jury d’honneur, these six people had to settle the most serious disputes that occurred during those Parisian events. Some complaints emanated from the boxing and athletic events, but it was fencing that required most of the jury’s energy, especially from 1924 to 1927 in what the committee called ‘the Puliti affair’. The aim of this article is to analyse both the political and the cultural faces of nationalism which were reflected in this affair. However, complicating this first and central analytical level were others, in which sport institutions on the one hand and the officer’s code of honour on the other were involved. But before analysing them, let examine the facts.

The Puliti Affair in Four Acts Act One: Colombes, 16 July 1924 The preliminaries for the individual sabre events took place on 16 July. Out of the 47 contestants in the running, 28 qualified for the semifinals on the same day. The Italian Puliti and the Frenchman Ducret performed particularly brilliantly that day. The mood was tense. As the spectators and contestants were leaving the Colombes stadium to go back to Paris, an altercation broke out. One of the Hungarian fencers, ´ Alexandre (Sandor) Posta (the future Olympic champion in that event), overheard an exchange between Puliti and Santelli about the refereeing of his countryman qualified for the semi-finals, which took place that same day. Twelve qualified for the final held the following day. The Italian Puliti and the Frenchman Ducret performed particularly brilliantly Kovacs. [11] Posta intervened, and the incident degenerated rapidly into insults and threats. The molehill started to grow into a mountain the next day when Jules de Musza, co-president of the Hungarian Olympic Committee and an IOC member, officially notified Pierre de Coubertin. [12] In his letter, he reported the scene in which the Hungarian fencers saw their teammate Posta and his wife shouted at by ‘30 or 40 Olympic contestants of Italian nationality’. He also said that the Italians had insulted all the Hungarian fencers who, because they were all officers, now had an obligation to defend their honour once they returned to Hungary. He spoke of the ‘noble character of the Olympic Games’, the ‘mutual loyalty of nations’ and ‘the interest of the Hungarian contestants’ good name’, and officially called for the IOC executive committee to settle the matter in its capacity as jury d’honneur. Act Two: Colombes, 17 July The final took place on 17 July, in an atmosphere that was even more charged than the day before. Of the 12 qualifying fencers, four were Italian. [13] According to tradition, they fenced first. [14] As they did, it became obvious that Bertinetti, Sarrochi and Bini were not taking the offensive with their best contender, Puliti, who came out of these bouts unfatigued and with a number of hits in his favour that was


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above the average. The jury president, Frenchman Adrien Lajoux, denounced the manoeuvre – forbidden by the rules – and the Hungarian judge, Kovacs, threatened to withdraw if nothing were done about it. [15] Puliti then allegedly made some threatening remarks against Kovacs, [16] which were overheard by Santelli, who immediately informed the Hungarian. Kovacs lodged a complaint, leading to a meeting of the jury of appeal, presided over by Georges Van Rossem. The members ´ included the Hungarian marquis Pallavicini and the Frenchman Rene Lacroix. After deliberating several hours on the two accusations levelled against the Italian (the cheating and the threats), the jury finally decided to exclude Puliti from the individual sabre events. Out of solidarity, the other Italians withdrew. [17] The jury then decided to ignore the bouts completed thus far and to schedule a new final for the remaining eight contenders the next day, 18 July, at nine o’clock in the morning. [18] The Italians’ official reaction to Puliti’s disqualification was rapid. Before the new final could take place, Count Alberto Bonacossa wrote a letter in the name of the Italian Olympic Committee to the president of the French Olympic Committee, Count de Clary, in very ‘diplomatic’ terms describing his own version of the events. [19] As he saw it, Kovacs was the only one of the four judges to accuse the Italians of cheating. And even though the field jury had not requested it, Bonacossa petitioned the jury of appeal because he felt that its decision to start the event over again was debatable. According to him, the jury’s decision to exclude Puliti for threats was based on inaccurate information. He argued that during a discussion between Puliti and Santelli about Kovacs’s attitude, Puliti apparently only said ‘If this goes on, ´ things are going to come to a bad end’. [20] Bonacossa also stated that Sandor Posta, the Hungarian witness to the discussion, did not speak Italian well enough to have understood what was said and, furthermore, was too far away from the speakers to have heard the exchange. Finally, in his opinion, the jury had been illegally set up and did not even have the authority under the rules to exclude a contender! Emboldened by his own attack, the delegate for the Italian Olympic Committee demanded that the exclusion be withdrawn. ` Act Three: Folies Bergeres, 19 July The day after the new final, Puliti and Kovacs happened to meet in front of the ` famous Parisian cabaret, the Folies Bergeres. They had words and the exchange became violent. Puliti struck Kovacs, and what had been no more than an incident until then turned into a veritable ‘affair’. That same evening, Puliti described the scene to two of his friends, Renato Anselmi and Marcello Garagnagi:
This evening I was involved in an incident with Mr Kovacs, a Hungarian jury member who took a dislike to me during the matches I was competing in. His hostility was clearly beyond the pale of even the most rudimentary good sporting manners. Furthermore, the other jury members did not approve of his attitude, nor

The Puliti Affair and the 1924 Paris Olympics
did the jury of appeal, which ruled for my exclusion from the tournament only following an incident that took place outside the Olympic meeting grounds. [21]


Puliti then described the altercation, defended his reaction as a man of honour and asked his friends to be ready to serve as witnesses for the duel that would surely take place between himself and Kovacs:
I met Mr Kovach, who was accompanied by Mr Schenker, Mr Garay and three other people. I myself was in the company of Mr Bini and Mr Anselmi. When I accosted him to demand an explanation, addressing him in Italian, a language that Mr Kovach has understood well enough on other occasions, I heard him answer that he didn’t understand. I had my words translated into French, and when Mr Kovach did not deign to reply, I attacked him and slapped him. Mr Kovach retired without making the slightest riposte, followed by his friends. I ask that you remain at my disposal to enter into communication with the representatives that Mr Kovach will be sending me, as is the custom among men of honour. [22]

Puliti was right: both he and Kovacs belonged to that fringe of the military aristocracy for whom honour could not be compromised. Kovacs contacted two members of the Hungarian delegation, requesting that they ‘demand satisfaction’ from Puliti. In less diplomatic language, this meant informing the Italian that Kovacs accepted his challenge. The demand for satisfaction was a dilemma for the two potential witnesses, however, as they could not decide whether to consider the affair a private one requiring settlement according to the code of honour – that is, a duel with the offended one choosing the weapons to be used – or one in connection with the Olympic fencing tournament and, therefore, to be settled by the Olympic authorities. [23] The two Hungarians drafted a brief summary of the facts and petitioned Jules de Musza, the president of their national Olympic committee to bring the matter before the IOC for an official decision as to its status. [24] All these discussions took place on 20 July, and things moved very quickly because the missives were hand-delivered by messengers. That same day, Musza sent Coubertin a request accompanied by the two witnesses’ report. From then on, everyone waited for the IOC’s decision on the matter – except for Puliti, who had already delayed his departure and couldn’t wait any longer. He went back to Italy on the evening of 22 July. [25] Final Act The day before, however, on a train returning to Hungary, an argument broke out between Santelli and Colombetti, an Italian, during a stop at Turin. Colombetti slapped Santelli and challenged him to a duel. [26] We don’t know if the duel ever took place between these two fencing masters. The dispute between Puliti and Kovacs, however, did indeed lead to a duel in accordance with the code of honour. The two men met at the Yugoslavian border in November 1924 for a sabre fight that


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had nothing of a sporting event. After 30 attacks and an hour of relentless fighting that left both adversaries seriously wounded, the duel was stopped by mutual agreement and Puliti apologized to Kovacs for his violent conduct at the Olympic Games. [27] The honour of both men was intact and the Olympic authorities were able to preserve appearances. The Puliti Affair and the Jury D’honneur Whether by design or chance, the IOC executive committee delivered its decision on the matter referred to it by Jules de Musza just hours after Puliti’s departure. The delay was all the more opportune in that the IOC took a particularly firm stand. Taking formal note of all the documents in the case and of the oath taken at the opening of the Olympic Games, the jury d’honneur reminded the national committees of its request of October 1923 to keep nationalistic excesses under control, [28] the text of which concluded with a pledge to impose sanctions on anyone who failed to observe the sportsmanlike conduct expected in an Olympic competition. [29] This IOC request was even more significant in that the decision to make it was concomitant with the decision to set up a jury d’honneur. [30] So the executive committee felt perfectly justified in taking a clear position against Puliti and reprimanding the entire Italian team for his conduct. In its report, the committee encouraged the international fencing federation (FIE) to go even further, stating that they:
declare Mr. Oreste Puliti to be excluded from the Olympic Games; remind everyone that the Italian sabre team showed solidarity with Mr Puliti by withdrawing from the tournament following the jury of appeal’s decision against him and by participating in the clashes provoked by his misconduct; reprimand the entire team as a consequence; invite the Italian Olympic Committee and the international fencing federation to apply severe penalties to avoid a reoccurrence of such incidents; decide that the present document will be presented to the Italian and Hungarian Olympic Committees and to the International Fencing Federation. [31]

The press announced these conclusions quite soberly, [32] and the matter might have ended there. However, the jury of honour pronounced itself only on the strictly sporting aspect of the case, considering only the incidents that took place during the events and not what happened later. By reprimanding the Italian team, it rejected the Italian Olympic Committee’s request without satisfying the Hungarians’ request for a precise explanation of the series of events. The very next day, Jules de Musza hastily contacted Coubertin to follow up on that point so ‘the IOC can deliberate again to decide if the issue is one for IOC jurisdiction or if it is a private matter’. [33] The president of the IOC hastened to reply that the Hungarian team was exonerated from any blame and that ‘the jury d’honneur is not habilitated to decide whether or not Mr Covacs should demand satisfaction from Mr Pulitti in a duel’. [34] But by

The Puliti Affair and the 1924 Paris Olympics


refusing to take a position, Coubertin in fact was admitting that the incidents taking place after the tournament were not his responsibility, opening the door to a settling of the dispute by the code of honour. The only obstacle to a duel then was the law; indeed, Kovacs later said that his country’s legislation forbidding duels was the only reason why he had refused the fight. [35] The Hungarian side had hardly begun to ponder Coubertin’s reply when the situation became further complicated by action taken by the International Fencing Federation (FIE). The FIE’s executive committee voted for the temporary exclusion of the four offending Italians from participation in international fencing events. [36] ´ That was not enough for the IOC, however, which interceded with Rene Lacroix to push for FIE’s confirmation of the jury of appeal’s decisions about the individual ´ sabre event. This request placed Rene Lacroix in a tight spot because, in addition to his role as secretary general of the FIE, [37] he not only presided over the French Olympic Committee’s technical committee but was above all a member of the jury of appeal that had excluded Puliti! Lacroix thought he could get out of the situation by arguing from the legal point of view. Although in principle the Olympic events took place in accordance with the rules of the international federations, the FIE had no provisions for a jury of appeal in fencing. Without its own jury of appeal, it was not in a position to confirm the decisions of the IOC’s jury of appeal. [38] Unable to pass the buck to the fencing federations, the IOC had to decide. Perhaps Coubertin decided to make the champion Puliti pay for the Italian delegation’s rash act at the Lausanne conference back in 1921. Indeed, the Italians had walked out on the conference to protest against the IOC president’s jockeying to stage the 1924 games in Paris and the 1928 games in Amsterdam, even though Rome was also in the running. [39] Whatever the reason, the jury d’honneur chose to show its determination in the very first big affair it had to deal with, and Puliti was excluded from the Olympic Games for life. In truth, Lacroix must have known that shifting all responsibility from the FIE to the IOC would result in heavy penalties for the Italian champion. The international federation was a veritable French stronghold at the time. Lacroix had had a hand in its creation in 1913 and another Frenchman, Maginot, had been presiding over it since 1921. [40] Furthermore, Lacroix was secretary-general of the French Fencing Federation, and Maginot its president. Moreover, with its 833 members, the French federation dominated the FIE over Belgium, which had 302 members and over Italy, which was sixth in terms of size with only 66 members. [41] For reasons that were as much linked to sport (French supremacy in fencing) as they were cultural (the French fencing school was dominant) or diplomatic (the rise of Fascism in Italy), a Frenchcontrolled FIE had nothing to gain by leaving the Italians in a strong position. The FIE had not said its last word on the subject, but with the resignations of IOC president Pierre de Coubertin, FIE president Maginot (announced for 1925) and FIE secretary-general Lacroix himself, the matter was temporarily set aside. In addition, this caused the end of the French domination. Even the Puliti-Kovacs duel in November 1924 did not inspire a reassessment of the issue. Only once the Belgian


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Baillet-Latour and the Dutchman Van Rossem were elected as presidents of the IOC and the FIE respectively did the FIE make a decision. At its convention at the Hague on 17–18 April 1925, the FIE officially recognized the legitimacy of the jury of appeal set up by the IOC in Paris. There were at least two consequences of this decision: the claim filed by the Frenchman, Ducret, was thrown out and Posta’s win against Ducret during the deferred final was confirmed. [42] The FIE also officially noted the decision to exclude Puliti from the Olympic Games and took, in its own words, a ‘very severe’ stance on the affair, though in reality it was more symbolic than anything else. It excluded the Italian from any competition open to FIE members, but only until 1 October 1925. Furthermore, the FIE did not officially contact Puliti about the matter before 24 October 1925 – some three weeks after the exclusion came to an end! [43] Puliti was also to keep the FIE informed of his matches and send in a conduct report after each one until the next convention in 1927. The telling difference in severity between the FIE and the IOC penalties can be explained in several ways. Clearly, the administrative turnover in both institutions could have played a role, starting with the departure of Lacroix. As a standard-bearer for the French school of fencing, he could certainly have found advantage in the IOC’s firm stance against its historical rival, Italy. Coubertin’s departure could also have been influential, as he seemed to be somewhat involved in managing the case, even though Blonay theoretically was in charge of the jury d’honneur. The FIE’s decision came in the more general context of tensions between the international federations and the IOC and could be construed as a diplomatic way of declaring its independence. [44] The Italian government was pursuing its push to place its institutions under Fascist control more aggressively in 1925. [45] Sports were placed under the control of the Comitato Olimpico Nazionale Italiano (CONI). [46] The FIE might have found it inadvisable to risk cutting itself off from a country with the largest pool of talented fencers at the time. Geopolitically speaking, Italy was also one of the foremost central European nations. Sports diplomacy and national fencing traditions So far, we have discussed a series of disputes in the Puliti affair involving issues around supremacy in sport and international relations. To understand the way these incidents developed, we need to take a look at how the cultural and political aspects combined to produce two different versions of nationalism. First of all, the Paris games were important for Italy which, under the new leadership of Benito Mussolini, had great expectations for the squadra Azzura’s performance. The Italian leader thought that sport would be a model for the edification of the new Italian. The competition was seen as one of the best ways for both the construction of Italianness and the positive diffusion of its image outside the country. [47] This ambition concerned especially men, being more ambiguous for women. [48] During the 1920s, Italian fencers (together with cyclists) [49] were among the rare Italian athletes to shine internationally, so the Puliti affair was far

The Puliti Affair and the 1924 Paris Olympics


more than just a sports incident. It was one of the Mussolini regime’s first foreign policy issues. [50] The disqualification of the Italian sabre team and Puliti’s permanent exclusion from the Olympic community were taken as yet another instance of discrimination against Italy and national humiliation just when Italy’s political leaders were going all out to obtain a review of the peace treaties perceived as being unfavourable for their country’s prestige. [51] And while Italy and France appeared to be achieving something of a political rapprochement after January 1923, notably with respect to the Ruhr occupation, which Italy supported, the Puliti affair was perceived by the public as a stab in the back to the still fragile French-Italian friendship. Thus, it was capable of upsetting or even redirecting Mussolini’s ongoing ‘good neighbour policy’. [52] A year after the Corfu affair [53] in the summer of 1923, intransigence on the part of the jury d’honneur could lead Italy to turn away from France to other European powers. According to Pierre Milza and Serge Berstein,
rather than a dangerous alliance with bellicose France, better to seek a rapprochement with Great Britain, the guarantor of European stability. Mussolini let himself be convinced all the more easily that he was flattered by the praise from some British statesmen, including foreign minister Lord Curzon, about his antiBolshevik activities. [54]

The full ‘geosymbolic’ significance of the Italian fencers’ attitude becomes apparent here as the expression of a refusal to submit on the part of the countries that felt cheated by the Versailles Treaty. At the level of French-Italian relations, the episode was revelatory of the ambiguity of the French and Italian governments at the time, torn as they were between a desire for rapprochement and a diplomatic status quo forced on them by the First World War. In the same way, over and above the technical and cultural differences, the victory in 1924 of a Hungarian team over an Italian one took on a singular geopolitical significance. Although Italy and Hungary had joined together in their efforts to have the peace treaties reviewed (including the Treaty of Trianon, signed in Paris on 4 June 1920, which was considered an intolerable diktat by the Hungarians), [55] the two nations maintained rather tense relations in the mid-1920s, at least until 1927. More ´ precisely, the conservative Hungarian Prime Minister Istvan Bethlen’s policy penalizing pro-fascist manifestations could only offend Mussolini. [56] The tension was at its highest point on 31 January 1923, when the League of Nations accepted Great Britain’s proposal to recognize Hungary. As he gradually moved Hungary ´ closer to the League of Nations, Regent Miklos Horthy departed more and more from the revisionist policy defended by Mussolini since the end of the First World War. [57] So the Kovacs-Puliti incident turned into a bona fide affair of state between Italy, Hungary and France. The tensions observed during the Paris games and refereed by the jury d’honneur were part and parcel of the power struggle among the three nations. Even so, the cultural issue was at least as much a determining factor as the


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political. The Puliti affair can also be understood from the point of view of the historical fencing differences among these countries as a function of the weapons used. The French had been using the very lightweight foil ever since the eighteenth ´ ´ century as a training technique for duelling with epees. Italian fencing was marked by ´ ´ a tradition of the duelling epee, and featured play based on speed and timing, while the French foil was used for educational and artistic purposes. When it came to foil or ´ ´ epee fencing, the French and the Italians were at odds about which of the two main fencing schools was superior to the other. This long-standing cultural conflict had started with fencing masters and spread later to sportsmen in general. Sabre fencing was another matter of contention. The French and Italians focused on the art of hitting with the point (thrust in weapons), while the Hungarians specialized in the art of hitting with the cutting edge (cutting weapons). The Italians took an interest in the sabre, which they used in duels. But while Italian masters had expertise in all three weapons, Hungarians specialized in teaching and training in the art of the sabre, which even became their national weapon. Hungarian masters acquired an international reputation and Hungarian sabreurs became the favourites in tournaments as early as 1908. Hungarian supremacy in that art became institutional when the International Fencing Federation was founded in 1913: 78 nations chose Bela Nagy to draft the new federation’s rules for the sabre event. [58] The Hungarians were still using the sabre in duels, [59] even after use of the weapon was forbidden in settling honour disputes among Europe’s aristocratic officers. [60] At the Paris games, the Italian fencing school was faced with a twofold challenge of ´ ´ having to win against the French school in the foil and epee events, and against the Hungarian school in the sabre events (where it succeeded brilliantly at the Antwerp Games in 1920). [61] France also had its role to play in the sabre events, although its tradition was still under the influence of the Saumur and Saint-Cyr schools. As a French fencing master said at the time, Hungarian techniques were more effective: ‘The Hungarians, followed by the Italians ahead of us, employ a much better method, which explains why France ranks fourth at most in sabre events.’ [62] Even so, in 1924 one of the French team’s fencers, Roger Ducret, firmly believed that he had a chance of winning: ‘Yes, we must also win in the sabre event! . . . My friends, when the match is unequal, when it seems lost in advance, it is the moment to redouble our efforts. . . . Our fencers have never fought better than when winning seemed impossible. It is a tradition in French weaponry.’ [63] His ambition threw the Italian-Hungarian opposition in the individual sabre event off balance and complicated the French-Italian rivalry even more. In secret, the sabre was Roger Ducret’s preferred weapon. He developed wellthought-out watchful tactics and used valuable advice gleaned from fencing master Santelli to compensate for his technical weaknesses, involving superior legwork and rapidity compared to his adversaries. [64] He turned out to be a serious and unexpected contender in the final, which historically included only the Italians and the Hungarians. To be defeated by a French fencer with no reputation as a sabre specialist would have been a supreme insult to the Italians. The pressure mounted for

The Puliti Affair and the 1924 Paris Olympics


Puliti, who had more to lose in this encounter than his adversaries. Although he already enjoyed a solid reputation, he had only recently assumed the role of hero for the Italians, when the talented Aldo Nadi turned professional just a few months before the games. [65] Under pressure from the Fascists and the public, then, Puliti was a natural choice as Italian team leader in Paris. Since he had not yet really proved himself, he had everything to prove during the Olympic foil and sabre events. Following a disqualification in the foil event, a by-the-skin-of-the-teeth Italian victory in the team sabre event could not suffice; [66] Puliti had to win the individual event. The personal, national and cultural stakes involved made victory crucial. And so the incident provoked by the Italian fencers can be interpreted as an opportunity to save the Italian school from a potential and politically symbolic athletic humiliation in the context of a strong rivalry against Hungary and France. Rehabilitating Puliti: A Diplomatic Necessity During the three years between Puliti’s penalty from the IOC (and then from the FIE) for misconduct and the Amsterdam games in 1928, Italians became increasingly interested in sport as Mussolini’s control over the activity became tighter. [67] The regime eliminated traditional forms of Catholic and working-class sport and created organizations such as the Opera Nazional Dopolavora (OND) for workers in 1925 and the Gruppi Universiti Fascisti (GUF) after 1927, making sport a central instrument in Il Duce’s strategy to reinforce Italy’s national identity and convey Italy’s success and power abroad. [68] The Italian Fascist orientation ‘towards a civilization of competition’ [69] accelerated, and by the end of December 1928 a Sports Charter had been drafted. [70] Italy’s success in the Amsterdam games became one of the Mussolini’s goals. Puliti had recovered from his duel with Kovacs and was still one of Italy’s best fencers – as well as an officer who was faithful to the Mussolini regime. He won the Mussolini Sabre Cup in November 1925, Cremona’s international tournament in June 1926 and the Mussolini Sabre Cup and the Italian Fascist Militia Officers’ foil event in December 1926 before taking several months off to nurse an arm wound. He was clearly capable of giving Italy Olympic gold during the next games in Amsterdam. Under the control of the Fascist CONI, the Italian Fencing Federation had been conscientiously sending detailed reports about Puliti’s good conduct during the competitions in which he participated. By the spring of 1927, these reports turned out to be useful arguments in preparing a plea to rehabilitate Puliti in time for the FIE convention to be held two months later. [71] Van Rossem, the president of the International Fencing Federation, was not unreceptive to the pressure from Italy, but he did not want anyone to think that he had caved in to Fascist demands. The only way for him to save face was if the IOC were to go back on its decision. He wrote to Baillet-Latour on 18 April 1927 to explain that Puliti would probably be rehabilitated at the next FIE convention. He added diplomatically that the IOC would have beforehand the opportunity to revoke the penalty imposed by the jury d’honneur in


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July 1924, to thus authorize him to participate in the next Olympic Games. [72] The subject was still too sensitive for the IOC, however, and Baillet-Latour replied that he found it preferable to wait until he knew what the FIE would decide in June. [73] When the FIE met in The Hague on 3–4 June 1927, the delegates, even the French and Hungarians, voted unanimously to rehabilitate Puliti. Only the exclusion from the Olympic Games remained on record. As this was the IOC’s decision, Van Rossem renewed his request to Baillet-Latour. This time, his appeal included not only evidence of Puliti’s good conduct, but a clarification of the 1924 context: ‘Italian fascism was in its early stages in 1924, and it was a time when the Italians were swept by a certain agitation; Mr Puliti must have been one of the victims.’ He went on to conclude with what could almost be construed as a warning: ‘The FIE would attach great importance to this [sic] request.’ [74] At the time, relations between the IOC’s president and the international federations were becoming more and more difficult over the balance of respective responsibilities and, especially, over a clear definition of amateur sport. While the international soccer, tennis and skating federations were the source of most of the tension, [75] the fencing federation was also causing problems because many of its top-level participants were fencing masters and teachers who could only be defined as professional. And since the Paris games, the IOC had been discussing the possibility of eliminating the team fencing events from the Olympic programme. These two sources of friction, already present in 1924 and discussed at the FIE convention in 1928, [76] were too sensitive for Baillet-Latour to take unrestrained action. Just a year before the 1928 Olympic Games, the pressure was stepped up. The CONI started to plead Puliti’s case directly, [77] and Van Rossem tried again at the end of summer, assuring Baillet-Latour that the executive committee could always exclude Puliti again if there were even the slightest problem. [78] Van Rossem’s insistence did not mean that he was merely lending a favourable ear to Italy’s demands. The ninth Olympic Games were to take place in Amsterdam in his own country, and he had been appointed general commissioner. A disagreement between the FIE and the IOC on Puliti’s participation would have placed him in an intolerable position. Baillet-Latour was aware of all this, and gave in. Under the combined pressure from fencing circles and Italy, he convened the jury d’honneur in Lausanne on 30 October 1927, which came to the decision ‘to lift the exclusion of Mr. Oreste Puliti from Olympic competition’. [79] The CONI, the FIE and Bonacossa, who had become a member of the IOC, were informed of it immediately. [80] Eight months later, at the age of 28, Oreste Puliti won a new Olympic title in the team foil event, before winding up his international career in 1929 with the European championship title. [81] Press Coverage Obviously, the Puliti affair did not go unnoticed in the press. Whether they were covering the fencing events as a sports event, as illustration of the relationships

The Puliti Affair and the 1924 Paris Olympics


between the Olympic Games and nationalism, as evidence of the quarrels between the IOC and the international federations or even as a record of the initial decisions of the IOC’s jury d’honneur, journalists at the time could hardly have avoided the affair even if they had wanted to. Their interest in the incident was dictated by their individual situations. [82] The Italian press was heavily exercised by the Puliti affair, especially as 1924 was the year that state supervision began to close its grip on the press. The Fascist government sought to indoctrinate the masses by controlling information and moulding public opinion. [83] All newspapers, from large daily general-interest publications such as Il Corriere della Sera to the main sports daily at the time, La Gazzetta dello Sport, were rapidly obliged to adopt the orthodox official line, following the example of Il Popolo d’Italia, the Fascist party’s official publication. It came as no surprise, then, when the Gazzetta dello Sport launched into a defence of the Italian fencers just after their disqualification from the cancelled 17 July final and Puliti’s disqualification. The affair was perceived as being sufficiently serious that its journalist concerned warned readers ‘not to be upset by the sombre tone’ of the article. [84] There followed an official attack on the Hungarian judge’s conduct and a particularly moralistic piece about the Italian champion designed to show how unjust the penalty was: ‘Every single one of Puliti’s bouts demonstrated – even to the blind! – that his class places him far above any other adversary in the tournament.’ [85] The details of the sequence of events were scrutinized and the supportive viewpoints of Italian leaders generously quoted. And when it clearly became difficult to defend some aspects of the aggressive conduct, the journalist fell back on male national pride, the fiery Latin temperament to explain or even justify it. A lengthy apologia followed along the lines: ‘We Italians don’t lodge complaints. We react as men, directly, privately.’ [86] The piece ended in verbal abuse against the Hungarians, with anti-Semitic and nationalistic overtones when the journalist accused Posta of resembling a ‘gloomy cemetery vulture’ because of his ‘hooked nose’, or when he attacked the ‘traitor’ Santelli for conduct ‘unworthy of an Italian’. [87] The journalist did not criticize the French directly, but he remarked ironically about their propensity for discharging themselves of any responsibility. [88] It was clear to him that the physically superior Italians had been denied a victory that was rightfully theirs. [89] The French people for their part played down the issue. Perhaps the absence of fingers pointing at them explains the relative discretion of the French press about the Puliti affair. Aside from the commentaries of two trade publications – L’escrime et le tir, which denounced the Italians’ unsportsmanlike attitude, [90] and L’Auto, which talked of an ‘unpleasant incident’ to describe the cancelled 17 July final [91] – it is hard to find any mention of the case’s subsequent events, even in the main French sports press such as the Miroir des sports, the Echo des Sports or Sport. [92] In fact, the few articles on the subject emanated less from journalists than from the protagonists involved in one way or another in the affair, who used the press columns for self´ legitimation. One example was Rene Lacroix, who gave an update in the Miroir des


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sports just after the games. [93] Another was Frantz Reichel, the kingpin of the Paris games who, learning of Puliti’s requalification in 1927, [94] gave a boastful critique in the Figaro on the way the jury d’honneur operated. The article provoked an immediate and irritated response from Baillet-Latour. [95] It is true that in the Paris games fencing events, the French team’s overall results were less than hoped for, in spite of their first place. The French had trouble accepting Lucien Gaudin’s scratch the first day of the tournament – an immense disappointment, coming as it did from an ‘exceptional’ champion. [96] Dredging up the fact later that the Italians, their main rivals in the sabre event, had been disqualified could only have intensified that. Diplomatic caution and sport disappointment inspired the discretion and gravity that the French journalists duly adopted throughout the affair, even taking refuge behind ‘neutrality in sports’ in 1927 to clamour for a match between Lucien Gaudin and Oreste Puliti, the two best fencers of the moment, even though the IOC had not yet rehabilitated Puliti. [97] This low-profile approach contrasts considerably with the virulent attacks in the English-speaking press. The New York Times, for example, considered that the affair was bad for the image of the games, arguing that the competition was now more between nations than between athletes. [98] The British press was even more caustic. The Puliti affair provided additional evidence of the way the Olympic Games seemed to be heading down a blind alley, and how the countries of continental Europe – such as Italy and France – were incapable of truly sportsmanlike behaviour. On 22 July, the London Times correspondent described both the scene at the sabre final and the ` Folies Bergeres altercation, denouncing the ‘Italian violence’. The next day, there were a few lines in the newspaper stating that the affair was closed. [99] This was part of a long article that called into question the way the Paris games had been organized and were conducted. The article presented the British and the Americans as the systematic victims of hostility stimulated by the games. After a series of incidents that occurred in boxing, for example, the Puliti affair provided an argument for the campaign led by Sir Harry Perry Robinson, the Paris correspondent for The Times, to discredit the Olympic Games and the continental idea of sport:
Miscellaneous turbulence, shameful disorder, storms of abuse, free fights and the drowning of national anthems of friendly nations by shooting and boxing are not conducive to an atmosphere of Olympic calm. Disturbances of this kind, culminating in open expressions of national hostility might conceivably end in worse trouble than the duel which, it is feared, may take place as results of the personal quarrel in which a Hungarian and Italian fencer have allowed themselves to justify to become involved. [100]

Conclusion What was really the signification of the Puliti affair? It was only one out of a number of incidents that occurred during the 1924 Olympic Games. However, it was the one that created the most fuss. It was also the IOC jury d’honneur’s first case. The initial

The Puliti Affair and the 1924 Paris Olympics


conflict placed an Italian and a Hungarian in opposition under the scrutiny of the French, who had not the slightest reason – sporting, cultural or political – for seeing the affair settled in favour of their major competitors. As often happens with this type of affair, there are several different possible interpretations. Only by examining these from all angles can the complexity of the affair be conveyed. Beyond its sequence of events, the Puliti affair mirrors the juxtaposition of different levels of conflict that the jury had to put up with, whether it liked it or not. At a very basic level, winning fencing medals was crucial for nations such as Hungary, France or Italy, as each country had understandable hopes in this discipline. On top of this, was added a cultural challenge in which the stakes were the supremacy of either the Italian school or the French school, two of the most significant fencing schools in history. [101] Another institutional level of the conflict involved the intervention of the FIE at a time when the IOC was entering into delicate negotiations with all the international federations during its 1925 convention in Prague. And because the FIE prior this date was controlled by the French, the IOC was forced to cave in to the FIE’s demand that Puliti be rehabilitated. The IOC also gave way when confronted with the rising nationalism of the Mussolini regime, instead of opposing it through its jury d’honneur. So the last level was more clearly geopolitical, in so far as the Puliti affair involved countries in which diplomatic relations were metamorphosing due to the rise of new nationalistic movements in Europe. Furthermore, the Puliti affair confirmed for some that sport on the Continent was corrupted by excessive nationalism. The conflict was even used moralistically by the British to discredit the organization of the Olympic Games, considered by them to be a French affair that had little to do with true sportsmanship. These different levels weighed on Puliti’s shoulders – all the more, because he became invested with a genuine nationalistic mission when he took the place of the champion Aldo Nadi. However, these levels were clearly related to various faces of nationalism as well as to masculine and aristocratic pride. Indeed, the concept of masculine honour was supranational. It embraced several significant European nations. It was part and parcel of a concept of aristocratic masculinity stretching far back in European history. It played its parts in the form of a legacy, in fanning the flames of the Puliti conflagration. By the late nineteenth century it had extended its influence well beyond aristocratic circles and by the end of the century it was fundamental to middle class male behaviour across Europe. [102] It was a moral code that dictated attitude and action: the Puliti Affair embraced a gender level as well as national and institutional levels. Acknowledgements The authors wish to thank Carolyn Nafziger and Sarah Morgan for their translation and checking of this paper. They are also indebted to Douglas Booth for his comments during the NASSH congress 2006, where an earlier and shorter version of it was presented.


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[1] [2] [3] [4] Davis, Europe East and West. Arnaud and Riordan, Sport et relations internationales. Senn, Power, Politics, and the Olympic Games. The protagonists’ names, especially those of Puliti and Kovacs, were frequently misspelled in the various archives that we have used. In case of quotation, we have chosen to respect the spelling of these documents, even if it was wrong. This paper is mainly based on primary sources, including the archives of the IOC collected in the file ‘Jury d’honneur: Puliti 1924–1927’, as well as both the national and international press. Mangan, Making European Masculinities. ` Renson, La VIIieme Olympiade Anvers 1920. Initially created on 6 June 1921 to supply Coubertin during his absence, the executive commission was soon to become a counter-power within the IOC. See Boulongne, ‘Les ´ presidences de Demetrius Vikelas et de Pierre de Coubertin’; Auger, ‘Une histoire politique du mouvement olympique’. Report on the IOC session, Rome, session of 10 April 1923, IOC archives, Lausanne. ´ On the jury of appeal and the field jury, see Comite olympique francais, Les Jeux de la VIIIe ¸ Olympiade, 78. Santelli was an Italian master, but he used to teach in Hungary and he joined the Hungarian delegates in Paris. Thus, he was considered a ‘traitor’ to his fellow countrymen. Jules de Muzsa, co-president of the Hungarian Olympic Committee, to Pierre de Coubertin, [16 or 17] July 1924, file ‘jury d’honneur: Puliti 1924–1927’, IOC archives [hereafter ‘IOC jury d’honneur file’]. In addition to three Hungarians, two Frenchman, a Danish, an Argentinian and a Dutchman. ´ Comite olympique francais. Les Jeux de la VIIIe Olympiade, 283. ¸ ‘Le tournoi de sabre’. L’Auto, 18 July 1924. The exact terms were not given in the Italian press nor were they in the French, British and American presses. They are never clearly presented in the numerous letters archived in the IOC. However, the Belgium journal Le Soir reported that Puliti would have said towards Kovacs: ‘We are Fascist and we will deal with him as Fascist: hitting his head with a stick’ (‘Les championnats de sabre. Le gros incident italien’, Le soir, 20 July 1924). L’escrime et le tir 43 (Aug. 1924). ¨ After this second final, the Frenchman Ducret, the Hungarian Garaı and his compatriot Posta had the same number of victories (5 on 7 assaults). The IOC decided to organize another tour, in contradiction with the FIE rules, which stipulated that the goal-average should be considered first. Under the IOC rules, Ducret was beaten by Posta and finished second in the individual foil event. Dissatisfied by the decision, the French master complained officially to the jury of appeal. Letter from Alberto Bonacossa, representative of the Italian Olympic Committee, to the Count Clary, President of the French Olympic committee, 17 July 1924, IOC jury d’honneur file. Ironically, Bonacossa became an IOC member in 1925 (until 1953) where he integrated the executive commission from 1935 to 1952. He was elected a Fascist deputy at the end of the 1920s. As we have seen before, these terms were notably different to those reported by the Belgium press. Oreste Puliti to Renato Anselmi and Marcello Garagnagi, 19 July 1924, IOC jury d’honneur file.


[6] [7] [8]

[9] [10] [11] [12]

[13] [14] [15] [16]

[17] [18]


[20] [21]

The Puliti Affair and the 1924 Paris Olympics


[22] Ibid. [23] Letter from Georges Kovacs, n.d. [20 July 1924], double signature unreadable, IOC jury d’honneur file. [24] Letter from Jules de Musza, 20 July 1924, IOC jury d’honneur file. [25] According to the correspondent of The Times (London), 23 July 1924, 14. [26] ‘Italian Violence’, The Times, 22 July 1924. [27] The Times, 14 Nov. 1924. [28] This point was crucial because Danubian Europe underwent at the time one of its main geopolitical crises. See for instance Bernard, Nations et nationalismes en Europe centrale, and more generally Castellan, Histoire des Balkans. [29] Document added to the Report of the IOC session, Paris, 25 June–12 July 1924, IOC jury d’honneur file. [30] Report of the IOC session, Rome, 10 April 1923, IOC jury d’honneur file. [31] Decision of the jury d’honneur, written document, 23 July 1924, and report of the IOC session, Paris, 25 June–12 July 1924, IOC jury d’honneur file. [32] See for instance ‘Italian Fencer, Seeking Duel, Forever Barred From Olympics’, New York Times, 24 July 1924. [33] Jules de Musza to Pierre de Coubertin, 24 July 1924, IOC jury d’honneur file. [34] Pierre de Coubertin to Jules de Musza, 25 July 1924, IOC jury d’honneur file. [35] ‘The Olympic Games. A Cause of Ill will. More evidence’. The Times, 23 July 1924, 14. ´ ` [36] Rene Lacroix, ‘Apres les Jeux Olympiques’, L’escrime et le tir 42 (July 1924). ´ [37] In fact, Rene Lacroix was in a very powerful position within the international federation at ´ this time. The president, Andre Maginot – another Frenchman – was ready to leave, but he was replaced by Captain Van Rossem only on 1 January 1925. During this phase of transition, Lacroix was quite free. ´ [38] Rene Lacroix to Pierre de Coubertin, 26 July 1924 and 31 July 1924, IOC jury d’honneur file. ´ ´ [39] See Coubertin, Memoires olympiques, and Boulongne, ‘Les presidences de Demetrius Vikelas et de Pierre de Coubertin’, 201. [40] Maginot was the Minister of War between 1922 and 1924. ´ ´ ` ´ ´ [41] Lacroix, ‘Rapport presente le 26 juin a la Federation internationale d’escrime’, L’escrime et le tir 42 (July 1924). ´ ´ [42] S. Feschotte, secretary-general of the Federation internationale d’escrime, to Baillet-Latour, 24 Oct. 1925, IOC jury d’honneur file. According to the changes in 1925, the executive commission was ruled by the president of the IOC. This explains why the mail was addressed to Baillet-Latour. [43] S. Van Rossem and S. Feschotte (International Fencing Federation) to Giuseppe Mazzini, president of the Italian National Fencing Confederation, 24 Oct. 1925, IOC jury d’honneur ` file. See also ‘Congres de la FIE’, L’escrime et le Tir, April 1925. ´ [44] Auger, ‘Une histoire politique du mouvement olympique’; Carpentier, Le Comite international olympiques en crises. During this meeting, the FIE departed from some of its decisions made during the Paris games. [45] Milza, Mussolini, 570. [46] Teja, ‘The Transformation of the National Olympic Committee’. [47] Teja, ‘Le sport italien et les relations internationales’, 163. See also Pivato, Les enjeux du sport. [48] Gori, Italian Fascism and the Female Body. [49] Ottavio Bottecchia was the winner of the Tour de France in 1924. [50] Romano, Histoire de l’Italie. ` [51] Duroselle, Histoire diplomatique de 1919 a nos jours; Guillaume et al., L’Europe des nationalismes aux nations. [52] Milza and Berstein, Le fascisme italien, 309.


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[53] After the murder of the Italian General Tellini, sent to Greece to establish the new limits of the border with Albania, Mussolini ordered the bombardment and occupation of Corfu. The Italian leader later accepted a compromise, thanks to the actions of both the British government and the League of Nations. [54] In January, the Treaty of Rome was signed by Italy and Yugoslavia, giving Mussolini an international image. The city of Fiume was returned to Italy and became a symbol of Italian nationalism. Mussolini recognized the USSR in February 1924, one week after the British ` Government. Three months later, E. Benes, president of the Czech Republic, attended Rome, where he discussed the first basis of a treaty of friendship with Italy. The good relations between Italy and Great Britain ended only in 1935. See Milza and Berstein, Le fascisme italien, 310. ´ [55] Pamlenyi, Histoire de la Hongrie. [56] Molnar, Histoire de la Hongrie. [57] Castellan, Histoire des Balkans. ´ ´ [58] France was in charge of the rules for the foil and the epee. ´ ´ [59] In France, the weapon for duel was generally the epee. ´ [60] Jeanneney, Le duel; Baudot, Le duel et la republique. When the offence was light, the duellists used cutting edge and protected the most sensitive parts of their body (heart etc); when the offence was more serious, the duellists were half naked and used the point and the edge of the weapon. The duels were generally organized in arms rooms, under rules that depended on the graveness of the offence. Several of the Hungarian fencers in the Paris games, Schenker for instance, had already experienced duels. [61] At the sport level, the Italian hegemony ended precisely in 1924 when it was replaced by a Hungarian supremacy. [62] Trombert, L’art et la pratique de l’escrime, 65. ´ [63] Joseph-Renaud, ‘Preparons-nous’, L’escrime et le Tir, August 1923. [64] Ducret, D’estoc et de taille. [65] Born in Livorno the son of a fencing master, Puliti followed in his father’s footsteps and those of his brother Nedo, who won a medal in Antwerp. After 1922, he became for the Italians the one who could avenge the affront of French fencers. He several times met Lucien Gaudin, the French champion, in various bouts described by the transalpine press with nationalist fervour. [66] The Italy-Hungary team sabre final saw the most difficult and disputed assaults. Both teams finished with the same number of victories (8 on 16), but the goal-average gave an advantage to the Italians. [67] Fabrizio, Sport e Fascismo; Frasca, E il Duce le volle sportive. [68] Fabrizio, Storia dello sport in Italia; Gori, L’atleta e la nazione. Saggi di storia dello sport. [69] Passerini, Mussolini immaginario. [70] See Teja, ‘Le sport italien et les relations internationales’; Ferretti, Il fascismo e l’educazione sportiva; Teja and Impiglia, ‘Italy’. [71] Giuseppe Mazzini (president of the Italian National Fencing Confederation) to Van Rossem, president of the International Fencing Federation, 6/04/1927, archives IOC, file ‘Jury d’honneur: Puliti 1924–1927’. [72] Van Rossem to Baillet-Latour, 12 April 1927, IOC jury d’honneur file. [73] Baillet-Latour to Van Rossem, 26 April 1927, IOC jury d’honneur file. [74] Van Rossem to Baillet-Latour, 18 June 1927, IOC jury d’honneur file. [75] The analysis of the conflicts between the IOC and these three federations is made by ´ Carpentier, Le Comite international olympique en crises, 257–315. ´ [76] Leon Delevoye, ‘Les prochains jeux olympiques’, L’escrime et le tir 42 (July 1924); Ordre du ` jour du congres de la FIE des 26 et 27 juillet 1928, June 1928, file ‘FIE 1921–1963’, IOC archives.

The Puliti Affair and the 1924 Paris Olympics


[77] Montu to Baillet-Latour, 29 June 1927 and Ferretti to Baillet-Latour, 4 July 1927, IOC jury d’honneur file. [78] Van Rossem to Baillet-Latour, 10 Sept. 1927, IOC jury d’honneur file. [79] Minutes of the jury d’honneur, 30 Oct. 1927, IOC jury d’honneur file. [80] Baillet-Latour to Lando Ferretti, Van Rossem and Bonacossa, 1 Nov. 1927, IOC jury d’honneur file. [81] With no fencing world championships at this time, the status of European champion is, alongside that of Olympic champion, the most prestigious. [82] It was of course not possible to analyse systematically the press of all these countries. Rather we explore some of the newspapers of the countries that were particularly active in the Paris games or concerned by the Puliti affair. However, it was not possible to consult the Hungarian press. [83] Cannistraro, La fabrica del consenso; Grazia, Consenso e cultura di massa; Milza and Berstein, Le fascisme italien. [84] ‘Il cimento italo-ungherese al torneo di sciabola; La giuria di appello esclude Oreste Puliti dalla gara e tutti gli sciabolatori italiani si ritirano per protesta’, Gazzetta dello Sport, 18 July 1924. We thank Karen Bretin for her help on this part of the study. ` [85] ‘Tutti gli incontri di Puliti avevano mostrato anche ai ciechi che egli e di tale classe da non tenere avversari nel torneo’, Gazzetta dello Sport, 18/071924. [86] Gazzetta dello Sport, 18 July 1924. [87] Ibid. [88] ‘Alla ottava Olimpiade continua la sfilata dei campioni di tutte le Nazioni; Il torneo individuale di sciabola, il pensiero di Gaudin sull’incidente italo-ungherese’, Gazzetta dello Sport, 19 July 1924. [89] ‘La scherma olimpionica con giurie di appello e batoste senza appello’, Gazzetta dello Sport, 22 July 1924. [90] Jean Joseph-Renaud, ‘De loin’, L’escrime et le tir 42 (July 1924). [91] ‘Le tournoi de sabre’, L’Auto, 18 July 1924. [92] This contrasts with the general attitude of the French press towards Italy. See Milza, Le fascisme italien et la presse francaise. ¸ ´ ` [93] Rene Lacroix, ‘Escrime. Apres les Jeux Olympiques. Mise au point’, Le Miroir des sports, July 1924. [94] Frantz-Reichel, ‘La requalification de Puliti’, Le Figaro, 6 Nov. 1927. [95] Baillet-Latour to Frantz-Reichel, 8 Nov. 1927, IOC jury d’honneur file. [96] Lucien Gaudin enjoyed this special status from 1919. Captain of the French team, ´ he was the uncontested leader of the sport and a national hero. See Bollee, Lucien Gaudin. ` [97] ‘Un beau match de fleuret franco-italien a organiser: Lucien Gaudin contre Puliti’, L’Auto, Aug. 1927, IOC jury d’honneur file. [98] ‘London Sees End of Olympic Games’, New York Times, 23 July 1924; ‘Value of Olympics Doubted by French’, New York Times, 23 July 1924. Recall that, in 1924, Italy and GreatBritain were on very good terms at the diplomatic level. [99] ‘Italian Violence’, The Times, 22 July 1924; ‘The Olympic Games. A Cause of Ill Will. More Evidence’, The Times, 23 July 1924. [100] ‘No More Olympic Games’ and ‘Olympic Games Doomed. Failure of the Ideal. Disgraceful Scenes’, both The Times, 22 July 1924. See also ‘Olympic Games Trouble’, Sporting Life, 23 July 1924. [101] The official report of the games (p. 264) evoked the weight of the two French and Italian ´ fencing schools in Paris. The text was written by Rene Lacroix. [102] Mangan, Making European Masculinities.


T. Terret et al.

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