Le championnat de l’escalier 1946: the third Eiffel Tower stair race

Posted: February 19, 2020 in Tower running history
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1946 l'escalier championnat tour eiffel

After a 40-year break, tower running returned to the Eiffel Tower in 1946.

Could the course record set in 1906 be beaten by one of the new generation of French athletes?

A new race in a renovated tower

The Eiffel Tower had been closed to the public throughout the Second World War, but once the war was over Parisians turned their attention to the famous landmark and brought it back up to scratch.

In 1946, the lifts were fixed and the tower underwent some renovations and maintenance work, including a full repaint.

Le championnat de l’escalier 1946

The previous editions of the Eiffel Tower stair race in 1905 and 1906 (scroll down for links to the stories of these events) had been organised by a publication called Les Sports.

By 1946, Les Sports had disappeared, but a new sports-focused publication called L’Equipe had launched in February that year.

L’Equipe put on a stair race at the Eiffel Tower on Sunday 27th of October, with a trophy sponsored by Valentin, a maker of waterproof garments, ready for the winner.

1946 Eiffel Tower stair race advert

The course record is destroyed

In comparison to the previous two editions, post-race coverage of the 1946 race was extremely limited, so finding out exactly what caliber of athletes were in attendance was difficult.

But we do know that around 300 people turned up to race up 729 steps to the second platform of the tower, and the course record of 3:04, set by Eugene Neveu in 1906, was the target.

1906 Neveu winner

Eugene Neveu – winner of the Eiffel Tower stair climb in 1906

Participants were set off individually every 30 seconds, and when all was run and done, at least two men had gone under Neveu’s record.

1946 Eiffel Tower race

An athlete in action at the 1946 Eiffel Tower stair race

The winner was Jean Riousset (reported in one publication as Roussier) who clocked 2:54.

He was a 3,000m steeplechaser who is likely to have been the same Riousset that finished fourth at the 1944 French Athletics Championships. He was representing the Union Athlétique Intergadz’Arts Paris.

1946 eiffel tower winner Riousset

1946 champion – Riousset

In second place, and also breaking the previous course record, was Robert Loze who finished in 3:02.

A little bit of confusion creeps in beyond these top two finishers with conflicting reports and headlines relating to the times of the remaining athletes in the top five. We’ve reached out to L’Equipe for clarification and are hoping to hear back from them.

In third place was André Larne, fourth was R. Niasset and fifth was Sanson.

1946 l'escalier championnat tour eiffel

Le championnat de l’escalier de la Tour Eiffel 1946

The extreme physical demands of the event were noted, with one newspaper reporting that a doctor at the top recorded runners finishing with pulse rates of 230 bpm.

It would be another 49 years before stair running returned to the Iron Lady, with the first full race to the top of the tower in 1995.

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