Winter Velodrome


May 21, 2022

The Vélodrome d'Hiver (or Paris winter velodrome) is a Parisian stadium built in 1909 and destroyed in 1959. It was colloquially known as the "Vél' d'Hiv". It was located rue Nélaton, in the 15th arrondissement. It is known to have been the scene of the Vél’ d’Hiv’ roundup in 1942.


From the beginning of the century to the Second World War

At the beginning of the 20th century, cycling competition became a popular spectacle for the working population of cities. The construction of velodromes is part of this trend. As early as 1902, Henri Desgrange asked the architect Gaston Lambert to develop the Galerie des Machines, a remnant of the 1889 Universal Exhibition located in the Grenelle district, to create a cycling competition track there. Inaugurated on December 20, 1903, the velodrome quickly enjoyed great popular success. But in 1909, the city announced the destruction of the Galerie des Machines in order to free up the view towards the Champ de Mars. Desgrange then decided to build a new bicycle temple nearby, at the corner of boulevard de Grenelle and rue Nélaton. This future "Palais des Sports" has for architects MM. Lambert and Durand, who call it the "sports temple of the Boulevard de Grenelle". In the new "Vél' d'Hiv'" built in metal frame which was then born, 17,000 spectators seated on bleachers of bricks and concrete, can observe the runners who run through an oval fir wood track, with bends statements of 250 meters of development around a vast central lawn. The room is lit by a huge skylight and more than a thousand light bulbs. The opening meeting took place on Sunday, February 13, 1910. Many demonstrations animated this equipment even during the First World War (the champion Louis Darragon killed himself there in April 1918 during a race behind a motorcycle). The famous cycle race known as the "Six Days of Paris", created in 1913 by Bob Desmarets, following the example of an equivalent American race, had its hour of glory in the interwar period, and quickly became the peak of the cycling season. In 1926 began the election of the "Queen of the Six Days", in charge of giving the start of the race; the Queens were chosen from among the fashionable popular artists: Edith Piaf, Yvette Horner, La Houppa, were thus Queens of the Six Days. The animation then spread day and night into the streets of the district. In 1931, the building was renovated by the American Jeff Dickson (also programmer of the Salle Wagram) and became the “Palais des Sports de Grenelle”. Indeed, with his company, the Jeff Dickson International Sports, he organizes in addition to the traditional boxing matches and bicycle races, other sports competitions in the enclosure: tennis, basketball but also hockey and ice skating ( thanks to adequate equipment allowing the realization of an ice rink). This is the beginning of the "Roaring Twenties" of ice hockey. In 1936, the Vélodrome hosted the world figure skating championships.

The Vélodrome d'Hiver roundup

From July 16 and 17, 1942, some of the 13,152 Jews (4 115 children, 5,919 women and 3,118 men), victims of the Vél' d'Hiv' roundup, before their transfer to transit camps (notably Drancy), then their deportation to the Auschwitz extermination camp. Birkenau. On April 11, 1943, a meeting of the National Revolutionary Front was held there, during which members of the National Revolutionary Militia were sworn in.

Post-war and destruction

The post-war period saw the organization of boxing tournaments there (a