24 February 2012

1920 Summer Olympics Antwerp: VII Olympiad

"Hang on!" you say, "Last week it was the V Olympiad. I know my Roman numerals what happened to the VI Olympiad?"

Ok, here is what happened, the games of the VI Olympiad had been awarded. In 1912 work on the Olympic Stadium designed to seat 18,000 spectators began. On 8 June 1913 it was dedicated (pictured) with 60,000 people in attendance and 10,000 pigeons released. The issue of course was timing and location. The games of course would have occurred in 1916 in the middle of World War I, the location as shown by the flag of the German Empire was to have been Berlin.

There the games of the VI Olympiad never took place and it was 20 years before Berlin got to host their games. The Deutches Stadion built for the 1916 bid was used for football matches but was closed in 1934 with the arrival of the Olympic Stadium.

Budapest had initially been chosen to host the 1920 Games over Amsterdam and Lyon, however as they were part of the German Allies the Austro-Hungarian Empire they were not suitable to host the subsequent games. Therefore it fell upon the Belgian city of Antwerp to help that nation and the world recover from the trench warfare that had ravished that land.

So on with the stats

Nations 29 (+1)
Competitors 2627 (220)
Sports 22 (+8)
Events 154 (+52)

20 April - 12 September 1920 hosted by Antwerp, Belgium

The IOC left which countries should be invited up to the hosts, therefore the athletes of the former Axis powers Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey were not invited.

The redrawn map of Europe did have the opportunity for new nations to join the Olympic family in Antwerp. But only Estonia took on that mantle for Europe. Czechoslovakia took on the mantle of Bohemia who had competed pre-war. Also from Europe the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later to be known as Yugoslavia) and Monaco took part for the first time, as did the newly independent Finland who had taken part as the Russian Grand Duchy of Finland before. Brazil and Argentina were also new countries, and having competed as Australasia, New Zealand competed for the first time as as a separate entity.

Post War a new flag

In June 1914 at the IOC congress Baron Pierre de Coubertin had approval for him emblem of five interlocking rings as the official symbol of the Olympic Games. With the intervention of war it appeared for the first time in Antwerp on a white back ground to represent peace.

In 1931 de Coubertin said:

"The Olympic flag ... has a white background, with five interlaced rings in the centre: blue, yellow, black, green and red ... This design is symbolic ; it represents the five inhabited continents of the world, united by Olympism, while the six colors are those that appear on all the national flags of the world at the present time."

The original flag as pictured, went missing after the games and a new flag was used from the next Games and passed on to the next Summer Games Host until 1988 (when it was retired), but also up until the 1952 Winter Games before they winter Olympiads got their own flag to pass on. However, for the entire use of that 1924 flag being used it was known as the "Antwerp Flag" in honour of its first appearance.

...and a new Oath

The Olympic Oath was first muted in 1906 but didn't appear in the opening ceremony until swimmer, water polo player and Epée Fencer Victor Boin uttered the following words.

We swear. We will take part in the Olympic Games in a spirit of chivalry, for the honour of our country and for the glory of sport.

Boin should really be in that infamous list of ten famous Belgians, but rarely do people remember who took the oath on behalf of the athletes, from 1972 also the officials.

However, Boin won three medals across three Olympiad in two sports from 1908 to 1920. Silver then Bronze in the water polo, followed by a silver in the team epée in 1920.

New sports

Ice Hockey was the only new sport at the 1920 Games and along with Ice Skating which had returned from the London 1908 were a precursor to the new innovation that would happen four years later in Chamonix, France with the I Winter Olympiad.

The eventual winners were Canada (pictured) in the shape of the Winnepeg Falcons. The team included future Stanley Cup winners Frank Frederickson and Haldor Halderson. Seven of the eight man team were of Icelandic origin, as well as Frederickson and Halderson, Robert Benson, Walter Byron, Chris Fridfinnson, Magnus Goodman and Konrad Johanneson had some or total Icelandic ancestors. Only Alan Woodman and coach W.A. Hewitt were except from the viking blood.

The team they beat in the final were USA.

The flying Finn

A 23 year old from Turku in Finland was to start what was to be the most successful Olypic career of a distance runner. He still ties the most Olympic gold medals with a sprinter Carl Lewis, gymnast Larisa Latynina and swimmer Mark Spitz only Michael Phelps has won more.

In 1920 Paavo Nurmi took three gold medals in the 10,000m, Individual Cross-Country and Team Cross-Country. He was also to take silver in the 500om.

In 1924 he went on to take 5 golds 1500m, 5000m, 3000m team race, individual and team cross country. He also came first in both the semi-final and final races in the 3000m team race, as well as his semi-finals in both the 1500m and 5000m, meaning he ran seven races, for a total of 26,000m, and won them all. He had also been entered in the 10,000m but the Finnish delegation fearing for his health withdrew him from what would have been his last race of the Olympics for a possible 6th gold. He returned to Finland angry and 56 days after the Olympic 10,000m winner, his compatriot,  Ville Ritola ran a new world record to win gold he smashed it by a further 17 seconds.

He followed that up with another gold in the 10,000m with silvers in the 5000m and 3000m steeplechase in 1928. He would have been going for a 3rd 10,000m gold and the Marathon in 1932 but for a challenge from the Swedes that he had been paid too much in expenses to race in Germany and therefore broke the amateur rules.

An event in two countries and a first medal on ***** soil

For a unique Olympic moment we turn to the 12-foot dinghy competition. The second race was nullified at Ostend due to a tidal current moving the marks. There wasn't time to reschedule the race,  but as both the contesting boats were from the Netherlands the final race took place in Amsterdam. The only time an Olympic event took place in more than one country and the first Olympic competition held by the Dutch a whole 8 years before their own Olympics.

See also: my full list of past Olympicss

17 February 2012

1912 Summer Olympics Stockholm: V Olympiad

Nations 28 (+6)
Competitors 2407 (+399)
Sports 14 (-8)
Events 102 (-8)

5 May - 22 July 1912 Stockholm, Sweden

In 1909, with only one application to host the V Olympiad Stockholm was duly selected as the hosts for the 1912 games.

It was the fourth time in the five official Olympiads that we had been in Europe. However, the final continent Asia finally had representation at these games with Japan taking part for the first time. The other newcomer also broke new ground as Egypt was the first Arab Nation. Portugal, Iceland, Turkey (as the Ottoman Empire) were also new nations.

Stockholm had wanted to expand on London including ice skating in the games by adding a week of winter sports into their Olympics. However, the Swedish based Nordic Games didn't want multiple sports in the early part of the 1912-13 season detracting from their own event scheduled once again for Stockholm.

There was no boxing at the 1912 the last time it would be missing from the Olympic programme. However, the three day event which appeared in St. Louis returned and has never left, as did road cycling which had only appeared at the first Games in Athens.

An introduction to these games was the use of electronic timing for the athletics events. But there were also the introduction of some multi-event disciplines.

Jim Thorpe the greatest sportsman on earth

Jim Thorpe
The Pentathlon had already been around in the Olympic programme since the Intercalated Games of 1906 this time there was the addition of the 10 sport event, the decathlon had arrived. The event arrived in the format we still recognise today apart from the fact that is took part from Saturday 13th July to Monday 15th over 3 days instead of the normal two these day. But the order of the events was the same starting with the 100m, then long jump, shot put, high jump and 400m which now concludes the first day. Then discus, 110m hurdles, pole vault, javalin and 1500m which now round off the event on day two.

One man dominated the pentathlon on 7 July and this event a week later. He was a mixed race Caucasian and Sac and Fox native American called Jim Thorpe. He won 4 of the 5 events in the pentahlon then a further 4 from the 10 of the Decathlon. Indeed between the 26 Pentathletes and 29 Decathletes his worse event placings were two fourths in the Decathlon's 400m and javelin.

The Pentathlon did award points on the basis of position, but the Decathlon brought with it a new scoring system based on the performance of the athlete on the day against a base. Thorpe's score of 8412.955, which equates to 6649 on today's points system, using a sand pit to land the pole vault with wooden not fibre glass poles, and other equipment differences would have been good enough to stand as Olympic record until 1932. 

Thorpe as well as the two multi-event wins also came 4th in the High Jump (he jumped the same height in the Decathlon) and 7th in the Long Jump (although the 7.07m he jumped in the Pentathlon would have been 4th in the individual).

However, in 1913 Thorpe was stripped of his two Olympic gold medals as he had been a semi-professional baseball player while a student with Rocky Mount in the Eastern Carolina League and therefore in breach of the then strict amateurism rules. Thorpe unlike other college athletes had not used an alias for these summer payments of as little as $2 ($47 today) per game and a max of $35 ($877) per week. He wrote to the Amateur Athletic Union saying:
 "I hope I will be partly excused by the fact that I was simply an Indian schoolboy and did not know all about such things. In fact, I did not know that I was doing wrong, because I was doing what I knew several other college men had done, except that they did not use their own names". 
But the AAU revoked his amateur status retrospectively, a decision upheld by the IOC. There were several appeals against the decision but even his team mate from those Games, later IOC President Avery Brundage said, "Ignorance is no excuse."

Eventually in 1983, thirty years after his death, the IOC decided to reinstate Thorpe as co-champion with Ferdinand Bie (Nor) in the Pentathlon and Hugo Wieslander (Swe) Decathlon, though both men always considered Thorpe to be true champion. King Gustav V 

Birth of the Modern Penathlon
The USA's 2nd Lt. Patton in the Modern Pentathlon

Baron Pierre de Coubertin created a new event for the 1912 games; an event that is still with us today. Initially it was designed as a military only event as the disciplines where those that the baron believed were necessary for a military officer.

First there was 10 metre pistol contest firing 20 shots with 40 seconds allowed for each shot. This was followed by a 300m swim (this is now 200m). Epée fencing where each competitor takes on everyone else in a one minute duel, a hit counts as a win, no hits counts as a loss for both. Next up there was jumping on a strange horse after just 20 minutes acclimation. The final event was a 4000m cross country run.

The Swedes took this new event very well, they took six of the first seven places in that first event in 1912. The man who broke in amongst them was 2nd Lieutenant George S. Patton of the US Army. He was an expert swordsman, indeed he helped the following year Model 1913 Cavalry Sabre, but was let down by his shooting. He claimed that his larger .38 caliber pistol made the holes in his target larger than the .22 caliber rounds used by his opponents, and that some of his shots went through earlier holes. However his was still penalised for one and came a lowly 20th in that event, he would be 7th in the swim, 4th in the fencing, 6th in the equestrian and 3rd in the run, to finish 5th.

He never complained about the incident in the shooting but said:

The high spirit of sportsmanship and generosity manifested throughout speaks volumes for the character of the officers of the present day. There was not a single incident of a protest or any unsportsmanlike quibbling or fighting for points which I may say, marred some of the other civilian competitions at the Olympic Games. Each man did his best and took what fortune sent them like a true soldier, and at the end we all felt more like good friends and comrades than rivals in a severe competition, yet this spirit of friendship in no manner detracted from the zeal with which all strove for success.

He would later rise to the rank of General eventually famously taking command of the US Third Army in World War II.

Marathon tales

Two men in the marathon were to face different fates. Portuguese athlete Francisco Lázaro had carried his nation's standard in the parade of athletes at the opening ceremony on 29th June. On 15th July he lined up with 68 others at the start of the Marathon. It was an exceptionally hot day and Lázaro rubbed wax over his body to prevent sunburn. At the 30km mark he collapsed and suffering from severe dehydration later died, he was the first fatality in competition at the Olympics.

Kanaguri Shisō at the start and end of his
Stockholm Olympic Marathon
The other is Kanaguri Shisō of Japan. In the heat of that marathon he fell unconscious and was cared for by a local farming family. Once he recovered he returned to Japan without notifying officials.Swedish officials considered him missing for 50 years until it was discovered that he had competed in intervening marathons including coming 16th in the 1920 Olympic marathon in 2'48:45.4 and a DNF in the 1924 event. He ins considered the father of the Japanese marathon running tradition.

However, in 1966 after he had been rediscovered Swedish Television contacted him to see if he wanted to complete his first Olympic Marathon. He did and therefore completed the full  40.2km in a time of 54 years, 8 months, 6 days, 8 hours, 32 minutes and 20.379 seconds.

Proud Finn but the Russian Flag

Finland had sent a separate team to the Games but on the nine times that they won gold the Russian flag was raised in their 'honour'. One man had the dubious honour three times, the first of the so-called Flying Finns. He took gold in the 5000m, 10000m and individual Cross Country (which helped his nation pick up silver in the team event). 

However, despite winning these three medals he saw the white, blue and red flag of Russia being raised and not the flag of Finland. It made him say that he "almost wished he hadn't won." 

The First World War interupted his sporting career and when the next Games came around in 1920 he was 31 and taking part in the Marathon. He finally got to see the flag of Finland raised in his honour and his national anthem played. 

When the Games came to Finland in 1952 he was, along with his successor in Finnish distance running Paavo Nurmi chosen for the honour of lighting the flame.

See also: The full list of my blog posts covering the past Olympics

10 February 2012

1908 Summer Olympics London: IV Olympiad

"And the games of the 5th Olympiad are awarded to.......Rome"

So why are we in London? And why are they now the 4th?

Last first the Intercalated games of 1906 (see last week's post) were at the time recognised as the 4th Olympiad, up until 1949 the position of the 1906 Games being in dispute. The former is because on 7 April 1906 Mount Vesuvius erupted devastating Naples and the funds that were designated for the Olympic stadiums and infrastructure were directed instead to that end. London stepped into the breach, not for the last time.

For the first time athletes came in behind their nation's standard
Nations 22 (+10)
Competitors 2008 (+1357)
Sports 22 (+5)
Events 110 (+19)

27 April - 31 October 1908 London, United Kingdom

An introduction to the opening ceremony in London was the parade of athletes behind the standards of their nation. This was because for the first time competitors truly where there to represent their nations and not as individuals. The days of the mixed national teams in Olympic games were over. So around the White City Stadium paraded the flags of the 22 competing nations lined up with Greece to the front and the United Kingdom (as their banner says in the picture) to the rear.

The new nations to take part in the games were Turkey (who were represented by one Greek athlete Aleko Moullos in the Gymnastics), Finland (though still part of the Russian Empire as the Grand Ducky of Finland at the time) and New Zealand (though their three athletes formed an Australasia team with the Australians).

The first Winter Olympians

At the Prince's Skating Club in Knightsbridge on the 28th and 29th October a first occured for the Olympic movement medals were awarded for what are considered winter sports now.

Ulrich Salchow of Sweden (pictured) who the following year would the following year take off on the back inside edge, and land on the back outside edge of his other foot, the jump that still bears his name took gold. Sweden took all three medals in the mens singles.

Great Britain took the women's singles through Madge Sayers, who along with her 45 year-old husband Edgar took bronze in the pairs behind the German pair of Anna Hübler (Germany's first female champion) and Heinrich Burger.

There was another dicipline the Men's special figures, which went to the Russian Nikolai Panin (their first gold). He was a multi-sports person, taking part also in rowing, cycling, athletics and gymnastics. With skating not on the Olympic calendar again for 16 years in 1912 he took part in the 50m pistol coming 8th.

Other new sports

Hockey (field) also made its debut at these games. Don't tell FIFA but at the first London games along with France and Germany the hockey teams on England, Scotland,Wales and Ireland all took part. England beat Ireland in the final and Scotland and Wales each took bronze.

Jeu de paume (Real Tennis) made its one and only Olympic appear at Queen's Club it went to one of the two Americans, Jay Gould II, in the otherwise British field of eleven.

Rackets also made it only Olympic appearance at that other great Tennis venue the All England Club that will once again be hosing Olympic Tennis this summer. All the competitors were however British so I'll let you guess who won all the medals then.

Water motorsports The London games were the only ones for which motorised sports are still counted in the medals table as three classes of motorboat raced in Southampton Water. However, in each of the three classes although multiple boats started only one in each completed the five laps of the 8 mile course. After these games the IOC stated that the games were not intended for motorised sport.

Some familiarities

The Diving in London took on a familiar look after its debut in St. Louis, although the names of high diving (for the 10m platform) and fancy diving (for the 3m springboard) less so. Although there was also a 1m springboard in that competition the medals fit only in the now familiar categories.

Preparing for the start of Marathon at Windsor
The marathon up until London had been a distance approximately the distance from Marathon to Athens approx 26 miles. But the race from Winsdor to the Olympic Stadium was meant to be just 26 miles, with the athletes using the Royal Entrance to the Olympic stadium before doing a 586 yard lap of the track. However, when it was realised that the Royal carriage would be blocking the Royal Entrance an alternative entrance was found leaving still 26 miles to the stadium, but a clockwise run around the track to a finish line made an extra 385 yards. In 1912 and 1920 the distance continued to vary, but from 1924 onwards the London distance became the official Olympic distance.

On a personal note a marathon has been run in London every year since that 1908 Olympic marathon. Even though the London Marathon only started in 1981 there was a continuous annual race organised by the Polytechnic Harriers (until 1999) the club of . My first brush with Olympic history was training on the track of Kingston Athletic Club and Polytechnic Harriers while at Kingston Polytechic (different Poly as Regent Street is now part of Westminster University).

These were the first Olympic games to be held in London, this summer the city will set a new record for hosting the most Summer Games. We've heard talk about the the legacy of the 2012 Games but what of the 1908 Games?

When a judge ruled that British athlete Wyndham Halswelle had been interfered with by one of the other finalists in the 400m there was a dispute as the definition of what deemed interference was different in the USA and British rules for running the event. The result was a rerun of the race, but the accused and his two fellow Americans refused to run. It meant that Halswelle had the only walkover win in Olympic history.

Following that event in the the greatest legacy of 1908 must surely be the establishment of standard rules for the sports that were deemed to be Olympic sports. Also bringing in judges from other countries other than the host. From here on all sports would be deemed to be judged impartially and a set of rules would be known for each competition. On top of this after the near death experience for the Games in St. Louis, London had given them high profile. Although they were still somewhat drawn out they were successful and as we know the movement has survived to this day.

See the full list here

3 February 2012

1906 Summer Olympics Athens: Intercalated Olympiad

In 1901 the International Olympic Committee decided that they would hold Intercalated Games every four years in the gap between the internationally arranged Olympic Games. There were to be held in Athens every 4 years. However, only one is ever staged, but if you have read my posts about the 1900 and 1904 Games the 1906 Intercalated Games may well have been the saviour of the entire Olympic movement.

Nations 20 (+8)
Competitors 903 [including 20 women] (+252)
Sports 13 (-4)
Events 78 (-13)

22 April - 2 May 1906 in Athens, Greece

The games were referred to as the Second Athens Olympic Games for some time, they were later in 1947 designated to not have full Olympic Status, their medals don't count in the official Olympic table. However, despite them being the only Intercalated Games to have taken part as  a review of past Games I am including them today for a number of reasons.

  1. It established the games as a separate compact event in their own right: not overshadowed by other events.
  2. They were the first in which competitors had to be accredited though their national Olympic Committees.
  3. They established the opening ceremony as a separate event, one where the ahtletes were paraded behind their national flags.
  4. It introduced the Olympic village to house the competitors.
  5. Flags were raised for the winners at the awarding of their prizes
  6. It introduced the closing ceremony to celebrate the conclusion of the events.
One of those winners was Canadian Billy Sherring of Canada who in the first occasion of acclimatisation for  an event lived for two months in Greece before taking the tape in the Marathon. Prince George of Greece was so excited about the achievement that he joined the Canadian for the final 50 metres (as pictured). It is not expected that his great-nephew the Prince of Wales will follow suit this summer.

Smyrna and Thessalonica both took part as separate entites in these games both the Greek cities being part of the Ottoman Empire at the time, taking a medal apiece. Smyrna took the silver in the football, while Thessalonica took the bronze. As a result result the Athens team representing Greece were knocked into fourth place as the gold had gone to Denmark (the ancestral land of the King and royal princes). 

Finland though not yet independent from Russia also made its 'Olympic' debut at these games. The Principality of Finland picked up two gold medals in the discus throw (ancient style) and middleweight wrestling, as well as bronze in the discus throw (modern).

The first 'Olympic' protest also came in 1906 when Peter O'Connor (pictured) who won gold in the hop, step and jump and silver in the long jump. Though born in Cumberland, England he was raised in Wicklow. While Irish and American athletes guarded the foot of the flag pole, he climbed it to take down the Union Flag to replace it with a green one, bearing a harp and the slogan Erin go Bragh (Ireland Forever).

They may no be official Olympics but the 1906 were certainly a precursor to the stand alone games that we know so well. They were the only 'Games' to be in a year not divisible by four until the separation of the Winter Games unto a different 4 year cycle from 1994.

However, they deserve their place in the history of the Games for the 6 reasons listed above which they brought in which will still be present in London 106 years later. But have for too long been airbrushed out.

The medals awarded, which do not feature in the overall Olympic tables are as follows:

 Rank NationGoldSilverBronzeTotal
1 France1591640
2 United States126624
3 Greece8141335
4 Great Britain811524
5 Italy76316
6 Switzerland56415
7 Germany46515
8 Norway4217
9 Austria3339
10 Denmark3216
11 Sweden25714
12 Hungary25310
13 Belgium2136
14Russia Finland2114
15 Canada1102
16 Netherlands0123
17 Mixed team0101
18 Australia0033
19 Bohemia0022


See the full list here