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

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