Summer Olympic Games of Stockholm 1912 were a model of efficiency | Sunday Observer

Summer Olympic Games of Stockholm 1912 were a model of efficiency

11 April, 2021
Jim Thorpe of the US won gold medals in pentathlon and decathlon-Hannes Kolehmainen of Finland was the most successful athlete
Jim Thorpe of the US won gold medals in pentathlon and decathlon -Hannes Kolehmainen of Finland was the most successful athlete

The 1912 Summer Olympic Games, officially known as the Games of the V Olympiad, were held in Stockholm, Sweden, between May 5 and July 22, 1912. The Stockholm Games were a model of efficiency. The Swedish hosts introduced the first Olympic use of automatic timing devices for the track events, the photo finish and a public address system.

If there was an unofficial theme of the 1912 Games, it was endurance. The course for the cycling road race was 320km, the longest race of any kind in Olympic history. In Greco-Roman wrestling, the middleweight semi-final match between Russian Martin Klein and Finland’s Alfred Asikainen lasted 11 hours and 40 minutes.

It was the last time that solid gold medals were given out. The United States won the most gold medals (25), while Sweden won the most medals overall (65). The first four positions in the medal table: United States - 25G, 19S, 19B, Total 63; Sweden - 24G, 24S, 17B, Total 65; Great Britain - 10G, 15S, 16B, Total 41; Finland - 9G, 8S, 9B, Total 26.

The 1912 Olympics saw the introduction of art competitions. Events were implemented for literature, sculpture, painting, architecture and music. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, entering the competition under pseudonyms won for literature. Italian Riccardo Barthelemy won for music with his Olympic Triumphal March, and fellow countryman Giovanni Pellegrini won for painting.

The Swiss architects Eugene-Edouard Monod and Alphonse Laverriere shared the gold for their stadium design. Walter Winans won the gold medal for his sculpture, An American Trotter, which added to his previous gold inLondon 1908 and silver in Stockholm 1912for the running deer competition.

Host Selection, Organization and Opening Ceremony

On May 28, 1909 at the meeting of the IOC in Berlin, the Swedish representatives declared that they had full financial support for hosting the Games in Stockholm. The Games were duly awarded to Stockholm as the only nominated host city for the 1912 Olympics. The news that Stockholm was to host the 1912 Games was received with enthusiasm by the Swedish public.

Pierre de Coubertin expressed his desire that “the Games must be kept more purely athletic; they must be more dignified, more discreet; more in accordance with classic and artistic requirements; more intimate, and, above all, less expensive.” The organizing committee took de Coubertin’s words to heart, and aimed to remove those elements which detracted earlier Games. Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf was appointed as Honorary President of the organizing committee.

The official invitations to compete were issued on November 18, 1910, either directly or through representatives on the IOC. Free transport was arranged for the invited nations’ equipment, and a discount of 50 percent was arranged for competitors and delegates on the state run railway. A daily newspaper covering the Olympics was published during the Games, in both English and Swedish.

The Games opened on July 6, 1912. The Swedish Royal Family were welcomed at the Olympic Stadium by members of the IOC. Three thousand competing athletes had already assembled in the nearby Ostermalm Athletic Grounds began to enter the stadium. The Swedish team entered last, but unlike the later tradition, the Greek team did not enter first.

A hymn was sung, a traditional Swedish chant was conducted and prayers were read first in Swedish and then in English. Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf addressed the King on behalf of the Swedish Olympic Association. King Gustav V then declared open the Games with a speech. Then a trumpet fanfare was played and the Crown Prince called for cheers for the King. The athletes in their national groups marching out of the stadium ended the ceremony.

14 Sports and Athletes from 5 Continents

For the first time, competitors in the Games came from all five continents. Japan made their Olympic debut, marking the first appearance of an Asian country at an Olympic Games. Egypt, Iceland, Portugal, and Serbia participated for the first time. Chile made its first appearance as a national team.

This was the last Olympics that allowed “private entries,” i.e. individual athletes that were not part of a country’s official team. Arnold Jackson was one such private entry and he won 1500m.The modern pentathlon, women’s swimming and women’s diving all made their Olympic debuts.28 nations and 2,407 competitors - 48 women and 2,359 men, competed in 102 events in 14 sports under 18 disciplines.

Aquatics: In diving Erik Adlerz of Sweden won the gold in high dive and 10m platform. Paul Gunther of Germany won the gold in 3m springboard. Sweden’s Greta Johansson won women’s 10m platform gold. In swimming, Hawaiian Duke Kahanamoku won 100m freestyle for the United States. Harry Hebner of the United States won the gold in 100m backstroke. Canadian George Hodgson won two gold medals in 400m and 1,500m. The German Walter Bathe won gold medals in 200m and 400m breaststroke. The Australasian team was victorious in the men’s relay. In women’s events, Fanny Durack won 100m freestyle whilst the British team won the women’s team relay. In water polo, Great Britain won the gold defeating Austria 8 - 0.

Athletics: The athletics included 30 events and saw the introduction of a fully automatic timing system. It involved attaching electromagnets to chronometers in a system which attached a control lamp to the starting gun for each race. This resulted in the firing of the gun starting a timer which was then stopped by one of the judges at the finishing line.

Hannes Kolehmainen of Finland was the most successful athlete with new Olympic Records in 5,000m, 10,000m and cross country. The final of the men’s 100m suffered from seven false starts. Ralph Craig of the United States won the sprint double of 100m and 200m. Portuguese Francisco Lazaro who died from heat exhaustion became the only athlete to die during an Olympic marathon.

Kanakuri Shizo, a Japanese marathon runner, went missing during the race. He lost consciousness by heatstroke and a farming family helped him to stop at a party taking place in a villa on the marathon route in order to quench his thirst. Then he caught a train to Stockholm and left Sweden and returned to Japan without notifying race officials. 50 years later, after being invited back by the Swedish authorities, he completed the marathon with a time of 54 years, 8 months, 6 days, 8 hours, 32 minutes and 20.3 sec.

The men’s decathlon competition was held at the Olympic Games for the first time from July 13, to 15, 1912. Twenty-nine decathletes from twelve nations competed and Jim Thorpe emerged winner. His gold was stripped by the IOC in 1913, after learning that Thorpe had taken expense money for playing baseball, violating Olympic amateurism rules, before the 1912 Games. Avery Brundage, who served as the IOC President from 1952 to 1972, competed in the decathlon finishing 16th.

Cycling: The cycling events were limited to a road race around Lake Malaren and 19 nations entered. South African Rudolph Lewis won the gold in the individual race whilst the Swedish team won the gold for the team competition.

Equestrian: It was the first appearance of modern Olympic staples such as dressage, eventing and show jumping. It was expected that the competitors would be military personnel with cavalry experience. The competition was split between the military competitions, prize riding and prize jumping.

In military competition encompassing 55 km, Sweden’s Axel Nordlander won the individual gold and led the Swedish eventing team to victory as well, earning himself two gold medals. In dressage, Sweden took all three medals, with the gold going to Carl Bonde. The individual show jumping competition gold was won by Cariou of France and the team event saw Sweden take another gold.

Fencing: The foil competition became an Olympic event and Nedo Nadi of Italy took the gold. There were individual and team events in both epee and sabre. Paul Anspachof Belgium won the individual epee gold whilst epee team also was won by Belgium. Jeno Fuchs of Hungary won the individual sabre gold whilst team gold was won by Hungary.

Football: Only FIFA affiliated teams were allowed and Great Britain retained its gold beating Denmark.

Gymnastics: The gymnastic competition featured one individual and three team events. Alberto Braglia of Italy won the individual all-round whilst Italy won the all-round team gold. The team free system was won by Norway whilst Sweden won the team Swedish system gold.

Modern pentathlon: Modern pentathlon marked its first appearance in the Olympics. It was for these games that five events of shooting, swimming, equestrian, fencing and cross country running were decided to make up the pentathlon. The competition was spread out across five days.

For shooting, each competitor was allowed to bring their own pistol. The American competitor George S. Patton (better known as the Second World War US Army General) used a Colt revolver, while the Danish competitors preferred the Danish Army service pistol, the Germans and Norwegians used the Luger P08 pistol and the Swedes used a target practice pistol by Smith & Wesson.

The swimming event was three lengths, each of 100m. The fencing competition saw each competitor face off against each other. The equestrian course had penalties. The cross country run was over 4,000m.GostaLilliehook of Sweden won the gold whilst the highest placed non-Swedish competitor was Patton, who finished fifth.

Rowing: Wally Kinnear of Great Britain won the gold in Single Sculls. Germany secured the gold in Coxed Four whilst Denmark won the Coxed Four In-riggers. Great Britain won the gold in Eights.

Sailing: The 12m class and 10m class were won by Norway and Sweden. The 6m class saw the most diverse field of any of the sailing events and France clinched the gold.

Shooting: There were 18 shooting events of which 8 were team events. The competition was split predominantly into three sections: military rifle shooting, shooting with miniature rifles, pistols and revolvers, and clay bird and running deer shooting. The Swedish and American competitors won seven gold medals each.

Tennis: Frenchman Andre Gobert was victorious in Tennis on covered courts. The gold in gentlemen’s singles was won by South African Charles Winslow beating Harold Kitson, 7 - 5, 4 - 6, 10 - 8 and 8 - 6. The duo also competed as a pair in the gentlemen’s doubles and took the gold. Marguerite Broquedis of France won the ladies’ singles gold. In the mixed doubles Koring teamed up with Heinrich Schomburgk to win the gold.

Tug of war: Sweden beat Great Britain to win the gold medal.

Wrestling: Greco-Roman wrestling was the only style of wrestling competed and the winners were: Featherweight, Finland’s Kaarlo Koskelo; Lightweight, Finland’s Emil Vare; Middleweight, Sweden’s Claes Johanson; Light Heavyweight, after nine hours of trying both Anders Ahlgren of Sweden and Ivar Bohling of Finland were awarded with silver medals; Heavyweight, Yrjo Saarela of Finland.

First Modern Pentathlon

The Official Report described the event: “The five events ought to be such as would test the endurance, resolution, presence of mind, intrepidity, agility and strength of those taking part in the competition, while, in drawing up the detailed program, it was necessary to have events of equivalent value, in order to make the modern pentathlon a competition of really all-round importance.”

32 athletes took part in the inaugural modern pentathlon and it would prove a sapping test of their all-round sporting and physical ability. Gosta Lilliehook, a local from Stockholm who had turned 28, became the event’s first winner. First up was the shooting, which involved five shots fired at a target that was visible for three seconds per shot. Lilliehook came third.

The next day the competitors took part in the 300m freestyle swim. Lilliehook came tenth. The third event was the fencing, which took up almost two entire days. His performance is mentioned briefly in the Official Report, which says: “Lieutenant Lilliehook displayed great skill.” He finished fifth, and moved up to second overall.

Riding was the penultimate event, and this was to be a cross-country over 5,000m. There were 17 different obstacles, including fences and ditches. Lilliehook came fourth and had completed the course without any point deductions, and remained second overall.

The final event was a 4,000m cross-country beginning and ending in the Olympic Stadium, with athletes starting at one-minute intervals and racing against the clock. Lilliehook finished fifth, which was enough to win the gold. Despite not having won a single event, his consistency saw him triumph overall. The general consensus was that the first ever Olympic modern pentathlon had been a great success.

Jim Thorpe, the Greatest Athlete in the World

James “Jim” Francis Thorpe became the first Native American to win a gold for the United States at Olympic Games. Considered as one of the most versatile athletes, he won two Olympic gold medals in Stockholm 1912. However, both medals were stripped by the IOC in 1913.

Thorpe was born in Indian Territory of the United States but no birth certificate has been found. He was generally considered to have been born on May 22, 1887 in Oklahoma. His parents were both Roman Catholic, a faith which Thorpe observed throughout his life. Thorpe died on March 28, 1953 at the age of 65.

In 1912, he started training for the Olympics. He had confined his efforts to jumps, hurdles and shot-puts, but now added pole vaulting, javelin, discus, hammer and 56-lb weight. In the Olympic trials, his all-round ability stood out in all these events and so he earned a place on the team.

The 1912 version of pentathlon consisted of long jump, javelin, 200m, discus and 1500m.The decathlon was a relatively new event in modern athletics. Along with the decathlon and pentathlon, he competed in long jump and high jump as well.

He began the Olympics by crushing the field in pentathlon that consisted of five events in a single day. He placed first in four of them, dusting his competition in the 1,500m run. Besides, in high jump, he finished in a tie for fourth, and was placed seventh in the long jump.

At Stockholm 1912, Thorpe’s final event was the decathlon. Thorpe was placed in the top four in all ten events, and his Olympic record of 8,413 points stood for two decades. Even more remarkably, as someone had stolen his shoes just before he was due to compete, he found a mismatched pair of replacements, including one from a trash, and emerged victorious. Overall, Thorpe won eight of the 15 events in pentathlon and decathlon.

As was the custom of the day, the medals were presented during the closing ceremony. Along with the two gold medals, Thorpe received two prizes, donated by King Gustav V of Sweden for the decathlon and Czar Nicholas II of Russia for the pentathlon. Several sources recount that, when awarding Thorpe his prize, King Gustav said, “You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world.”

Thorpe was named the “Greatest Athlete” from the first 50 years of the 20th century. Thorpe’s monument, stands in the town named for him, Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania. The grave rests on mounds of soil from Thorpe’s native Oklahoma and the stadium in which he won his Olympic medals.

After 30 years of his death, the IOC ruled that the decision to strip him of his medals fell outside of the required 30 days. In a ceremony on January 18, 1983, the IOC presented two of Thorpe’s children, Gale and Bill, with commemorative medals as Thorpe’s original medals held in museums had been stolen. Thorpe’s name now appears as co-champion in both decathlon and pentathlon in official IOC records.

(The author highlights spectrum of sports extravaganza. He is the winner of Presidential Academic Award for Sports in 2017 and 2018 and recipient of National Accolades for Academic pursuits. He possesses a PhD, MPhil and double MSc)