Olympics During War

The journey of the Sporting extravaganza continued after the 1908 London Olympics and reached Sweden where the Olympics were held with their full spectrum of events and enthusiasm in Stockholm. So much so, that the 1912 Olympics are known as the “Swedish Masterpiece” because they were so well organized. There were hardly any time clashes between events, and the conditions and grounds were made ideal for a great sporting festival.

The Swedish Olympics contributed in technology of games by first time using digital timing systems and a system of commentators to address the audience. Approximately 2,500 athletes attended these Games, representing 28 countries. The modern pentathlon was added to the Olympic program along with Women’s events in swimming and diving. The Swedish Olympics are remembered as the last Olympics in which pure gold were awarded. Sweden didn’t allow boxing in this Olympics and because of this, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to limit the power of host nation in deciding the Olympic program.

Just after the sweet and remarkable organization of Sweden Olympics, the 1916 Olympic Games were scheduled to be held in Berlin, but were cancelled due to the outbreak of World War I. This was the first incident when the modern Olympic Games were cancelled.

The 1920 Olympic Games were organized in the war ridden city of Antwerp in Belgium. The Belgium games were played in the shadows of the just ended World War and due to the war cartels, Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Hungary were not invited to games by IOC, even when they were not forbidden. Nonetheless, USSR, the foe of Belgium (who was with US in World War) decided not to attend the Belgium Olympics. So much so that USSR again started participating in Olympics only in Helsinki Olympics of 1952.

The Belgium Olympics were trucked by short of funds as Belgium was badly hit during the World War and so the arrangements were below the standards of Olympics. Besides the stadium being unfinished, the athletes were housed in cramped quarters and slept on folding cots.

Though this year is remembered due to the introduction of the five circle flag of Olympics and was for the first time flown during the Opening Ceremony of the 1920 Games. The flag was created by Coubertin. The Olympic flag embarks five interconnected rings on a white backdrop. The five rings resemble the five significant continents and are interconnected for the friendship that Olympic tries to maintain between them. The rings, from left to right, are blue, yellow, black, green, and red. The colors were so chosen, as at least one of them appeared on the flag of every country in the world. In spite of the aftermath of World War, more than 2,500 athletes competed in Belgium Olympics, representing 29 countries.

As an honor to the retiring IOC founder and president Pierre de Coubertin, the 1924 Olympic Games were again held in Paris. This was a chance for Paris to regain its sheen after the much criticized 1900 Paris Olympics. After much debate, winter sports were also added formally to the Olympic Games this year. The Olympic motto: Citius, Altius, Fortius (“Swifter, Higher, Stronger”), was introduced in 1924 Games.

However, the popular game tennis was taken out of the 1924 Olympics and was not added again until 1988. It was 1924 Paris Olympics that were screened on silver screen in the Academy Award winning film Chariots of Fire in 1981. In all, over 3,000 athletes participated in the events, representing 44 countries.

Saurabh Sharma

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