- Participating nations: 29
- Number of athletes: 2,669 (2,591 men - 78 women)
- Time of year: April 20 - September 12
- Number of events: 151
Already in 1909, Berlin had been assigned the Games in 1916. Coubertin and many others were hoping that having Olympic Games in Berlin would get the politicians minds off war, but that didn´t work. Coubertin was still hoping that the United States or one of the Scandinavian countries would be able to arrange the Games, but he soon had to give up that thought. Coubertin could surely feel how the winds of war swept through Europe. He consequently decided to move the IOC headquarters from Paris to Lausanne in 1915, just to be on the safe side.
In 1914, Coubertin gave up the thought of Olympic Games in 1916, and realized that having the Games in Antwerp 1920 was the only realistic idea - provided that the war was over by then.
Regarding de Coubertin, it should be noted that he left his position as president of the IOC in 1915, at his own request. That was because he had joined the French army and didn´t think a soldier would make a suitable president. But he resumed his position in 1919, after the war was over. The Swiss Godefroy de Blonay took over the presidency during the war. He was also president for a brief period in 1925, between Coubertin and the Belgian Henrie de Baillet-Latour.
Only a few weeks after the end of the war in 1918, Coubertin had a meeting with all his co-workers in Lausanne where it was decided that Antwerp, Belgium was going to arrange the Games in 1920. According to some sources, the original idea was to have the Games in Paris, but Paris withdrew for obvious reasons.
A Shadow of WarBut everything wasn´t fine in Antwerp. Despite the fact that two years had passes since the war, it still cast its shadow on the Games. The defeated central powers, Bulgaria, Turkey, Germany, Hungary and Austria, were not allowed to participate. Not surprisingly, the German press had a very condescending attitude towards the Games.
Despite the exclusion of the central powers, 29 nations were represented at the Games, one more than in Stockholm. The number of athletes was 2,668. The number of sports had increased to 22, and the number of events to 155, and this accounted for most of the increase in the number of participating nations and athletes.
In the twenty months they had to prepare, the Belgians put in an impressive amount of work and managed to build a good organization, venues and whatever else was needed. This was a huge accomplishment when you consider the fact that they were in the middle of rebuilding the country after the war and the occupation.
Unfortunately, the administrative work had to take the back seat. Consequently, many of the results have not been preserved.
The Olympics took place during August 14-29. But that´s not entirely accurate since many of the events took place at other times.
Ice Hockey - A Summer SportIce hockey was on the summer program for the first time and took place in April, along with the figure skating.
Yachting, shooting, and horse polo took place in July, soccer (football) in late August and early September, and field hockey, rugby and riding in September. The first Olympic event started on April 20 and the final event was over by September 12.
As a consequence of the war and its lack of precious metals, all the gold medals were gilded silver medals, a practice that has lived on and continues to this day.
Another thing to be introduced in Antwerp was the Olympic flag with the five rings, which had been created by Coubertin. During the opening ceremony, 2,000 carrier pigeons were released, a tradition that lasted many years. This was also the first time the Olympic oath was sworn.
Many of the athletes went to Antwerp to get a chance to meet and compete against their opponents from Stockholm eight years earlier. But the war had claimed many victims, and many were sad and disappointed to learn that many of those who competed in Stockholm had been killed on battlefields around Europe.
Big ImpactThe Games in Antwerp were very important to the Future of the Olympic Games. The Olympic movement had shown that it could come out of war and other difficulties still capable of attracting many countries, and with a lot of support from the people.
The Olympic frenzy also softened the resistance to the participation of women. Coubertin wasn´t exactly happy about having women in the Games, but his resistance wasn´t as impenetrable as it had been. 76 women participated in Antwerp.
What about Sweden? Well, Sweden was very successful and became the second best nation after the United States. Careful preparation and the fact that Sweden didn´t take part in the war both contributed to the Swedish success story.
The Swedish Olympic Committee (SOC) had, at an early stage, sent people to Antwerp to study the conditions. The Swedish team lived in two schools where they had access to 19 rooms and a total of 228 beds.
The team went to Antwerp on two extra trains. They arrived two days before the opening ceremony, which greatly angered the figure skater Ulrich Salchow. He felt that two days was a ridiculously short time to prepare. According to him, ten days were a minimum.
The SOC had 670,000 crowns to spend on the Games. 500,000 of this amount came from lotteries and 100,000 were a donation from an anonymous donor.
In 1920, the SOC issued grants to the different sports associations. Athletics received the highest amount, 35,000 crowns, whereas cycling and tennis had to make do with 1,000 crowns. Soccer (football) refused contributions from the SOC.
Like today, the team´s suitcases had numbers on them and the team itself included two doctors, a press secretary, and a cook. The team also brought its own food, which included three barrels of herring, granulated sugar, cream, butter and crisp bread.
The books were not balanced until six years after Antwerp. The total cost for the Swedish participation was 800,000 crowns. Already in 1922, the SOC saw where this was headed and concluded that they were not going to send a team to Paris in 1924 unless they could do so at a cost of less than 400,000 crowns, and that Sweden would send a very limited team.
Back to the Swedish results. The Swedish men took medals in eleven out of 22 sports.
In athletics, Sweden won a gold medal in the long jump through William “Kalmar" Petersson (later Björneman). The jump that won him the title was 7.15 meters long.
In the high jump, Bo Ekelund took the bronze medal after jumping 1.90 meters. Ekelund would later go on to be a legendary Olympic and international leader.
Sweden dominated modern pentathlon in 1912, and the Games in 1920 led to more triumphs for the Swedes. This time, Sweden took the first four places with Gustaf Dryssen in an uncontested first place.
Dramatic Bicycle CompetitionYet another gold came in the 175-kilometer bicycle road race. But drama certainly wasn´t missing from Harry Stenqvist´s gold-winning race. The organizers had no choice but to decide on a course that contained several railway crossings. To make it fair, time-takers had been placed at each railway crossing, so that the amount of time spent waiting for the train to pass could be deducted from the total finish time. This system led to confusion regarding who had actually won. At first, Henry Kaltenbrun of South Africa was hailed as the winner, but his joy didn´t last long. One of the time-takers came running to the officials after the race and explained that the Swede had been waiting for four minutes at his crossing. That was enough for Stenqvist to win the gold by a 30-second margin.
In the figure skating, Gillis Grafström took his first of three straight Olympic gold medals, and, while we´re on the subject of winter sports, let´s also mention that the Swedish ice hockey team took fourth place in the sport´s Olympic debut.
The swimmer Håkan Malmroth was far superior to his opponents on the 200 and 400-meter breast stroke and won by five and fourteen seconds respectively. That´s what you could call a margin!
In the straight dive, Sweden took the first three places with thirteen-year-old Niklas Skoglund in the silver position.
Young Skoglund found his opposite in shooter Oscar Swahn who, in Antwerp, took a team silver medal at the age of 72 years and 280 days. In Stockholm 12 years earlier, Swahn had won the gold.