Stockholm 1912

Participating nations: 28
Number of athletes: 2,547 (2,490 men - 57 women)
Time of year: May 5 - July 27
Number of events: 102
The “Sunshine Olympics" in Stockholm naturally require a more thorough examination, but first lets make it clear that it is in Stockholm the IOC take a firm hold of the actual competitions. At first, the organizers in Stockholm only wanted four events on the program. The IOC did not accept this, and as a consequence competitions were held in 13 different sports as well as in the arts, at Coubertin´s request. Coubertin himself entered the literature contest under two different assumed names, and won, of course, with his “Ode to Sports". 2,500 athletes, representing 27 nations participated in the Games in Stockholm, which can be compared to the 260 athletes, from 14 nations, who were present in Athens 16 years earlier.
So how did Stockholm come to be the host of the 1912 Olympic Games?
Well, Viktor Balck had suggested Sweden as a suitable host city as early as 1894, the year of the congress in Paris.
But it took until 1908 before Sweden applied for the Games. Stockholm was competing against Berlin who was bidding for the second time. They had also applied for the 1908 Olympics, which were later held in London.
The IOC had been invited to Berlin in 1909 where it was going to be decided which city would host the 1912 Olympics. This was not exactly the best situation imaginable for Stockholm. Now all the IOC members were given the chance to see how enthusiastic Berlin, Germany and the Emperor were about the prospect of hosting the Olympic Games.
Paralyzed Germans
But Germany had problems, not the least when it came to the issue of the stadium. On top of that, the most prominent man in the German Olympic movement died shortly before the German Olympic Committee was about to have its last and final meeting about whether they should apply for the games, or not. The committee was completely paralyzed, and at its annual meeting the members decided, with almost no debate, to withdraw the application. That made Sweden the only candidate. But the IOC was still a bit hesitant, not because they didn´t think the Swedes were capable of arranging the Games, but because both in 1904 and 1908 the original cities had backed out at the last minute. Now the IOC had to make sure that Stockholm had both the financial strength and the organizational skills needed to arrange the Games.
The Swedish application was well founded and appealed to the IOC. On the 28th of May 1909, the IOC unanimously decided that the 1912 Olympics were to be held in Stockholm.
So how was the general attitude towards the upcoming Games in Stockholm, and the rest of Sweden?
The Swedes had been very successful both in Athens in 1906 and in London in 1908, which had led to an increased general interest in sports. But there was also a political side to it.
The nationalistic atmosphere in the country also affected the situation. The union with Norway had ended in 1905, which had strengthened the nationalistic feelings and led to an increased willingness to invest money in the national defense. This nationalism was predominant, particularly in the middle and upper classes. It was mostly people from these groups who were running the sports movement at that time.
By being a successful nation in sports and an excellent Olympic host country, Sweden would gain prestige in the rest of the world.
Stable organizations
If we skip ahead a few years, we learn that the Games in Stockholm were a success. The main reason for this was the strong sports movement in Sweden at the time. Two stable organizations worked together, the Central Organization for the Promotion of Sports and the Swedish Gymnastics and Sports Association, which in 1903 became the Swedish Sports Confederation (RF). The two organizations had clear-cut roles and this situation worked out well, even though their cooperation was not always free from problems.
But perhaps most importantly, Sweden was used to arranging big sports events. Starting in 1901, Sweden (that is Viktor Balck) had hosted the Nordic Games, a very large winter sports event. They were similar to the Winter Olympics, which were introduced in 1924. The Nordic Games were arranged every four years until 1926.
By arranging the Nordic Games, the leaders of Swedish sports had gained a lot of experience in how to organize large events, which came in very handy during Stockholm´s preparations for the Summer Olympics.
Support From the Government
One of the things that contributed to Sweden´s getting the Olympics was the solid support given to Viktor Balck by the Swedish sports movement and the government. This in turn guaranteed the financing of the Games.
One important issue remained, the question of which arena to use for the competitions. The people in Stockholm had started thinking about it even before the IOC had decided that Stockholm would host the Games. The Östermalm Sports Center was only a few years old, and there were thoughts of a restoration and modernization of the Center, which would then be enough. This could be done at an estimated cost of 235,000 crowns, but in 1910 these thoughts were abandoned. Instead, they investigated the possibilities of using the Sports Park, a good option considering the fact that it was owned by a company with close ties to the Central Organization.
The Sports Park had been partially completed in 1896. The idea was to build a brand new arena in the same area at an estimated cost of 385,000 crowns. If these ideas were realized it would mean a concentration of sports facilities that, according to one source, “.could be unparalleled".
The new arena was going to be made out of wood, but the authorities were not impressed with the idea.
The construction board suggested that a permanent stadium, made out of stone, be built instead, at an estimated 820,000 crowns. The architect Torben Grut designed the arena, which was opened on the 1st of June 1912. The final cost for the stadium was 1,187,880 crowns.
That the costs of building an Olympic Stadium expand beyond the estimated amount is not, as this clearly shows, a new phenomenon. But it is safe to say that the Olympic Stadium has been very useful to both Stockholm and Sweden.
There were never any heated political discussions regarding the Games, probably because none of the decisions that had anything to do with the arrangement ever passed through the Riksdag, the Swedish parliament. The government made all the decisions. This was probably for the best; there might not have been any Games if the Riksdag had been allowed to vote on the matter.
A Riksdag More Positive about Sports
So, was democracy ignored? No, since the Olympic Games were financed through lotteries, which were handled by the government alone, it was possible to go around the Riksdag.
But after the success of the Games, the Riksdag became much more positive about sports.
At the meeting of the Riksdag in 1913, the sports movement received its first annual government grant (100,000 crowns), and ever since then the government has issued grants to the sports movement which now (1998) amounts to approximately 580 million crowns.
Back to 1912, which was not only an Olympic year, but also the year of the largest ship catastrophe in history when the Titanic hit an iceberg and 1,500 people lost their lives. 1912 was also the year China became a republic.
The first World War was still two years away, even though there were some problems in the Balkan. A war started in the region shortly after the end of the Games in Stockholm.
The majority of the Olympic events were held during the so-called Olympic week, July 6-15.
The indoor tennis tournament was played in the beginning of May. The outdoor tournament started on June 26 and was completed the day before the opening ceremony. Soccer (football) was played from June 29 until July 5. The water polo, some of the equestrian events, fencing (individual saber), rowing, and yachting took place during the July 16-22 time period.
The official closing ceremony took place at the Hasselbacken restaurant on July 27.
Interest From the Media
The Stockholm Games attracted a large number of journalists. There were 445 accredited journalists present, 229 of these were foreign. 42 journalists came from Germany.
We now know that Olympic Games always bring about new technological innovations, and in Stockholm many types of new equipment were used for the first time.
Among the more significant additions were the electronic timers and finish line cameras used during the track events. It was also the first time one was able to count the exact number of spectators.
This was the first time that people from all the five continents of the world were able to participate, which made these Games a truly international event.
Before an audience of 25,000, Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf declared the Olympics opened on the 6th of July at the Olympic Stadium. A total number of 327,288 would get to see the Games, which took place under a clear blue Stockholm sky. By the way, Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf had been very active in the preparations for the Games and his involvement was very significant.
There was still no such thing as an Olympic Village at this time. The different teams lived in small hotels or rented rooms all over town. The American team, on the other hand, lived on the ship they had arrived in. The other nations thought that the American quarters were very luxurious, but the Americans would have preferred to live like the others. They felt very confined on their Trans-Atlantic liner.
Thorpe Becomes World Famous
American James Thorpe was probably the one who became the best-known celebrity because of the Games. King Gustav V called him “the world´s most noble athlete".
Thorpe, who was Native American, won both the pentathlon and the decathlon events by a huge margin. But Thorpe, who after winning his Gold medals had become a hero in the United States, had to give back the medals.
It turned out that Thorpe, like so many other athletes, had played in a small local baseball league for a few dollars a week. This was a crime against the IOC amateur rules and Thorpe was disqualified.
It made no difference that Thorpe had turned down many offers after the Olympics in Stockholm because he didn´t want to make a profit on sports.
In the early 40´s a campaign started to restore his reputation and give him back his medals. But neither the then IOC president, Avery Brundage, nor his successor, Lord Killanin, was willing to change the ruling. They believed that if they changed the decision of their predecessors it would serve as a dangerous precedent.
Instead, the gold medals went to Ferdinand Bie and Hugo Wislander respectively. The Swede wanted to give his medal to Thorpe, but that couldn´t be arranged. He then decided to give it to the Central Gymnastics Institute where it was kept until it was stolen in 1954.
Thorpe played both baseball and football on the highest level until 1926 when he decided to quit. He died in 1953, destitute after a hard life in which he´d never managed to beat his addiction to alcohol.
Restitution in 1983
He didn´t get his restitution until 1983 when the newly elected President of the IOC, Juan Antonio Samaranch, made sure that replicas of the Stockholm medals were made and given to Thorpe´s relatives. Now there is also a commemorative plaque dedicated to Thorpe at the Olympic Stadium in Stockholm.
Finland got their international breakthrough in sports during the “Sunshine Olympics". Their team, consisting of 204 athletes, had a hero in runner Hannes Kolehmainen who won three gold medals. The sense of fair play was not as important as one might think. There were many different tricks for those who wanted to get ahead. In the 5,000meter race French runner Jean Bouin tried to stop the Finn from passing him. Bouin made a wide turn out of the last curve in an attempt to keep the Finn behind him. But he was unsuccessful, and with 50 meters to managed to pass him and break the world record.
The Finnish participation in the Stockholm Olympics was not uncomplicated. Finland was, at this time, a grand duchy under the Russian czar who, at first, wanted to stop Finland from sending its own team. Sweden intervened, and the Finns were allowed to have their own team under the Russian flag.
During the opening ceremony, the Finnish section stopped for a moment in order to create a gap between themselves and the Russians when they marched in from the Sofia tower of the Olympic Stadium.
But it didn´t end there. The Finnish women´s gymnastics team took out a Finnish flag as they marched into the Stadium. But this got the attention of the Swedish police who, without much ado, took the flag before the team passed the VIP-stands.
Despite being one nation on paper, Finland and Russia competed against each other. In the football tournament Finland beat Russia by 2-1, but when the flag of the winning team was hoisted the Russian flag was the one to go up. To avoid any confusion a sign that read “Finland won" had to be added. From then on, hoisting a white and blue streamer directly under the Russian flag solved the problem.
The Japanese Who Got Lost
The sunshine of the “Sunshine Olympics" was not only a blessing. One tragic event happened during the marathon when Francisco Lazaro collapsed from dehydration and died the next day at the Serafimer Hospital. Of the 68 runners, half dropped out of the race because of the heat.
But the most talked about incident is the one about the “Japanese who got lost". Shizo Kanakuri dropped out of the marathon near Tureberg. He found a garden where he rested and was offered refreshments by his host and hostess. The officials were never told that he had dropped out of the race, and not until 55 years later was Kanakuri able to finish the marathon and run into the Olympic Stadium, which he did during a visit to Stockholm.
The bicycle race, 320 kilometers around Lake Mälaren, also became a rite of passage in the intense heat. The cyclists started at two o´clock in the morning (!) and the winner was Rudolph Lewis of South Africa.
There was also a wrestling match that has gone down in history as the longest in any modern Olympic Games. Estonian Martin Klein (competing for Russia) and the Finnish Alfred Askiainen were up against each other in the semi-finals. Klein won the match after 11 hours and 40 minutes. But it came at a price since Klein was so exhausted he couldn´t wrestle in the final the next day. A Swede, Anders Ahlgren, was also involved in a long wrestling fight in the middleweight B class. It was the final and his opponent was the Finn Ivar Böhling. They wrestled for nine hours without being able to end the game. The match was finally declared a tie and neither of the two got a gold medal. They had to settle for silver medals instead.
That brings us to the Swedish successes. As is often the case, the nation hosting the Games did very well. Sweden was the best nation with 23 gold, 24 silver, and 16 bronze medals. The first and only time, so far, that Sweden has come in first place in the “battle of the nations".
Swedish Dominance
The Swedish team was the largest with 500 athletes, so it is perhaps not a surprise that Sweden dominated the scoreboards.
In athletics, the organizers had chosen to have the javelin throw be the first event, right after the opening ceremony. This was probably not a coincidence since the Swede Eric Lemming was one of the favorites. Lemming´s worst opponent was Julius Saaristo from Finland. In the finals, Lemming produced a throw which measured 60.64 meters and secured the gold for Sweden. The organizers got the start they had been hoping for.
In the triple jump, Sweden came in first, second, and third places with Gustaf “Topsy" Lindblom as the gold medallist.
There were eighteen different events in shooting. Sweden was very successful in that sport and won seven gold, six silver, and four bronze medals. Sweden was also prominent in the equestrian events, and won four out of the five gold medals at stake.
In modern pentathlon, included in the program after an initiative by de Coubertin, there was a huge Swedish dominance with six Swedes among the top seven. The only non-Swede on the top of the scoreboard was American George Patton who came in fifth place. Yes, it is the same man as the famous World War II general.
The Games were closed on the 27th of July with a banquet at Restaurant Hasselbacken where Pierre de Coubertin gave a hopeful speech about the future. But the future wasn´t too bright, and there were no Games in Berlin in 1916, as had been planned. World War I started, almost to the date two years later, on the 28th of July 1914.
© 2008 Sveriges Olympiska Kommitté | | Om webbplatsen | Om cookies