Site: Stockholm, Sweden
Dates: May 5 - July 22
Total Athletes: 2,547
The 1912 Games was a rather pleasant experience on all fronts. The IOC and
Stockholm organizing committees got along extremely well mainly because the
latter was spirited by founding IOC member Victor Balck and Sigfrid Edstrom,
who would ultimately be the future IOC president (1942-52) and would play a
significant role in stabilizing the Games through the tumultuous World War II
This would be the first games in which the Arts played a significant role in
medals. IOC president Baron Pierre de Coubertin, under a Franco-German
pseudonym of Georges Hohrod and M. Eschbach, garnered the poetry medal.
The Olympics was now beginning to free itself from conflicts of other national
or international events and was gaining prestige as a vehicle for expanding
international relations. Japan became the first East Asian nation to
participate in the Olympics and with the enormous success of Finn, Hannes
Kolehmainen, Scandinavians became extremely engrossed in the Olympics.
However, no Games could be totally free of conflict and this one was no
different. Tensions grew between the national Olympic committees and the
sports' federations prior to the Games. For instance, the Russians protested
the appearance of Finland, while the Austrians demanded the ouster of Bohemia.
Germany demanded that Hungary be prevented from marching as an independent
congregation, while the Serbs sought similar independence from the IOC. This
would be a continuous problem that the IOC knew they would have to deal with.
The French fencing team foreited its participation in an equipment dispute,
while a rules dispute in Greco-Roman wrestling led to one 11-hour match and a
walkover gold medal, the disqualification of Jim Thorpe the following year for
violating amateurism rules.
Coubertin and the French National Olympic Committee lost their bid to include
boxing as a competitive event. Swedish law forbade the sport and as such
Coubertin resisted any attempts to make this an issue.
Against Coubertin's wishes, female participation nearly doubled and swimming
was added to the women's program. Australia's Fanny Durack became the first
female Olympic swimming champion, winning the 100-meter freestyle in 1 minute,
22 seconds after setting a world record of 1 minute, 19 seconds in a
preliminary race. Durack created quite a stir by performing the crawl
technique, a technique perfected by men and thought to be very unladylike.
Thorpe was among three athletes that took center stage during these Olympics:
The other two were Hannes Kolehmainen and Duke Kahanamoku.
The 22-year old Kolehmainen, the son of Hawaiian royalty, captured the 10,000-
meter by nearly a minute and won the 5,000 meter race in a photo finish with
Frenchman Jean Bouin, winning in a world-record time of 14:36:6, a time that
would hold for 15 years.
Kahanamoku's world record in the 100-meter freestyle swimming race set the
standard for class that would be emulated by others later on.
Both Kolehmainen and Kahanamoku would have a chance to add to their legend in
later Olympics, although Thorpe, an American Indian, would put a stamp on the
Olympics with his five-event pentahlon (since discontinued) and 10-event
decathalon in world-record style. He also placed fourth in the open division
high jump and seventh in the long jump. After the Olympics, Thorpe would leave
track and field and become a professional football and baseball player. He
forfeited his medals the following January when it was discovered that he had
once played baseball for $35 a week and was thus considered, at least in the
eyes of the IOC, a "professional". Sweden's Hugo Wieslander, the athlete who
placed second to Thorpe, refused to accept the gold medal. It wouldn't be until
70 years later, some 30 years after his death in 1953, that the IOC returned
his name to the record book and sent his family the medals.
The Swedes dominated the overall medals chart with 65, compared to 61 for the
United States. They excelled in women's gymnastics, diving and the equestrian