History of the Olympic Games


Site: Stockholm, Sweden
Dates: May 5 - July 22
Nations: 27
Total Athletes: 2,547
Sports: 13

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 years.

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 events.

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