Antwerp 1920 Summer Olympics

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The sixth Olympic Games were planned to be held in Berlin in 1916 but was canceled because of World War I. Immediately after the war the IOC decided that the Games in 1920 should be handed over to the Belgian city of Antwerp in respect of the Belgian people's harsh fate during the war.

The Games in Antwerp - the games in the seventh Olympiad - were held from April 20 to September 19 1920. Despite that the city had only one year to prepare for the Games, Antwerp managed to implement an Olympic event, which very clearly showed that the Olympic idea had survived the World War. Although conditions were modest, the Belgians were everywhere admired for their dedication and effort in relation to the arrangement. Henri de Baillet-Latour, who in 1925 succeeded Pierre de Coubertin as President of the IOC, chaired the Belgian event committee.

In 1920 the competitions were for the first time spread out over a larger area. Sailing was for example held in Ostende, rowing on the Grand Canal between Brussels and Antwerp, and shooting in Beverloo.

Approx. 2670 athletes from 29 nations attended the Games, an almost unchanged participation compared to the previous games in Stockholm eight years earlier. IOC decided to exclude the Central Powers from the war - Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey - from participation in the Games. In return, attended a number of countries, including Brazil, Argentina, New Zealand, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia in the Olympics for the first time.

Compared to the games in Stockholm eight years earlier the Olympic program was extended by about 50%. In total, the athletes competed in 154 events in 23 sports. Ice hockey was new Olympic sport, and seven other sports resumed on the Olympic program: boxing, archery, hockey, figure skating, polo, rugby and weightlifting.

The opening ceremony in Antwerp was notable mainly for two reasons. For the first time the Olympic flag was waving - the five colored rings on the white tablecloth, the symbol of the unification of the five continents - over the Olympic stadium during the games. The flag, which from then on was an integral part of rituals in relation to the opening and closing of the Olympic events, was first presented by IOC president Pierre de Coubertin in 1914 in connection with the 20th anniversary of the IOC's founding.

It was also in Antwerp, that a representative of the participating athletes for the first time announced the Olympic oath, which also subsequently became an established ritual for opening ceremonies. Belgian Victor Boine was the first athlete to announce the oath on behalf of all participants.

At the Games in Antwerp the international sports world was for the first time acquainted with the Finnish long-distance runner Paavo Nurmi - one of the major profiles in Olympic history. With three gold medals and one silver medal he began his luminous career as 1920's dominant long distance runner.

Italy's Nedo Nadi, who won gold in five of the six fencing disciplines, and American Willis Lee, who won five gold medals in shooting, became the most successful athletes at the Games. Finn Hannes Kolehmainen followed up on his victories from the Stockholm Olympics by winning the marathon in Antwerp, and in the pool U.S. famous Duke Paoa Kahanamoku reiterated his victory from Stockholm in 100 m freestyle.

Athletes from the USA generally dominated the games in Antwerp. Of the 154 events USA claimed gold medals in more than a quarter, a total of 41 gold medals. Sweden was second-best nation with 19 gold medals, Finland won 15 and England 14.

Follow this link for a detailed and interactive medal standing for Antwerp 1920.
The story about the Antwerp Olympics 1920 is based on the official Olympic reports and the Olympian Database.
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