1912 Stockholm, Sweden

The 1912 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the V Olympiad, were held in Stockholm, Sweden, between 5 May and 27 July 1912. Twenty-eight nations and 2,408 competitors, including 48 women, competed in 102 events in 14 sports. With the exception of tennis (starting on May 5), football and shooting (both starting on June 29), the games were held within a month. It was the last to issue solid gold medals and, with Japan’s debut, the first time an Asian nation participated. Stockholm was the only bid for the games, and was selected in 1909. It is the only full Olympics to be held in Sweden.

The games were the first to have art competitions, and the first to feature the decathlon and pentathlon, both won by Jim Thorpe, women’s diving and women’s swimming. Electric timing was introduced in athletics, while the host country disallowed boxing. A winter sports week featuring figure skating was rejected by organizers because they wanted to promote the Nordic Games. At 25, The United States won the most gold medals, while at 65, Sweden won the most medals overall.

A well-organised edition of the Olympics, the Stockholm Games saw the first Olympic use of automatic timing equipment, the photo finish and a public address system

Highlights of the Stockholm Olympics

ñPortuguese Francisco Lázaro died from a heart attack while running the marathon, the first athlete in the history of the modern Olympics to die during competition.

ñA Greco-Roman Wrestling bout between Martin Klein and Alfred Asikainen lasted 11 hours and forty minutes—the world’s longest wrestling match. After Klein finally took the victory, he was too tired to compete in the final. Thus Johansson, the other wrstler to make the final-three to determine the medals, whose only loss in the elimination rounds had been the double loss to Asikainen, became the gold medalist.

ñAmerican Jim Thorpe won the pentathlon and the newly created decathlon. He was disqualified because of violation of the rules of amateurism, even though these rules were applied inconsistently at the time. After evidence concerning these inconsistencies was presented to the International Olympic Committee, the IOC decided in 1982 to posthumously reinstate Thorpe’s name as the true winner of the contests he had won, and to present his heirs with duplicate medals.

ñThe U.S. Olympic Team included 14 members of the Irish American Athletic Club, including gold medalists George Bonhag, Abel Kiviat, Pat McDonald and Mel Sheppard.

ñSwedish marksman Oscar Swahn became the oldest Olympic gold medalist (up to that time), at the age of 64, in the deer-shooting event.

ñWomen’s events in swimming and diving were introduced.

ñSweden, as the host country, refused to allow boxing events.

ñFuture World War II General George S. Patton took part in the first modern pentathlon competition. Modern pentathlon was the idea of Pierre de Coubertin.

ñIn athletics, electric timing devices were first used.

ñThis was the last Olympics where “private entries” were allowed (i.e. not part of a country’s officially selected team). Arnold Jackson was one such, winning the 1500m by 0.1 second, ahead of an American trio, who were strong favourites, in what was acclaimed at the time as “the greatest race ever run”. He was aged 21 at the time. No one younger has ever won this event.

ñEwart Douglas Horsfall won his first two gold medals for Great Britain in rowing. He has widely been considered Britain’s greatest rower prior to Steve Redgrave.

ñ1912 saw the first art competitions at the Olympic Games, a tradition that was to be kept up until 1948. Only two persons have won Olympic medals in both sport and art competitions.Walter Winans, an American who lived in England, won a gold medal as a marksman at the 1908 Summer Olympics in the running deer (double shot) competition. In 1912, he won another shooting medal — silver this time — in the running deer team competition as well as a gold medal for his sculpture An American trotter. The other Olympian with successes in both fields is Alfréd Hajós of Hungary. As a swimmer, he won two gold medals at the 1896 Athens Olympics. Twenty-eight years later, he was awarded a silver medal in architecture for his stadium design, co-designed with Dezső Lauber.

ñKanakuri Shizō, a Japanese marathon runner went missing during the race. He lost consciousness during the race due to the heat and was cared for by a farming family. He returned to Japan without notifying race officials. He completed the race 50 years later with a (unofficial) time of 54 years, 8 months, 6 days, 8 hours, 32 minutes and 20.3 seconds.

With the close of the 1912 Olympics, all eyes turned towards the city of Berlin where the next edition of the Games was scheduled to take place. Although World War I made it impossible for plans to proceed, the Games proved their resilience. The 1916 celebration remained in Olympic history as the Games of the VI Olympiad and in 1920 the Olympics were once again held, with the Belgian city of Antwerp acting as Olympic host.