Antwerp 1920

Antwerp 1920

The tragic upheaval of World War I postponed the 1916 Games that had been scheduled to be held in Berlin. The 1920 Games were awarded to Antwerp, in part to honour the suffering that had been inflicted on the Belgian people during the war.

Despite persistent rain, the traumatic toll of war, and the exclusion of the Allies’ vanquished enemies - Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey - the Antwerp Games served to revive the Olympics after eight long years. 

The Antwerp Games were built on the themes of peace and harmony. The Opening Ceremony was notable for the introduction of the Olympic flag (designed in 1913) and the Olympic Oath (or Athletes’ Oath). Belgian Victor Boin, a former water polo medallist who would win a fencing medal at the Games, became the first person to read the oath on behalf of the competitors during the Opening Ceremony. In the wake of the war, conditions for athletes were sometimes lacking, but earnest organisers and the hearty spirit of the local community ensured a good atmosphere for competition. 

Australia at these Games

Australia had a team of thirteen athletes, twelve men and one woman, in Antwerp. Unlike previous Games, Australia competed separately and not with New Zealand in a combined Australasian team.

Australia won three medals, two silver and a bronze. Walker and flag bearer George Parker was second in the 3000m walk, and the 4x200m freestyle relay team - Frank Beaurepaire, Henry Hay, William Herald and Ivan Stedman - chased home the champion US team. (Keith Kirkland had swum in the heats of the relay, but was replaced by Beaurepaire for the final. He did not receive a medal, but would if competing today.)

The other medal was won by Beaurepaire in the 1500m, adding to his two medals won in 1908. His sister, Lily, was the sole woman participant for Australia, racing in both the 100m and 400m freestyle events. Another notable representative was hurdler Wilfred Kent-Hughes, who raced in the 110m and 400m hurdle events. He would later be chairman of the Melbourne 1956 Olympic organising committee.

Ironically, the only Australian to carry away a gold meal from Antwerp was Dan Carroll, the playing coach of the American rugby team and a former Wallaby winger.

Australian Olympians At The Games

Flag Bearers

Olympian Name Ceremony
George Parker Opening

Australian Medallists At The Games

Olympian Name Sport Medals
Frank Beaurepaire Swimming
1
1
Harry Hay Swimming
1
Bill Herald Swimming
1
Keith Kirkland Swimming
1
George Parker Athletics
1
Ivan Stedman Swimming
1

History

The tragic upheaval of World War I postponed the 1916 Games that had been scheduled to be held in Berlin. The 1920 Games were awarded to Antwerp, in part to honour the suffering that had been inflicted on the Belgian people during the war.

Despite persistent rain, the traumatic toll of war, and the exclusion of the Allies’ vanquished enemies - Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey - the Antwerp Games served to revive the Olympics after eight long years. 

The Antwerp Games were built on the themes of peace and harmony. The Opening Ceremony was notable for the introduction of the Olympic flag (designed in 1913) and the Olympic Oath (or Athletes’ Oath). Belgian Victor Boin, a former water polo medallist who would win a fencing medal at the Games, became the first person to read the oath on behalf of the competitors during the Opening Ceremony. In the wake of the war, conditions for athletes were sometimes lacking, but earnest organisers and the hearty spirit of the local community ensured a good atmosphere for competition.

The American team dominated, winning 95 medals, including 41 gold – more than double the gold medal total of the second-placed team, Sweden. The US women’s swimming team, led by triple gold medallist Ethelda Bleibtrey, swept all six events. Shooter Willis Lee was also outstanding, winning five gold, a silver and a bronze.

Italy’s Nedo Nadi was the non-American star of the Games, winning gold medals in five of the six fencing events in a performance unequaled in Olympic history. His younger brother, Aldo, also won three gold medals in fencing. The brothers are regarded among the legends of the sport.

Another strong performer was Albert Hill of Great Britain, who won the 800m and 1500m double on the track. It would be 44 years until this performance was repeated by New Zealand’s Peter Snell at the Tokyo Olympics.

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Did you know?

Germany’s Christa Luding-Rothenburger is the only athlete to ever win medals in both Winter and Summer Games in the same year. Among other medals, she won skating silver in the 500m (Calgary 1988) and cycling silver in the match sprint (Seoul 1988).