The 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm were the fifth and most successful modern Games to date. Swedish organisers benefited from having the full four years to prepare and they learned a lot from previous mistakes. They ensured the Games were a stand-alone event and the schedule was shortened to two months.
It was the first truly international Olympics, attended by athletes representing all five continents. There was a real sense of unity and harmony at the Games, with no significant protests or disruptions. A 22,000-seat stadium and a new swimming pool were built, and accommodation provided for visiting athletes.
The 1912 Games featured a number of innovations. The Swedish hosts introduced the use of unofficial electronic timing devices (capable of registering to the tenth of a second) for track and swimming events. Public address systems helped organise athletes and allowed the crowds to follow events. Chalk was used instead of cord to outline the lanes for races in the main stadium.
Modern pentathlon and equestrian events debuted on the Olympic program. Women’s events in swimming and diving were also introduced. Boxing was dropped from the program because the sport was illegal in Sweden. Freestyle wrestling was also omitted by the organising committee. This prompted the IOC to decide that they would make the final decision on what sports were to be conducted at future Games.
The most popular hero of the Games was Jim Thorpe, a native American, who won the pentathlon and set a world record in the decathlon. He was fourth in the high jump, seventh in the long jump, and even played an exhibition baseball game against Sweden. King Gustav V of Sweden declared Thorpe to be “the greatest athlete in the world.” Thorpe, present for the monarch’s remark, famously replied, “Thanks, King.”
Unfortunately, Thorpe had received money for playing minor league baseball and became the first athlete disqualified by the IOC – the Olympics had a strict amateur code. He had to return his medals and he was erased from the record books. He was not reinstated until 1982 – almost 30 years after his death. His medals were returned to his family.
The US led the medal table with 25 gold, one more than the Host Nation.