Blog post

The 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm

Remembering the fifth games of the modern era

Adrian Murphy (opens in new window) (Europeana Foundation)

As Japan prepares to host the Olympic Games, let's take a look back to the Olympic Games when Japan first took part - the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden.

Twenty-eight nations and 2,408 competitors, including 48 women, competed in 102 events in 14 sports.

The 1912 Olympic Games were the fifth games of the modern era, introducing many sports and other features to the competition.

Introducing women's swimming & diving

In the early Olympic Games, a very small number of female athletes took part in limited sports. It wasn't until the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp that women officially took part. In 1912, swimming and diving competitions were introduced for women.

There was just one diving competition (a 10-metre platform event). Sweden's Greta Johansson and Lisa Regnell took gold and silver. Except for British Isabelle White who took bronze, all the remaining finalists were from Sweden. Greta Johansson was Sweden's first female Olympic champion.

In swimming, 100 metre freestyle and 400 metre team relay competitions took place. In the 100 metres, Australians Fanny Durack and Mina Wylie won gold and silver, with Jennie Fletcher of Great Britain coming third.

In the relay race, only 4 teams took part. The team from Great Britain won, with Germany second and Austria third.

Introducing the photo finish

New equipment for recording times and the ends of races were used for the first time in Stockholm. Camera equipment was used to determine results at the end of the men's 1500 metres race.

Arnold Jackson from Great Britain won by only 0.1 second, followed by Americans Abel Kiviat and Norm Taber who finished side by side. The photo equipement determined that Kiviat was slightly ahead.

The race was known at the time as "the greatest race ever run".

Introducing Japan

Japan's participation in the games was the first from an Asian nation.

One Japanese athlete caused a stir in Stockholm by going missing.

Seen here in this photograph (2nd from right), Kanakuri Shizo, was a marathon runner. During the race, he suffered from heatstroke and lost consciousness.

A farming family helped him, bringing him to a party that was taking place on the marathon route so he could drink something and recuperate. He then caught a train back to Stockholm and left the country the next day, without notifying the race officials.

Introducing the decathlon and pentathlon

Decathlon and pentathlon were competed in for the first time in Stockholm. Both events were won by Jim Thorpe, who was the first Native American to win a gold medal for the United States.

However, he lost his Olympic titles after it was discovered that he had been paid for playing semi-professional baseball before competing in the Olympics, thus violating the amateurism rules that were then in place.

In 1983, 30 years after his death, the International Olympic Committee restored his Olympic medals.

Tug of War

The Tug of War competition was another notable event - as only one match took place.

The team from Great Britian were due to play a team from Bohemia who could not be found. The same happened in the other semi-final, in which a team from Sweden was due to play a team from Austria. Great Britain and Sweden got a bye to the final, where they played with Sweden winning.

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This blog is part of the Europeana Sport project which showcases cultural treasures relating to sporting heritage in Europe.