Blog post

The 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam

Remembering an Olympics of firsts

black and white photograph, male athletes running a race in the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic stadium
by
Aisha Villegas (opens in new window) (Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision)

With the Tokyo Olympic Games underway, we look back to one of the Olympic Games that saw a number of important milestones - the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

black and white photograph, a group fo men in suits in front of a store, one holds an Olympic flag

Amsterdam hosted the Olympic Games July 28 to August 12 1928. A total of 46 nations were represented by 2,883 athletes, including 277 women.

colour poster for 1928 Olympic Games, a male athlete wearing white running against a blue sky

The 1928 Games were memorable because they introduced a series of Olympic firsts: the number of female competitors more than doubled, Asian athletes won gold medals for the first time and the Olympic flame made its first appearance in the modern era.

An Olympic of firsts

During the Opening Ceremony and, for the first time, the Parade of Nations started with the team from Greece, which holds the origins of the Olympics, and ended with the host team - the Dutch - marching in last. This tradition - Greece-first, hosts-last - has been part of the Olympic Games ever since.

black and white photograph, athletes in suits parading in a crowded stadium

The 1928 Games were also the first to introduce Coca-Cola as a sponsor. At the time, the company sent a boatload of 1,000 crates of the soda to accompany the U.S. athletes to Amsterdam. The Coca-Cola Company is the longest-standing partner of the Olympic Movement that continues until this day.

colour photograph of a drinking glass with Olympic Games poster and Coca-Cola logo
colour photograph of a badge with an eagle, mascot for the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, and United States flag and Coca-Cola logo
brown picture frame with 18 Coca Cola pin badges from various Olympic Games

The Olympic Flame

The idea for the Olympic flame comes from ancient Greece, where a sacred fire was kept burning throughout the celebration of the ancient Olympics on the altar of the sanctuary of Hestia.

In 1928, for the first time, a symbolic fire was lit during the Games of the modern era. The fire was lit in a cauldron that was placed at the top of a tower in the stadium in Amsterdam, which had been designed by renowned Dutch architect, Jan Wils.

The Olympic flame has been part of the Summer Olympics ever since. The torch relay, however, would not take place until the 1936 Summer Olympics.

black and white photograph of a narrow tall tower, part of a stadium
black and white photograph, a large flame in a cauldro with a number of men watching
black and white photograph, four men in suits standing in a stadium under construction
Explore more vintage photos of the 1928 Olympic Games

Introducing women’s athletics and gymnastics

Despite objections - including the former president of the International Olympic Committee, Baron Pierre de Coubertin - the 1928 Olympics saw the introduction of women's events in the athletics and gymnastics programme.

Five women's athletics events were added: 100 metres, 800 metres, high jump, discus, and 400 metre hurdles.

black and white photograph, female gymnasts in 1928 Olympic stadium
black and white photograph, five women sitting on grass, they wear tracksuits with word Canada across their shirts
black and white photograph, a female athlete throwing a discus in a crowded stadium

The winner of the 800 metres was Lina Radke-Batschauer on Germany's return to the Olympics after a 16-year absence caused by World War I and then having had to serve a 10-year probation for its part in that conflict.

black and white photograph, three female athletes running a race at 1928 Olympics

However, at the end the race was spoiled when many of her competitors finished in a state of exhaustion. Women were not allowed to run so far again in the Olympics until 1960.

black and white photograph, group of women athletes sitting on grass at Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam

Breaking records

Athletes from 28 different nations won gold medals in Amsterdam, a record that would last for 40 years.

For the first time, Asian athletes won gold medals. Mikio Oda of Japan won the triple jump, while his teammate, Yoshiyuki Tsuruta, won the 200m breaststroke.

Athlete Kinue Hitomi was the first woman to represent Japan at the Olympics, the only female athlete for Japan in 1928. She entered a number of events, winning silver in the 800 metres race.

black and white photograph, Japanese athlete Oda who wears white clothing with numbers 257 on his shirt
black and white photograph, a female athlete crosses the line in a 100m race
Explore more Olympic and Paralympic stories

The team from India also swept to victory in field hockey, beginning a streak of six consecutive gold medals in the sport.

black and white photograph, a hockey match during 1928 Olympics
black and white photograph, a man wearing a suit and turban holds a large sign during flag parade at 1928 Olympics
black and white photograph, 9 male athletes wearing suits and turbans, one holds up a flag

An international traffic sign is born

Like other cities around Europe in the late 1920s, the streets of Amsterdam were filling up fast with cars. During the Games, this issue was more pressing than ever as Amsterdam had limited car parking spaces. The organisers were forced to look for a way to solve this issue quickly.

black and white photograph, five men wearing suits sitting in an open-top car
black and white photograph, a woman stepping into a car in front of a stadium in 1928, the car driver stands nearby

As a solution, a number of new parking sites were provided and a special parking symbol was launched to show foreign visitors where they could park. The white P on a blue background was to become the international traffic sign for parking, which is still used today.

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