Olympic Trivia and Facts
Who doesn't love the Olympics?
Even if you are not a sports fan the Olympics is the pinnacle of international cooperation. I LOVE the Olympics and as I love history so much I couldn't help but share some great tid bits of History!
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Quick Facts from the 1900 Paris Games
First to allow women to compete
Mostly French Competitors
The French comprised over 70% of the athletes competing and some team sports had representatives from different countries on the same side. In fact, Australian Stan Rowley was selected by the English Amateur Athletic Association to compete.
Was this a real Olympics?
The games were held as part of the World’s Fair and many athletes did not know they were competing in the Olympics.
The first American woman to win an Olympic event, golfer Margaret Ives Abbott died before she knew she was an Olympic Champion as it wasn't until 1955 that this fact was established.
Australia at the Games
Australia had two athletes at the games; Stan Rowley and Frederick Lane.
Rowley won 3 bronze medals in running events. He also won gold as part of the British relay team.
Lane won 2 gold medals in the swimming.
One of Lane's gold medals was in obstacle swimming.
This was the only Olympics that “obstacle swimming” was held at and it involved swimming under and over obstacles. (see below)
The Games lasted over FIVE months!
The games began on 14 May and didn't conclude until the 28 October with various sports taking place to coincide with fair activities.
Who were the First Females to compete in the Olympics?
Three French ladies Jeanne Filleul-Brohy, Louise Anne Marie Despres and Marie Ohnier who participated in the croquet tournament. None of the women placed and as the tournament only featured French competitors there are questions over the authenticity of the event being considered an Olympic one. This was the first discipline of the games that allowed women to compete.
Did you know that at the 1900 Olympic Games in Paris, Australian Frederick Lane won gold in the “obstacle swimming” event.
This was the only Olympic games that this event was held at and very few people have probably ever heard of this discipline before so here are some quick facts:
The event operates as it sounds. Competitors swim a course of obstacles that have to climb over and swim under.
At the 1900 games swimmers had to climb and swim, under over a series of boats and poles in the River Seine across 200m.
Though this is rarely seen as a stand-alone event anymore it is often incorporated into multi-discipline events such as Ninja Warrior obstacle courses and pentathlons.
This was Lane’s second gold of the games, his first coming in the 200m freestyle.
Image: Lane competes in the 1900 obstacle event at the Olympics, Le Sport universel illustré, 25, c. 1900
Women at the Games 1904 - 1920s
The 1904 Games
At the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis, women were only represented in one official sport – Archery
One of the demonstration sports was women’s boxing but it was banned after these games. The only competitors were American women.
Women Record Holders
At the 1904 games Lida ‘Eliza’ Peyton Pollock (USA), aged 63, won a team gold in the archery becoming the oldest female to win a medal at any games. This record still stands.
Archer Sybil ‘Queenie’ Newall who competed at the 1908 games and won gold remains the oldest female to win an individual gold medal. She was 53.
The 1908 Games
At the 1908 games in London women competed in archery, figure skating and tennis.
In 1924 figure skating would transition to the winter Olympic Games.
The 1912 Games
At the 1912 Olympics women competed in tennis, diving and swimming only.
This was the first time that women were allowed to compete in a swimming event however the only event open to them was the 100m freestyle. Gold and silver in this event were taken home by Australia’s first two female Olympians: Fanny Durack and Wilhelmina Wylie.
The 1920 Games
Following the war years the 1920 Olympic Games were held at Antwerp, Belgium.
Of the 2,626 athletes just 65 were women. They competed in swimming, diving, figure skating and sailing.
A demonstration sport at the 1920 games that women competed in was korfball.
Korfball is a Dutch variant of netball which features 12 players per side. It was also a demonstration sport at the 1928 games.
The two teams involved in the 1920 games were both Dutch; South Holland & Amsterdam.
The Women's Olympiad
In response to the lack of women’s sports at the Olympic games the Women’s Olympiad was created by Alice Milliat.
The Olympiad was held in Monaco in 1921, 1922 and 1923. Across the three events over 600 women competed from 8 nations.
To read more visit my blog about the path to the women's Olympiad (click here).
The Women's World Games
The Women’s Olympiad developed into the Women’s World Games. These were held 4 times and led to the inclusion of more women’s sports at the Olympics.
1922 – Paris, France
1926 – Gothenburg, Sweden
1930- Prague, Czechoslovakia
1934 – London, UK
To read more about the Women's World Games please visit my blog.
Has every country won a medal?
In short the answer is no, but here are some fun facts about the topic.
The nation that wins the showing up award is Monaco.
Despite 30 appearances consisting of 20 Summer and 10 winter games this small nation has never won an official medal.
They did take home a bronze at the 1924 Games in the architecture category however the five art categories (literature, music, architecture painting and sculpture) are no longer classed as official Olympic events.
Art Competitions at the Olympics
Wondering why art events were ever included in the games?
From 1912 to 1948 these were a common occurrence and part of the modern Olympic movements vision. In the end these events were removed over concerns of the amateur status of the games as many of the arts competitors were professionals.
In the history of the art competitors just two Australians took part however neither took home a medal.
Nepal is another nation who has technically won a medal but it isn’t counted.
Nepal has entered 17 Olympic games; 13 Summer and 4 Winter.
As part of the 1924 inaugural winter games Nepalese man Tejbir Bura was awarded a gold medal in alpinism as part of the 1922 British Mt. Everest exhibition. As this was awarded by modern Olympic founder Pierre de Coubertin and not in competition it isn’t classed as an official medal.
The Other Nations:
The other nations who have made the most appearances without winning any medals are:
Andorra (23 games; 11 summer, 12 winter)
Bolivia (20 games; 14 summer and 6 winter)
Malta (18 games; 16 summer and 2 Winter)
Hidilyn Diaz of the Philippines won gold in the women’s 55kg weightlifting in Tokyo 2021 to take home to nation’s first gold medal.
Previously the Philippines had won 10 medals; 3 silver and 7 bronze across 26 Olympic appearances.
Alessandra Perilli took home a bronze medal in the women’s trap shooting at Tokyo in 2021.
This was San Marino’s first ever medal of any colour.
Home to just 34,000 people this tiny nation has made 24 Olympic appearances; 14 at the Summer games and 10 Winter appearances but until 2021 no medals of any colour.
Art as an Olympic Event?
From 1912 to 1948 art competition events were held as part of the Summer Olympic movement. There were five categories:
Within these five categories across the years various sub-categories were introduced with multiple winners awarded.
The inclusion of art events were always the intention of the modern games founder Pierre de Coubertin however in the end these events were removed over concerns of the amateur status of the games as many of the arts competitors were professionals.
These events were dominated by European's with only two Australian's ever taking part. They were Ruby Reynolds-Lewis and James Peter Quinn.
The first Australian to participate was composer Ruby Reynolds-Lewis who entered the music section of the art competition at the 1924 Summer Games. Her submission was titled “Foxhunt”. Ruby was a Victorian native and well known in Melbourne-circles.
The second Australian to take part in the art competition of the games was portrait painter James Peter Quinn who entered a painting into the 1932 Summer Olympic Games. Quin hailed from Melbourne and was an official war artist for the First AIF during World War One in France. He received many notable commissions over his career such as General Sir John Monash and the Duke of Windsor. Today Quinn’s works are held at both the National Library of Australia and the Australian War Memorial.
Over the entire history of the arts competition only the USA, Canada, South Africa and Japan were nations outside of Europe to win any of the events.
Image: Visitors admire one of the entries in the art competition during the LA Olympics, 1932 (Helsinborg Dagblad Sweden)
Where did the Paralympic movement originate from?
World War Two was a catalyst for Paralympic sport. With increases in technology and health care the number of people who survived the devastating impact of war, but found themselves with physical impairment, was very high. Most of these people also lived longer than they would have previously. The Paralympic movement emerged out of this as sport became a part of the rehabilitation process.
The games have their origin in the Stoke Mandeville Games that were created by Dr Ludwig Guttmann in England on 28 July 1948. What began as an archery competition would develop and at the Tokyo Games in 1964 the term Paralympic was used for the first time, although a parallel competition to the Olympics had been held four years earlier in Rome. Despite these two games held in conjunction with the Olympic host city it wasn’t until 1988 in Seoul, Korea that the relationship was formalised and the two were held side by side. The next year the international Paralympic committee was formed.
From 400 athletes across 23 nations in 1960 to the number represented today is a great achievement. The number of sports has also increased from 9 to the current 22.
Over 4,300 athletes from 163 different countries are currently taking part in the Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
Which countries are not represented at the Paralympics?
The 2020 Tokyo Summer Games saw 206 countries compete but just over 160 will be represented at the Paralympic Games. The main reason why many nations are not represented is due to funding and the development of Paralympic sports in some countries, especially those that are developing nations.
Having said that 2021 has brought with it many unusual challenges that have also inhibited some nations from sending athletes.
Athletes from Suriname refused to travel while flights from Afghanistan are currently suspended which meant that athletes could not travel but the flag was still flown at the opening ceremony in tribute to the athletes. The current pandemic also inhibited athletes from the south pacific nations of Samoa, Kiribati, Tonga and Vanuatu from competition.
Some nations memberships to the Paralympic committee had been suspended pre-2020. These were Djibouti, Sudan, Comoros and the Seychelles which means they are not represented.
Other nations including Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Liechtenstein and San Marino were unable to field any athletes. While funds for teams from North Korea, East Timor, Turkmenistan, Trinidad and Tobago were withdrawn.
It is unclear why there is no Algerian team while the one athlete from Myanmar to qualify has boycotted the games
Some nations have never participated in the Paralympic games before, so their absence is not unusual. These nations are American Samoa, Cook Islands, Dominica, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Swaziland (Eswantini), Guam, Kosovo, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Monaco, Nauru, Palau, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, South Sudan and Tuvalu.
Other nations that are not in attendance but also not regular attendees are Albania, Lichtenstein, Mauritania, San Marino and Brunei.
On another note, did you know that the Faroe Islands are the only territory competing at these games who didn’t compete at the Olympics? Traditionally they are joined by Macau, but that territory is not represented at these games as the athletes would not travel due to the pandemic.
The Paralympic refugee team will also be making their debut at the Tokyo games.
To read more about the Winter Paralympics click here
-Olympic Themed Blogs-
The Path to the Women's 1921 Olympiad
Why did women have their own Olympiad in 1921? To find out I go back to the first Olympics that women were allowed to compete at - 1900.