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History of the Olympics

1920 - Antwerp, Belgium

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The 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp, Belgium

The 1920 Olympic Games followed closely the ending of World War I. The world had seen much bloodshed. Should the aggressors of the war be invited to the Olympic Games? The Olympic ideals stated that all countries should be allowed entrance into the Games. Though Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Hungary were not forbidden to come, they were also not sent an invitation by the Organizing Committee. These countries were again not invited to the 1924 Olympic Games. In addition, the newly formed Soviet Union decided not to attend. (Athletes from the Soviet Union did not reappear at the Olympics until 1952.)

Since the war had ravaged throughout Europe, funding and materials for the Games was difficult to acquire. When the athletes arrived in Antwerp, construction had not been completed. Besides the stadium being unfinished, the athletes were housed in cramped quarters and slept on folding cots.

Though this year was the first that the official Olympic flag was flown, not many were there to see it. The number of spectators was so low - mainly because people could not afford tickets after the war - that Belgium lost over 600 million francs from hosting the Games.

On a more positive note, the 1920 Games was notable for the first appearance of Paavo Nurmi, one of the "Flying Finns." Nurmi was a runner who was ran like a mechanical man - body erect, always at an even pace. Nurmi even carried a stopwatch with him as he ran so that he could evenly pace himself. Nurmi returned to run in the 1924 and the 1928 Olympic Games winning, in total, seven gold medals.

More than 2,500 athletes competed, representing 29 countries.

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