Olympics and The World Wars

I am not sure if the so called legacy of the London 2012 Olympics really happened; but it start me thinking about soldiers and the Olympics.

Wyndham Halswelle

Wyndham Halswelle

Following the 1912 Summer Olympics, at which a young George S. Patton, later General Patton of World War Two fame, can fifth in the Modern Pentathlon, the 1916 Summer Olympics were to have been held in Berlin, the heart of the German Empire, but were cancelled due to the outbreak of World War One.

In turn, the 1920 Summer Olympics were due to be hosted in Budapest, but as the Austro-Hungarian Empire had been a German ally in World War One the International Olympic Committee transferred the Games to Antwerp. The 1920 games were the first in which the Olympic Oath was voiced, the first in which doves were released to symbolise peace, and the first games at which the Olympic Flag was flown.

Following World War One Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, and Turkey were not invited to the 1920 Games, all being the successor states of the Central Powers of World War One, and Germany was again not invited to the 1924 Summer Olympics.

The 1940 Summer Olympics were scheduled to be held in Tokyo, but were cancelled due to the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Japan authorities had abandoned its support for the 1940 Games as early as July 1938, the International Olympic Committee then awarded the Games to Helsinki, the runner-up in the original bidding process.

Ultimately, the 1940 Olympic Games were suspended indefinitely following the outbreak of World War Two and did not resume until the London Games of 1948. The two major Axis powers of World War Two, Germany and Japan, were not invited to the 1948 London Games.

The most highly decorated British officer of World War One, Medical Officer Captain Noel Chavasse Victoria Cross, Bar and Military Cross and his twin brother Christopher both competed at the 1908 Games.

The twins represented Great Britain in the 400 meters. Noel finished second in his heat while Christopher finished third, sadly neither time being fast enough to progress further. But Wyndham Halswelle was too fair much better, he won Silver in the 1906 Games at 400 meters and Bronze at 800 meters; then Gold in the 1908 games at 400 meters beating both the Chavasse brothers.

But Wyndham Halswelle win was controversial, in the final he was blocked by one, if not two, American opponents and the race declared void. At this time blocking was allowed under American rules, but the Olympic race was conducted under stricter rules, which did not allow blocking.

The Americans refused to take part in the re-run and Halswelle won by a walkover. As a result of the controversy, from the Olympics in 1912, all 400-meter races were run in lanes and the International Amateur Athletic Federation was founded to establish uniform worldwide rules for all athletics.

Wyndham Halswelle, the Bronze, Silver & Gold Medal winner, was commissioned into the Highland Light Infantry in 1901, at the age of 34; then on 12th March 1915, at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle he was wounded by shrapnel leading his men forward, still suffering this injury on 31 March 1915 he was killed by a sniper, in a battle he described as ‘costing the lives of seventy-nine of my fellow soldiers to gain 15 yards in a trench filled with liquid mud’.