Antwerp marks the first Games to be held after the devastating
for Europe 1916-1918 World War. Absent in this Olympiad we have the big
war losers, Germany, Austria, Bulgaria Hungary, Turkey. Under a general spirit
of economizing and in order to be able to face at least, the most basic of the
expenses, such as food and board for the athletes, the Belgian state appealed
to the public sentiment for financial support. There were many complaints from
the athletes for the conditions they had to live and among those a small "revolt"
of a special character. Not finding a place to live the Americans were accommodated
on board "Princess Metoika", the liner that brought them to Belgium. For a while,
that is. After being served food with some very suspicious smells and in the
evenings being attacked by hordes of roaches and rats, the U.S. athletes applied
a plan of immediate reaction and arrested all the members of the crew as well
as their officers who were put out to land! In a statement, they declared that
the boat has been taken by... it slaves! Well, it was a mutiny that lasted only
a few hours. But time enough for the Belgians to come up with a solution. They
divided the American team into small groups that were put to live in nice small
suburban hotels thus providing for the Americans a far better stay compared
to the rest of the athletes.
A name that made the front pages was canoeist's John Kelly. He won two gold-plated (another way of government economizing) medals for men's single and double, with admirable ease. There was also, for the first time, a complaint by this his opponents that Kelly, being a mason by profession, was training eight hours a day for the last four years and getting paid on top of it. Kelly's name made the front pages some decades later when he smashed the desk of a columnist who wrote that Kelly's daughter was visiting the hotel room of a European prince. Couple of years after the incident, it was John Kelly himself who gave away his daughter, to holy matrimony, with Prince Raignier of Monaco.
Antwerp marks also the appearing, for the first time, of the flag with the five circles. A de Coubertin idea, the design deriving from an ancient Greek piece of jewellery...
Text by Dimitri N. Marcopoulos
1920 Antwerp Olympics: Various WebPages
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