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LuigiVercotti

An Alternate History Of The Olympics: The Twenties & Thirties

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1920: Budapest

Whilst the Berlin 1916 Games a successful venture for the Olympics the defeat of IOC President de Coubertin's homeland of France in the War of 1914 meant that Germany and its old allies in the Austro-Hungarian Empire now held many powerful positions in world sport, including the International Olympic Committee. Coubertin (who as a French patriot initially came up with the idea for a modern Olympics after the defeat of France in 1871) resigned from the presidency in 1919, switching his commitment to the Jeux des Francophones, an international celebration of sport for France, Belgium, Luxembourg and many of the first two countries overseas dominions. These games continued until 1928 (see below). Meanwhile German IOC members Carl Diem and Theodor Lewald turned their success in Berlin 1916's organisation into becoming secretary and President of the IOC respectively.

The Budapest Games were opened by the Emperor Karl of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and for the first time only National Olympic Committees could send athletes to the games. Lewald reversed Coubertin's anti-feminist strictures and allowed women to compete in all athletic events as offered to male athletes, including the marathon. Unfortunately Finnish female marathon runner Hannah Kolehmainen collapsed and died at the 27 kilometre mark, throwing the games into shock. Her compatriot Paavo Nurmi was expected to win multiple gold medals however English runner from the Unified Team of the British Empire James Wilson won the 10000 metres, going on to win a total of 3 gold and 1 silver.

1924: Amsterdam

For the first time at the modern Olympics the official motto 'melior maior victor' (better, bigger, winner) were used at a games. With the Francophone countries still effectively out of the games participation numbers were lower than hoped for, but with new teams representing NOCs for England, Scotland, Eire and Wales the once combined British team loomed as a major challenge to the Germans and Americans. The major athletic event fo the games was the battle between Eric Liddell (Scotland) and Harold Abraham (Palestine). Abraham was favoured to win the 100 metres but failed to enter as the final was held on a Saturday (the Jewish sabbath) and Liddell won comfortably. However two days later Abrahams ran a world record to win the 400 metres. Rowing was hit by an unexpected scandal when Australian gold medal favourite Bobby Pearce ran over some ducks in his lane of the canal where the final of the men's sculling was held, whilst at the swimming the Romanian swimmer Johann Peter Weißmüller took home 3 golds.

1928: Los Angeles

Contravening a deal that was supposed to see St Louis hold the next American Olympics (see the previous thread on the 1904 Chicago Games) the 1928 Games went to Los Angeles, which were opened by President Hoover with great fanfare, including ceremonies designed by leading Hollywood musical director Busby Berkley. The first games to feature segregated Olympic villages (male, female, Caucasians, other races), the LA28 Games were remarkable for the first profit ever secured by an Olympics ($18,000). The Pakistan team won the first of its 9 consecutive gold medals in field hockey, whilst on the athletics track Paavo Nurmi set a regrettable record in coming fourth for the ninth time in an Olympics final. France and her associates from the Jeux de Francophones were finally readmitted to the games, and it was a moving moment when IOC President Lewald accepted the handshake of the now penniless Baron de Coubertin at the closing ceremony.

1932: London

The alternate host of the 1908 Olympics (Rome would have passed the games onto the then British capital then if it hadn't been able to meet its obligations) saw few athletes away from Europe attend due to the Great Depression, sparked by the collapse of the DAX in Frankfurt in 1929. With leading competitors from the US, Canada, Australia and Japan particularly noticeable for their absence it was again a struggle between the English, French and Germans olympic teams which dominated sporting events. The young King Edward VIII (escorted by Queen Edwina) opened the games at Lords Cricket Ground and in the competition days which lay ahead his compatriots performed admirably. 1932 saw the first black English athlete win a gold for the 100 metres, when Linford Tolland hurtled down the track in a time of 9.95 seconds.

1936: Berlin/Barcelona (abandoned)

Possibly the most disrupted Olympics of the modern era, the Berlin Games were originally awarded to the city in 1931 by IOC President Lewald, partly to honour the twentieth anniversary of the first German Olympics. However as a result of the great depression and the coup against the Wilhelmine Reich a radical Nazi regime was installed in 1933 which immediately began to threaten France, as well as parts of Bohemia and Moravia (provinces of the Austro-Hungarian empire). Just as the USOC and other non-European powers were about to declare a boycott of the 1936 Games The IOC staged its own coup, deposing IOC president Lewald and reinstalling de Coubertin who agreed to shift the games to Barcelona. Coubertin successfully re-engaged all disaffected nations leaving Germany out in the cold. Unfortunately for the Olympic movement a falangist movement inspired by the Nazis brought about a civil war in Spain barely 6 weeks before the games. With the Nazis intervening on behalf of the Falangists, the rest of western Europe went to war, resulting in the invasion and quick defeat of the nazi regime. Sadly this war led to the abandonment of the Barcelona games, with one of the victims being the falangist leader of sport and culture in Catalonia, a rather undistinguished official by the name of Samaranch (he was exiled to Moscow after the war when the western allies swept through and liberated the Catalan city). Coubertin was mortified by the disaster of Berlin and Barcelona, and died in 1937 a heart broken man wondering if his Olympic dream would continue.

In an interesting historical footnote immediately before his assassination by an Hungarian Jew, German Nazi leader Gregor Strasser had asked leading film maker Fritz Lang to make a documentary about the 1936 Berlin Games. The resulting film, 'Olympia Metropolis' was never finished but its remarkable effects in envisioning a future games at the Berlin Olympia Stadion still fascinate film and Olympic aficionados.

scw12.jpg

A poster for the abandoned Barcelona Olympics of 1936

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I would have loved to have seen Alexandria win their, what was it, 1920?, bid. That would have solved the "Africa Issue" a long, long time ago.

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I would have loved to have seen Alexandria win their, what was it, 1920?, bid. That would have solved the "Africa Issue" a long, long time ago.

Nah...our friends from Abuja would have claimed this an a colonial North African win and not a true representation of an African Olympics. :P

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This is rather fascinating! How knew Olympic Anti-history could be so interesting? :)

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Of course, Euseb conveniently forgot all about the 2nd Intercalated Games of Hong Kong 1928..which opened on 08/28/28 at exactly 08:28 in the eveing. These 2nd Intercalated "Rebel" Games saw the old Nationalist forces, the imperial-Boxer hold-outs (led by an ancestor of present-day California senator Barbara Boxer (she doesn't fool me <_< ) and the then-new, emerging forces of the Red Rabble, try to gain control of these Games!!

Full chapter yet to be written! Ha!

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Of course, Euseb conveniently forgot all about the 2nd Intercalated Games of Hong Kong 1928..which opened on 08/28/28 at exactly 08:28 in the eveing. These 2nd Intercalated "Rebel" Games saw the old Nationalist forces, the imperial-Boxer hold-outs (led by an ancestor of present-day California senator Barbara Boxer (she doesn't fool me <_< ) and the then-new, emerging forces of the Red Rabble, try to gain control of these Games!!

Full chapter yet to be written! Ha!

Don't worry Baron (in an aside, why do I always feel like Crito from 'Lancelot Link' when I use the address 'Baron' ??) the Boxers, the Nationalists and the Chinese Communists get their full story for Beijing 2000.

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This is kinda fun.

What about the Winter Olympics? And remember in those days, the tradition was to host them in the same country as the Summer Games. Also, the first Winter Games in Chamonix, France were originally called a Winter Festival as a side bar to the Paris Games, and were then retroactively named the First Winter Games in 1926 when the IOC decided to add to the program. So in your scenario, the first Winter Games would likely take place in the United States in 1928.

Calvin Coolidge was US President in 1928. Hoover wasn't inaugurated until March 1929.

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This is kinda fun.

What about the Winter Olympics? And remember in those days, the tradition was to host them in the same country as the Summer Games. Also, the first Winter Games in Chamonix, France were originally called a Winter Festival as a side bar to the Paris Games, and were then retroactively named the First Winter Games in 1926 when the IOC decided to add to the program. So in your scenario, the first Winter Games would likely take place in the United States in 1928.

Calvin Coolidge was US President in 1928. Hoover wasn't inaugurated until March 1929.

I've already had falun host the first Winter olympics in 1912 (see the thread on the first 7 games)...plus I'm making allusions to other winter games as I post. Perhaps when the SOGs are done I can do a full on Winter what ifs...

As for Coolidge and Hoover, let's just say that anti-history could have meant that Herb actually was a two term president ;)

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