The following edition of Summer Olympics saw the Games’ return to Europe, with London being the host city. It is interesting to note that all the nations that played host to the Games during the early decades of the twentieth century were imperialist powers with global political ambitions. So the Olympics were not merely an exhibition of sporting talent, as there was also national pride and political prestige at stake. The number of participant teams increased in this edition. As expected Great Britain, the host nation, topped the medals tally, with 56 Golds, 51 Silvers and 39 Bronzes. It was followed by the United States, Sweden and France. The historical diplomatic relations between Great Britain and the United States, which dates back to the discovery of the New World and the colonization of America, is symbolically represented by theirs positions in the medals tally. Germany and Hungary, which occupied 5th and 6th places in the tally, would be in military confrontation with Great Britain and its allies in the coming decade. Hence, the Olympic Games can be seen to represent the evolving political equations of the period. (Tompkins, 1996)
The 1912 Olympic Games was held in Stockholm, Sweden. By this time the participation of women has become a norm; and consequently the percentage of female athletes rose. This improvement gave encouragement to parallel movements for women’s emancipation such as the suffragette movement, which demanded equal voting rights for women. This event saw the participation of the first Asian nation in the form of Japan. The host nation won most medals, totalling sixty-five, followed by the United States. But international relations, especially within Europe were to turn sour in two years, that by 1914 the camaraderie and spirit of sportsmanship exemplified by the Olympics were to turn into bloody battles and perennial vigils in trench warfare. (Crowther, 2007)
But there is no doubt that the early editions of the Olympic Games paved the way for important social progressions such as liberating women from their erstwhile subordinate role to men. In the American context, the political and personal freedoms won by women would fully bloom during the 1920s, as the Jazz Age was ushered in. The Games also served as a small political theatre, in that a nation’s standing in the medals table boosted or diminished its image as an imperial power. This improved the competition to an extent, but unfortunately it did not prevent the unfolding of the First World War in 1914.
Vincent Tompkins, American Decades – 1910-1919, Gale Publishing, 1996. ISBN-10: 0810357232
Kamper, Erich; Mallon, Bill (1992). The Golden Book of the Olympic Games. Milan: Vallardi & Associati. ISBN 978-88-85202-35-1.
Wallechinsky, David (2004). The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics, Athens 2004 Edition. SportClassic Books. ISBN 978-1-894963-32-9.
Crowther, Nigel B. (2007). “The Ancient Olympic Games”. Sport in Ancient Times. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-275-98739-6.