Swedish capital primed for “classic” Games
Stockholm’s status as host of the 1912 Olympic Games was confirmed on 28 May, 1909. Sweden’s National Gymnastic and Sporting Association had concluded “that the fact of having the Games at Stockholm would not only promote the healthy development of the athletic movement in Sweden, but would also be of the greatest importance for the country as a whole”.
There was an understandable note of caution among the International Olympic Committee, following the experience of 1908, when Rome had pulled out of hosting the Games and London had been required to step in at short notice. The 1908 Games had been successful in the end, but there was a desire to make sure that no such problems arose again.
While cautioning the prospective hosts against any repeat of the preamble to the 1908 Games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the IOC’s President, was confident that Stockholm would stage an outstanding event. “Of all countries in the world, Sweden, at the present moment, possesses the best conditions necessary for organising the Olympic Games in a way that will perfectly satisfy all the claims that athletics and our expectations can demand,” he said. “The Olympic Games of Stockholm are, even now, assured of perfect success.”
He also stressed that these Games should be “more purely athletic” than their London predecessors, as well as “more intimate and, above all, less expensive”.
Stockholm set about its task with gusto. Forty-two countries were invited to participate, with a total of 61,800 entry forms printed. There was a determination within Sweden, as per Baron de Coubertin’s speech, to hold a more “classic” version of the Games than those of recent years, with simplicity being the key.
A new Olympic Stadium was built, which still stands today. It was one of 12 venues that were used across different sports and was designed by Torben Grut, a local architect. It was part-funded through a national lottery, and completed in good time for the Opening Ceremony.
Boxing was removed from the list of sports for 1912 – something that of course would not be a permanent state of affairs – and Sweden had originally suggested removing a number of other disciplines too before other countries expressed their discontent at such a pared-down schedule. In a break with tradition, art competitions were added to the programme – these saw medals awarded in architecture, literature, music, painting and sculpture. These would remain a constituent part of the Olympics right up until 1948, although the IOC does not officially recognise the medals awarded in these disciplines. Other innovations at the Games included an automatic timing system for athletics events, which used electromagnets to start a timer as soon as the starting gun was fired.