Olympics and History of the Modern Games Stockholm Sweden 1912

About the Olympics and the modern games, account of the games in Stockholm, Sweden in 1912.


The tactful, friendly, and fair handling of the events by the Swedes in Stockholm did much to dispel the enmity created 4 years earlier by the British. For the 1st time, an electrical timing device, public address system, and photo-finish camera were used.

The hero of these games was Jim Thorpe, the half Sac-Fox Indian, half Irish athlete from Carlisle Indian School, who had led his football team to victories over Ivy League colleges, Syracuse, Navy, and Nebraska, and been a one-man track team, winning 6 events in a victory over previously undefeated Lafayette.

There was no question that Bright Path (Thorpe's Indian name) would train for the Olympics; the question was, for which events? He decided on the pentathlon and decathlon, the 5- and 10-event competitions. During the sea voyage, while other athletes ran daily on a cork track on deck, Thorpe dozed in a deck chair. A New York Evening Mail reporter asked him, "What are you doing--thinking about your uncle Sitting Bull?" "No," Thorpe replied, "I'm practicing the broad jump. I've just jumped 23'8"." At Stockholm, it was no different. There Thorpe lay in a hammock and dozed.

Mike Murphy, U.S. Olympic coach, complained to Thorpe's Carlisle coach, Glenn (Pop) Warner: "I've seen some queer birds in my day, but your Indian beats all. I don't see him do anything--except sleep!" "Don't worry, Mike," said Warner. "All those 2-for-a-nickel events you've got lined up for Thorpe won't bother him. He's in shape. What with football, lacrosse, baseball, and track back at school, how could he be out of shape? This sleeping is the best training ever--for Jim."

Thorpe was the easy victor in both his chosen events, scoring twice as many points as his nearest pentathlon rival and breezing to the decathlon title. Legend has it that King Gustav V asked for an official visit to congratulate Thorpe, but the Indian claimed he was engaged in weight lifting and begged not to be disturbed. What he was lifting was tankards of Swedish beer. Gustav did meet Thorpe, finally, to present a bronze bust of himself for the decathlon win, and a jeweled Viking ship model for his pentathlon victory.

Later, a Boston newspaper disclosed that Jim had played semipro baseball in 1909. Thorpe admitted accepting a small amount, pleading that at the time he had been ignorant that this would endanger his amateur status. The IOC, however, felt the infraction to be significant and reclaimed Jim's 2 gold medals, and awarded them to the 2nd-place finishers. Thorpe's records were struck from the Olympic books.

Thorpe later played pro football, as well as 8 seasons with the New York Giants baseball team. In 1950, an Associated Press poll of sportswriters named Thorpe the "greatest male athlete" of the 1st half of the century.

Hannes Kolehmainen, "the Flying Finn," won gold medals in the 5,000-m., 10,000-m., and cross-country events of 1912. A brother competed in the 10,000-m. and marathon. The marathon was won by K. K. McArthur, South Africa, ahead of Lewis Tewanima, one of Thorpe's Carlisle teammates. The race was marred by a fatality when Portugal's Lazaro collapsed after 19 mi. and died the next day.

There were 57 women competitors in these games.

In the 800-m. race, 4 U.S. finalists plotted against their main threat, fast-finishing Hans Braun of Germany. Teen-ager Ted Meredith agreed to force the early pace to wear Braun out and allow one of his teammates to win; but Meredith did not fade, and instead won the gold medal, as 3 Americans broke the world record ahead of Braun.

Surprise shot-put victor was Pat McDonald, a policeman who directed traffic at Times Square, well-known for stopping traffic to escort ladies across the street. The shot-put favorite, 2-time champion Ralph Rose, lost (legend has it) because the event was held in the morning and Rose's trainer had great difficulty getting him out of bed.

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