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Antwerp 1920 - Overview

Doves of peace

After an interruption of eight years due to World War I, the Olympic Games returned to action in Antwerp. The Belgian city, which had been severely bombarded during the war, was chosen to host the Games shortly after the end of the conflict. The Games did not welcome Germany and its allies, and would be organized with one underlying necessity for the 29 nations involved: austerity.

In some senses these Games were historic: The five-ringed Olympic flag and oath -- pronounced by Belgian fencer Victor Boin -- made their first appearance (even though the oath had been read during the intercalated Games in 1906). Another innovation was the public's involvement in the releasing of hundreds of doves during the opening ceremony, symbolizing the return of peace to the continent of Europe.

A Finnish surprise

The United States came out on top with 40 gold medals, with a total of 94, although the track and field events were ill-attended, primarily due to the elevated price of tickets for the competitions.

One surprise victor was Finland, mostly thanks to a young long-distance specialist -- a 23-year-old who won three gold medals and one silver, a certain Paavo Nurmi. The other big Finnish name at these Games was Hannes Kolehmainen, who, having won the 5,000 and 10,000 meters in 1912, went on to win the marathon.

As in Stockholm, the Hawaiian swimmer Duke Kahanamoku was the fastest in the 100-meter freestyle, while the Italian fencer Nedo Nadi left Antwerp with five titles. His brother Aldo had to make do with "only" three team titles and an individual silver medal in the saber event.

American boxer Edward Eagan, who won an Olympic title in the light heavyweight category, became the only athlete to win both Olympic Summer and Olympic Winter titles after his bobsled gold medal with three other team members during the Games in Lake Placid (1932).

Overall, the first postwar Games of the modern era allowed the peoples of Europe to find hope and strength in a sporting and spirited atmosphere.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.

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