Stockholm celebrates the 100-year Anniversary of the 1912 Olympic Games
It was known as both The Sunshine Games as well as the Swedish Masterpiece; now, 100 years later, Stockholm is pulling out all the stops to commemorate what some call the first real modern Olympic Games. J
Marathoners sporting vintage gear, a shelf full of newly-published books, glamorous banquets, museum exhibitions, youth competitions, equestrian events and swimming competitions in downtown Stockholm are just a few of the things that promise to make the city’s celebration of the 1912 Olympics a year to remember.
While Sweden has enjoyed a worldwide reputation as a sporting nation for many years it wasn’t always that way. According to Roland Berndt, Director of Communications for the 2012 Olympic Jubilee, prior to the 1912 Games, sports were mostly reserved for the upper class, particularly high ranking military officers. 1912 changed all that; the Stockholm Olympics helped turn Sweden into a sports-mad nation, with the number of sports clubs increasing dramatically, particularly for so-called common man. In essence, the 1912 Games made sport a much more accessible and natural part of Swedish everyday life. It also had the added benefit of giving Swedes a more open-minded view of the world outside its borders, spurring a newly-found interest in travel and exploration for every day people that continues to this day.
Celebrating the 1912 Summer Olympic Games Jubilee is an opportunity, according to Berndt, to reinvigorate interest in sports among all Swedes, but with a focus on young people; participation in sports has dwindled somewhat in recent years, mainly due to funding cuts, and Berndt is hopeful the celebrations will stop Sweden from going back to the old days, when money and geography prevented many from pursuing their sporting dreams.
While the 2012 celebratory year is packed with more than one hundred sporting and cultural events, the highlights will take place during the so-called extended week (1 June-10 June).
Stockholm’s famed City Hall will be the venue for a glamorous banquet attended by members of the Swedish Royal Family, International Olympic Committee members from around the world, and representatives from the many Embassies in the city. Attendees at the banquet will be treated to a sailing race, held in the waters of Lake Mälaren, which abut City Hall.
There’s also the Jubilee Marathon, where runners and spectators alike are encouraged to dress as they would have in 1912 – and many, such as the New York City Runners Club, have taken up the challenge. The race will closely adhere to the original 1912 route (never more than 200 metres astray), finishing at Stockholm’s Stadion, purpose built for the 1912 Games and the oldest Olympic venue still in continuous use. Sollentuna, south of Stockholm, will hold a special ceremony during the race to dedicate a plaque to the famed ‘Lost Japanese’ runner Kanakuri Shizo (see sidebar), which will be attended by Japanese dignitaries.
Stadion is also the sight of a special luncheon for all living Swedish Olympians, as well as members of the Royal Family and representatives from every country that participated in the 1912 Games. More than one thousand past and present Olympians will stream into the stadium as they would at the Olympics, accompanied by young Swedish Olympic hopefuls. The luncheon will feature music, speeches, dedications and the obligatory fireworks later in the day.
The 1912 Regatta took place mainly outside of Nynäshamn, south of Stockholm. This year, more than forty thousand spectators will be on site to enjoy not only the Jubilee Regatta, but also Nynäshamn’s newly built waterfront and the spectacle of more than 250 old wooden boats participating in the Jubilee, including a number from the original 1912 race. Once again, participants and spectators are invited to play dress up and don clothes from the early 20th century, which should make quite the spectacle.
Visitors to Stockholm during the summer will be delighted by the plethora of opportunities in the city streets and squares to try out or observe a new sport, or even an old one that’s gone out of fashion. The standing long jump, the standing high jump (Sweden’s Rune Almén set the unofficial record of 1.90m in 1980) and throwing the javelin with your second, weaker hand are just a few of the ‘old’ sports on offer, while Segway Polo and Roller Derby are among the ‘new’ sports that might pique one’s interest. The goal, according to organizers, is to inspire and encourage both old and young alike to take up physical exercise, whether for fun or with the intention of becoming an Olympian themselves.
Other events that promise to draw crowds and competitors is a 330km bicycle race in August, swimming competitions in the sparkling waters of central Stockholm, and the laying of 12 plaques in and around the city to commemorate various special moments at the 1912 Games.
Because the Celebrations are being held, in part, with an eye towards boosting interest in sports amongst young people, organizers have come up with a rather unique opportunity: a special competition is being held for young Stockholmers, who have been invited to invent a new sport, something completely unique that hasn’t been seen before. It can be a team or individual sport and it must be proven playable. The winner will be awarded ten thousand Swedish kronor at a prize ceremony in mid-October.
Some of you might remember that back in 2004 Stockholm launched it’s own bid for the 2012 Games, losing out in the end to London. While disappointed, the city has taken a typically Swedish pragmatic point of view, working in close cooperation with the British Embassy and Visit Britain to wish London 2012 all the best by holding a series of special events at the central Stockholm park Kungstragården, all with a touch of British flavour.
Stockholm summers are legendary in their own right, but with the 1912-2012 Jubilee on hand, this year summer in the city will be a once in a life time opportunity to experience something unique.
The Swedish Bulletin: kicks off on page 41