1916 Summer Olympics


Competition type Olympic Games
Number and Year VI / 1916
Host city Berlin, Germany (Venues)
Competition dates


The Games of the VIth Olympiad were originally awarded to Berlin, Germany, which was chosen at the 15th IOC Session in Stockholm on 4 July 1912 over Budapest, Hungary. Other cities that expressed an interest to host the 1916 Olympics were Alexandria, Egypt; Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Bruxelles, Belgium; and Cleveland, Ohio, USA. Even before it was selected as the 1916 host city, Berlin had begun a very organized building phase to construct arenas for the Olympics, including a huge stadium, which would contain a 400-metre running track, surrounded by a 600-metre cycling track, and with a 100-metre pool at the north edge of the arena.

In June 1914, the IOC met at the Sorbonne in Paris for the 6th Olympic Congress, and to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the revival of the Olympic Games. At this meeting, the Berlin Organizing Committee unveiled the program for the 1916 Olympic Games. The program had some interesting features. It contained the by-now standard Olympic sports, including athletics (track & field), swimming (including diving and water polo), wrestling, weightlifting, cycling, fencing, shooting, gymnastics, rowing, modern pentathlon, football (soccer), and hockey (field). It also included tennis, which was held at every Olympics from 1896-1924, and golf, which had previously been contested at only the 1900 and 1904 Olympic Games, and in cycling, the organizers added bicycle polo, which had been a demonstration sport in 1908.

In addition, the Germans planned Winter Sports to be contested in the Black Forest as part of the 1916 Olympics, including ice hockey, Nordic skiing, speed skating, and figure skating. Events for women were planned only in swimming, diving, and figure skating. The Games program was broken up into segments, with most of the events scheduled for 1-10 July. But fencing, shooting, golf, tennis, football, and hockey were planned from 28 May thru 4 June. The winter sports were to be contested in early February.

Near the end of the Sorbonne Congress, Gavrilo Princip, a Serbian, assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Within a month, Germany was at war with Russia and France, and World War I had begun. Pierre de Coubertin initially thought that the Germans might cease their aggression to allow them to host the 1916 Olympic Games, but that was not to be.

The German Imperial Board for the Olympic Games thought the war would be over before 1916 and continued to plan for the Olympics. In March 1915, the German Imperial Board announced that all systems were on go, but that only nations allied with Germany, or neutral nations, would be invited to the 1916 Olympic Games. This did not go over well with the IOC, and several United States’ cities made rather late, pre-emptory offers to host the 1916 Olympics, including Chicago, New York, Newark, Cleveland, San Francisco, and Philadelphia. In a letter to The New York Times in March 1915, Coubertin finally admitted that the 1916 Olympic Games might not be held, but they would not be removed from Berlin. Eventually, because of World War I, the Games were not celebrated, although the precise date of relinquishment has never been announced.

Bid process

Berlin (Germany) was selected by acclamation at the 15th IOC Session in Stockholm on 4 July 1912. After withdrawing its bid for the 1912 Olympic Games, in favor of Stockholm, a gentlemen’s agreement had been in place which virtually promised the 1916 Olympic Games to Berlin. Al-Iskanderiya (Alexandria) (Egypt) and Budapest (Hungary) made the only serious competing bids, but both withdrew prior to the IOC Session. Amsterdam (Netherlands), Bruxelles (Belgium) and Cleveland, Ohio (United States) withdrew their bids earlier on.