1920 Summer Olympics


Competition type Olympic Games
Number and Year VII / 1920
Host city Antwerpen, Belgium (Venues)
Opening ceremony 14 August
Closing ceremony 30 August
Competition dates 23 April – 12 September
OCOG Comité Belge des Jeux de la VIIème Olympiade
Participants 2680 from 29 countries
Medal events 162 in 29 disciplines
Other events 2 in 2 disciplines


The 1916 Olympics were scheduled to be held in Berlin but had to be cancelled because of World War I. The War was only over a year when the 1920 Olympics were awarded to war-ravaged Belgium. Coubertin decided that, though the war would be over less than two years, the VIIth Olympiad should be celebrated as scheduled. Although the Games were decidedly austere, the Belgian people and organizing committee did an amazing job in preparing for the Games on such short notice.

The Opening Ceremony was notable for the first use of the Olympic flag, the first time the Olympic Oath was taken by a competitor, and the first release of homing pigeons as a symbol of peace. Of the 29 countries competing, missing were Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Bulgaria, as they were barred as aggressor nations in World War I.

The 1920 Olympics mark the first time that the events were spread widely throughout the hosting nation. Most of the events were in Antwerpen. But preliminary football (soccer) matches took place in St. Gillis and Ghent. The yachting events took place on the coast in Ostend, although one event was not finished in July and was contested two months later, in September, in Amsterdam, an entirely different nation. Shooting events were held 60 kilometres (38 miles) from Antwerpen at Beverloo, an army camp. The rowing events were held on the Grand Canal between Bruxelles and Antwerpen, while the cycling road race started at Merksem and finished in Antwerpen.

On the morning of the Opening Ceremony a religious service was held at the Antwerpen Cathedral to remember those who had made the ultimate sacrifice in World War I. Later that day, the Olympic Stadium saw the first entrance of the Olympic Flag. It had been displayed in Paris in 1914, on the 20th anniversary of the IOC, and in 1915 in San Francisco, at the Pan-American Exposition, but World War I had prevented it reaching the Opening Ceremonies until 1920.

The 1920 Olympics were most notable for the début of Paavo Nurmi of Finland, probably the greatest distance runner ever. Nurmi competed in four events, losing only in the 5,000 metres, where he took second to Joseph Guillemot (FRA). His countryman, Hannes Kolehmainen, returned eight years after his Stockholm victories in the 5 and 10K, and won the marathon.

The shooting program contained 20 events, including 10 team events, allowing Willis Lee and Lloyd Spooner of the United States to win seven medals, and Carl Osburn (USA) to win six. Nedo Nadi (ITA) was much decorated as he won five gold medals in fencing. His brother, Aldo Nadi also won four medals – three gold – and they finished first and second in the individual sabre event.

The Antwerpen Olympics helped the world recover from the Great War, and Coubertin summarized them in the Antwerpen Town Hall when he addressed the IOC in the presence of King Albert of Belgium:

“This is what the seventh Olympiad has brought us: general comprehension; the certainty of being henceforward understood by all … These festivals … are above all festivals of human unity. In an incomparable synthesis the effort of muscles and of mind, mutual help and competition, lofty patriotism and intelligent cosmopolitanism, the personal interest in the champion and the abnegation of the team-member, are bound in a sheaf for a common task.”

Bid process

Antwerpen (Belgium) had been promised the 1920 Olympic Games at the 17th IOC Session in Paris in 1914. But because of the ravages of World War I, which devastated Belgium, Lyon (France) made the most serious offer to step in as hosts for the Games of the VIIth Olympiad. Lyon and Amsterdam (Netherlands) formally bid for the 1920 Olympics but withdrew prior to the 18th IOC Session in Lausanne at which Antwerpen was confirmed as the host city on 5 April 1919. Other cities made overtures but never made an official bid: Atlanta, Georgia (United States), Budapest, (Hungary), Cleveland, Ohio (United States), La Habana (Havana) (Cuba) and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (United States).


Officially opened by Albert I, Roi des BelgesBELKing
Taker of the Athlete's Oath Victor BoinBELFEN/SWM/WPO
Flagbearers Full list

Medal Disciplines

Archery Equestrian Jumping Rugby
Art Competitions Equestrian Vaulting Sailing
Artistic Gymnastics Fencing Shooting
Athletics Figure Skating Swimming
Boxing Football Tennis
Cycling Road Hockey Tug-Of-War
Cycling Track Ice Hockey Water Polo
Diving Modern Pentathlon Weightlifting
Equestrian Dressage Polo Wrestling
Equestrian Eventing Rowing

Other Disciplines

Korfball Water Polo

Medal table

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
United States USA 41 27 27 95
Sweden SWE 19 20 25 64
Belgium BEL 16 12 14 42
Finland FIN 15 10 9 34
Great Britain GBR 14 16 13 43
Italy ITA 14 6 5 25
Norway NOR 13 10 9 32
France FRA 9 20 13 42
Netherlands NED 4 2 5 11
Denmark DEN 3 9 1 13
South Africa RSA 3 4 3 10
Canada CAN 3 3 3 9
Switzerland SUI 2 2 7 11
Estonia EST 1 2 0 3
Brazil BRA 1 1 1 3
Australia AUS 0 2 1 3
Japan JPN 0 2 0 2
Spain ESP 0 2 0 2
Greece GRE 0 1 0 1
Luxembourg LUX 0 1 0 1
Czechoslovakia TCH 0 0 2 2
New Zealand NZL 0 0 1 1

Most successful competitors

Athlete Nat Gold Silver Bronze Total
Willis Lee USA 5 1 1 7
Nedo Nadi ITA 5 0 0 5
Hubert Van Innis BEL 4 2 0 6
Lloyd Spooner USA 4 1 2 7
Carl Osburn USA 4 1 1 6
Otto Olsen NOR 3 2 0 5
Aldo Nadi ITA 3 1 0 4
Paavo Nurmi FIN 3 1 0 4
Dennis Fenton USA 3 0 1 4
Edmond Cloetens BEL 3 0 0 3
Edmond Van Moer BEL 3 0 0 3
Ole Lilloe-Olsen NOR 3 0 0 3
Bud Fisher USA 3 0 0 3
Karl Frederick USA 3 0 0 3
Joe Jackson USA 3 0 0 3
Ollie Schriver USA 3 0 0 3
Ethelda Bleibtrey USA 3 0 0 3
Norman Ross USA 3 0 0 3

All medalists at these Games