Fencing was an extremely popular sport in Belgium in 1920 and the fencing events drew large crowds to the Gardens de la Palace d’Egmont, situated near the Beerschot Stadium. The event were scheduled to be held outdoors, but because of rain, many of the pools were moved indoors to a “hall with a linoleum floor“.
In prior Olympics, the Local Organizing Committees determined what format and rules would be used for the fencing events. After the 1912 Olympics, the first international governing body for the sport of fencing, the Fédération Internationale d’Escrime (FIE), was founded and they developed a standard set of rules to be used in international competitions. Those rules were first used at these Olympics and proved successful. As a result, the FIE began holding European Championships in 1921 and these became World Championships in 1937.
The 1920 fencing events were well contested and were a showcase for the talents of the Italian star, Nedo Nadi. Nadi competed in five events at Antwerp and won gold medals in all five. Through 2004, only Mark Spitz (USA) with 7 swim golds at Munich in 1972, Kristin Otto (GDR), with 6 swim golds at Seoul in 1988, Vitaly Shcherbo (EUN), with 6 gymnastics golds in 1992, and Michael Phelps (USA), with 6 swim golds in 2004, have won more gold medals at a single Olympics than Nedo Nadi. Nadi did not compete in the individual épée event. Nadi’s brother, Aldo, also competed in Antwerp. Aldo Nadi won three gold medals in the team events and an individual silver medal behind his brother in the sabre event.