The tragic upheaval of World War I postponed the 1916 Games that had been scheduled to be held in Berlin. The 1920 Games were awarded to Antwerp, in part to honour the suffering that had been inflicted on the Belgian people during the war.
Despite persistent rain, the traumatic toll of war, and the exclusion of the Allies’ vanquished enemies - Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey - the Antwerp Games served to revive the Olympics after eight long years.
The Antwerp Games were built on the themes of peace and harmony. The Opening Ceremony was notable for the introduction of the Olympic flag (designed in 1913) and the Olympic Oath (or Athletes’ Oath). Belgian Victor Boin, a former water polo medallist who would win a fencing medal at the Games, became the first person to read the oath on behalf of the competitors during the Opening Ceremony. In the wake of the war, conditions for athletes were sometimes lacking, but earnest organisers and the hearty spirit of the local community ensured a good atmosphere for competition.
Australia at these Games
Australia had a team of thirteen athletes, twelve men and one woman, in Antwerp. Unlike previous Games, Australia competed separately and not with New Zealand in a combined Australasian team.
Australia won three medals, two silver and a bronze. Walker and flag bearer George Parker was second in the 3000m walk, and the 4x200m freestyle relay team - Frank Beaurepaire, Henry Hay, William Herald and Ivan Stedman - chased home the champion US team. (Keith Kirkland had swum in the heats of the relay, but was replaced by Beaurepaire for the final. He did not receive a medal, but would if competing today.)
The other medal was won by Beaurepaire in the 1500m, adding to his two medals won in 1908. His sister, Lily, was the sole woman participant for Australia, racing in both the 100m and 400m freestyle events. Another notable representative was hurdler Wilfred Kent-Hughes, who raced in the 110m and 400m hurdle events. He would later be chairman of the Melbourne 1956 Olympic organising committee.
Ironically, the only Australian to carry away a gold meal from Antwerp was Dan Carroll, the playing coach of the American rugby team and a former Wallaby winger.