Sweden’s only Olympic Games, to date, held in Stockholm between July 7th and 26th, were an unqualified success and featured many firsts, including the use of electronic automatic timing devices for athletics events, the photo finish and a public address system. It was the first Games in which countries from all five continents took part, the first in which Japan competed and the first to feature Modern Pentathlon, and women’s swimming and diving, Australia’s Sarah Fanny Durack, who won the 100m freestyle, being the first woman to win an Olympic swimming Gold.
2,409 athletes representing 29 countries took part in 107 sports, all but fifty three of them men. One of the women was Sweden’s Greta Carlsson , only just fourteen, who competed in freestyle swimming events, and the oldest, her compatriot, Oscar Swahn, who won a Gold medal for shooting, aged sixty four. He took Silver in the Antwerp Games of 1920. After the political problems faced by London in the 1908 Games and the poor turnout in St Louis in 1904, Sweden is credited with staging the first truly modern Olympic Games.
Sport at the start of the twentieth century was less formal and official than its twenty first
century equivalent, also bound by fervent belief in the principles of ‘professionalism’, which
were frowned upon, notably in the case of Jim Thorpe, a Native American in the US team, who won both the Pentathlon and Decathlon in spectacular fashion and whose Gold medals were rescinded in 1913 when it was discovered that he had accepted a small sum of money to play baseball as a semi-professional before the Stockholm Games. However, In 1982, the IOC reinstated him and returned his medals to his daughter. The Football Association entered a Great Britain national amateur team to represent their country. Swedish law prohibited boxing, which was absent from the Games.
Two unusual records were broken in Stockholm, the first the length of the course for the cycling road race, of 320 kilometres, or 199 miles, which made it the longest race of any kind in Olympic history. In Greco-Roman wrestling, the Middleweight Semi-Final event between Martin Klein of Russia and Finland’s Alfred Asikainen lasted for eleven hours and forty minutes before Klein emerged as the winner. Finland began its domination of long-distance running events, as Hannes Kolehmainen collected three Golds, in the 5,000 metres, in which he broke the Olympic record, the 10,000 metres and in the Individual Cross-Country event. He won Silver in the Cross-Country team event.
Twenty three year old American sprinter Ralph Craig won Gold in the 100- and 200 metres. He returned to Olympic competition in London in the 1948 Games to compete in the yachting competition.The only athlete in the Games’ history to combine sitting national Olympic committee president and winning a medal in the Olympics was Austrian Otto Herschmann, who won Silver in the team sabre fencing event.
Sweden first participated at the Olympic Games at the inaugural 1896 Games , and has sent athletes to compete in every Games since then, the only exception being the St Louis Olympics held in 1904. Along with Finland, Sweden has won medals at every Games since 1908, the only two countries to do so.
The Swedish Olympic Committee was created and recognized in 1913, a year after the Stockholm Games.
The football tournament attracted eleven countries, whose associations had to be affiliated to FIFA to be permitted entry. Great Britain defeated Denmark in the Final, 4-2, with the Netherlands winning the Bronze medal in the third-place play-off with Finland, the same Gold, Silver and Bronze medal winners as at the London Games four years before. A much-celebrated and highly-successful three weeks of global competition ended with the hosts winning the highest number of medals - sixty five - and Swedish army officer Vilhelm Carlberg winning three Golds and two Silvers in the shooting competitions.