International Workers' Olympiads

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International Workers' Olympiads
First event Schreiberhau, Germany in 1925
Occur every 6 years
Last event Antwerp, Belgium in 1937
Purpose Alternative Olympic event for the members of Socialist Workers' Sport International
Headquarters Lucerne, Switzerland

International Workers' Olympiads were an international sporting event arranged between 1925 and 1937 by Socialist Workers' Sport International (SASI). It was an organisation supported by social democratic parties and International Federation of Trade Unions. Workers' Olympiads were an alternate event for the Olympic Games. The participants were members of various labor sports associations and came mostly from Europe.[1]

History[edit]

Opening march of the 1931 Workers' Olympiad in Vienna.

The Workers' Olympiads were created as a counterweight for the Olympic Games, which were criticized for being confined for the upper social classes and privileged people. The international workers' sports movement did not believe that the true Olympic spirit could be achieved in an Olympic movement dominated by the aristocratic leadership. Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the International Olympic Committee, had always opposed women's participation and supported the cultural superiority of white Europeans over other races. His followers, Henri de Baillet-Latour and Avery Brundage, were openly anti-semitic and both collaborated with the Nazis. On the contrary, the Workers' Olympiads opposed all kinds of chauvinism, sexism, racism and social exclusiveness. The Olympic Games were based in rivalry between the nations, but the Workers' Olympiads stressed internationalism, friendship, solidarity and peace.[2]

The Lucerne Sport International (later known as Socialist Workers' Sport International) was established in Lucerne, Switzerland in 1920. The first unofficial Workers' Olympiads were held a year later in Prague, Czechoslovakia. The IOC had banned the losing side of the World War II from the 1920 Summer Olympics (Germany even from the 1924 games), but the Workers's Olympiads were open for the "enemy" side as well. The number of participating countries was thirteen. The first official Worker's Olympiads were the 1925 winter games in the German town of Schreiberhau, which today is a part of Poland. They were followed by the first Summer Olympiads in Frankfurt am Main.[2]

National flags were not used, but a red flag of international workers' movement.[1] The best athletes were awarded with diplomas, they did not receive medals like in the Olympic Games.[3] The visiting athletes stayed mostly at private accommodation of local families.[1]

International Workers' Olympiads were more than just a games for the top athletes. The festival was based on a mass participation, it did not restrict entry on the grounds of sporting ability. 1931 Workers' Summer Olympiad in Vienna was the largest event with the participation of 100,000 athletes from 26 countries. The Vienna Workers' Olympiad attracted some 250,000 spectators. It was much bigger event than the 1932 Summer Olympics at Los Angeles, both in number of participants as well as spectators.[4] Praterstadion (now Ernst-Happel-Stadion) was constructed between 1929 and 1931 for the 1931 Olympiad.[5] The last Workers' Olympiad at Antwerp in 1937 was a joint event with the Red Sport International organized Spartakiads.[6]

Olympiads, hosts and number of participating countries[edit]

Olympiad Date Host Number of
countries
1921 Olympiad (unofficial) June 25 – June 29, 1921 Czechoslovakia Prague 13
1925 Winter Olympiad January 31 – February 2, 1925 Germany Schreiberhau 4
1925 Summer Olympiad July 24 – 28, 1925 Germany Frankfurt am Main 11
1931 Winter Olympiad February 5 – 8, 1931 Austria Mürzzuschlag 7
1931 Summer Olympiad July 19 – 26, 1931 Austria Vienna 26
1937 Winter Olympiad February 18 – 21, 1937 Czechoslovakia Janské Lázně 7
1937 Summer Olympiad July 25 – August 1, 1937 Belgium Antwerp 15
1943 Summer Olympiad Cancelled due to World War II Finland Helsinki

Participating countries and federations[edit]

Note: the table below is incomplete. Only the participating countries of 1925 and 1937 Winter Olympiads and 1925 Summer Olympiads are correct.

Country Federations W25 S25 W31 S31 W37 S37
Czechoslovakia Czechoslovakia Czechoslovakian Workers' Gymnastic Association × × × × × ×
Finland Finland Finnish Workers' Sports Federation × × × × × ×
Austria Austria Arbeiterbund für Sport und Körperkultur in Österreich × × × ×
Germany Germany Arbeiter-Turn- und Sportbund × × × ×
Switzerland Switzerland Schweizerischen Arbeiter-Turn- und Sportverbandes × × × × ×
France France Fédération sportive et gymnique du travail × ? × × ×
Poland Poland Polish Workers' Sport Federation × ? × × ×
Latvia Latvia × × × ?
Belgium Belgium Arbeidersvoetbalbond × × ×
Belgium Belgium Association Francophone du Sport Travailliste Belge × × ×
United Kingdom Great Britain British Workers' Sports Federation ×
United Kingdom Great Britain National Workers' Sports Association × ×
Flag of the Free City of Danzig.svg Free City of Danzig × ?
Denmark Denmark Dansk Arbejder Idraetsforbund ? × × ×
Flag of Hungary (1920–1946).svg Hungary ? × × ×
Norway Norway Arbeidernes Idrettsforbund ? × ×
Palestine-Mandate-Ensign-1927-1948.svg Mandatory Palestine Hapoel × ×
Estonia Estonia Estonian Sports Association Kalev × ?
Netherlands Netherlands Nederlandse Arbeiders SportBond ? ×
Soviet Union Soviet Union ×
Flag of Spain (1931 - 1939).svg Spanish Republic ×

Sports[edit]

Summer Olympiads[edit]

Sport 1925 1931 1937
Athletics × × ×
Boxing × × ×
Cycling × × ×
Football × × ×
Gymnastics × × ×
Swimming × × ×
Water polo × × ×
Wrestling × × ×
Chess × ×
Czech handball × ×
Motor cycling × ×
Weightlifting × ×
Canoeing ×
Fencing ×
Rowing ×
Basketball ×
Basque pelota ×
Table tennis ×
Tennis ×
Tug of war ×
Volleyball ×

Winter Olympiads[edit]

Sport 1925 1931 1937
Nordic skiing × × ×
Alpine skiing × ×
Figure skating × ×
Bobsleigh ×
Ice hockey ×
Ice stock sport ×
Speed skating ×

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "A workers' Olympics?". Workers' Liberty. 1 August 2012. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Riordan, James: ″Sport, Politics, and Communism″, p. 38–40. Manchester University Press, 1991. ISBN 978-071-90285-0-2. Google Books
  3. ^ Hentilä, Seppo: ″Työväen Urheiluliitto ja kansainvälinen työläisurheilu″ (in Finnish). University of Helsinki. Retrieved 1 July 2013.
  4. ^ Roni Gechtman: "Socialist Sports in Yiddish – The Bundist Sport Organization Morgnshtern in Interwar Poland". Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  5. ^ "Wiener Praterstadion - Ernst-Happel-Stadion - Historische Sportstätte der Stadt Wien" (in German). City of Vienna. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  6. ^ John Nauright & Charles Parrish (ed.): "Sports Around the World – History, Culture and Practice" (p. 463). Retrieved 11 July 2013.