16 Dec 2020
The staging of the Olympic Games Antwerp 1920 was, and continues to be, of significant symbolic importance. At the time, countries across the world were reeling from the devastating effects of the war and the Spanish flu pandemic. People longed for unity and peace. The coming together of 2,626 athletes in Belgium, just two years after the country had been liberated from occupation, still stands as a recognition of that longing.
Although Antwerp was chosen to host the 1920 Olympic Games as a tribute to a war-stricken Belgium, the candidature was submitted before the war, in 1913. When the city was nominated to host the Games, the world was in a state of devastation, and Belgium was struggling with economic and social problems as a result of the war. A feeling of local scepticism was present during the Olympic preparations. Dissent could be heard from the war-defeated nations, which were disappointed and bitter at not being invited to take part in the Antwerp Games. Despite these challenges, the event took place barely two years after Armistice Day, with the participation of 29 nations from the five continents.
As time passed, the Olympic Games Antwerp 1920 came to be recognised as a symbol of hope, strength and peace. Antwerp 1920 is considered by many as an important landmark of idealistic internationalism – a reaction to the nationalism which triggered the wars of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.