What is the big deal about a city hosting the Olympics? Doesn’t it cost bucket loads of money, having to build all those buildings and stadiums? Are you really going to get all that money back? Or does it have to do with prestige? Is that’s what it’s all about, having the name of your city connected to such an event?
The only place I’ve been in that has hosted the games is Barcelona; I was there before and after, and I think I understand why it was so important for Amsterdam in 1928 to host these games.
It was only the ninth time in that memorable year that the games were held anyway; I doubt that they were such a big deal then as they are now. And nowhere near as expensive. The games started on the 27th of July and ended on the 12th of August, athletes from 46 nations took part, and the spectacle drew over 600.000 visitors.
Traditionally the games were only accessible to amateur athletes, not only but officially, and actually, this still runs true today. The Netherlands finally hit the jackpot after being rejected first in 1916, then in 1920, and once more in 1924.
Germany was allowed to retake part for the first time after world war 1 (1914 – 1918). There were 16 fields to be completed in, and football (soccer) was everyone favourite.
The Netherlands obtained 19 medals, which put us in eighth place. America came first with 56 medals, Germany second (31) and Finland third with 25.
Best of Klaveren
Holland’s best know athlete that competed in the games of 1928 was undoubtedly Bep of Klaveren. He took the gold medal home in featherweight boxing. Marie Braun, 100m backstroke swimming, Charles Ferdinand Pahud de Mortanges on dressage (horses), others who won gold.
The Olympic Stadium
For a brief period, the city became the epic centre of the international world of sports; both the opening and closing ceremonies were held in the newly built Olympic stadium designed by Jan Wils. One remarkable discipline to be completed in 1928 was art; Jan Wils won the gold medal for his design of the Amsterdam Olympic stadium.
For the first time in the history of the games, the Olympic fire would continually be lit. It was displayed one a large dish on top of the stadium’s tower. Queen Wilhelmina was to open the games up, but she decided not to come; she had not been notified in time, she said.
She did attend the closing ceremony and the presentation of the champions, their runner’s ups and their medals.
The Olympic stadium is no longer the glamorous building of the twenties; Amsterdam considered tearing it down. Unfortunately, too much in this town has already been demolished, we the people, have had enough, their intention ran into serious opposition, and the facility was renovated instead. It is now a national monument.
The Olympic games of 1928 are window number 37 on the Canon of Amsterdam.