Olympic Gymnastic Team Sizes

The FIG (Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique) today voted to change the size of men’s and women’s gymnastics teams at the Olympics from 5 to 4, beginning at the 2020 Olympics. This is in keeping with the trend in decreasing the size of gymnastics teams at the Olympics. In general, this has occurred every few years, with rare exceptions (1932, 1996). Since 1924, when the team all-around assumed basically the modern format, here are the allowed number of gymnasts in the team event at the Olympics.

This is really getting down to a small team, and not sure what the rationale is here. There will be four gymnasts in 2020, all competing on each apparatus, with the best three scores on each apparatus to count.

year gender ###
1924 M 8
1928 M 8
1932 M 5
1936 M 8
1948 M 8
1952 M 8
1956 M 6
1960 M 6
1964 M 6
1968 M 6
1972 M 6
1976 M 6
1980 M 6
1984 M 6
1988 M 6
1992 M 6
1996 M 7
2000 M 6
2004 M 6
2008 M 6
2012 M 5
2016 M 5
2020 M 4
1928 F 10
1936 F 8
1948 F 8
1952 F 8
1956 F 6
1960 F 6
1964 F 6
1968 F 6
1972 F 6
1976 F 6
1980 F 6
1984 F 6
1988 F 6
1992 F 6
1996 F 7
2000 F 6
2004 F 6
2008 F 6
2012 F 5
2016 F 5
2020 F 4

Olympians and the Gallipoli Campaigns

A hundred years ago this month British Empire and French forces embarked on what became known as the Gallipoli or Dardanelles campaign against the Ottoman Empire with the aim of capturing the capital city of Constantinople (now Istanbul). One of the bloodiest campaigns of World War One, the failure of the Allied Forces brought down the British government and left a lasting legacy particularly in Australia and New Zealand where the date on which the campaign began is now remembered as ANZAC day. Although the exact figures are disputed it’s believed that over 100,000 soldiers were killed during the campaign including approximately 60,000 Turks, 34,000 British and Irish, 10,000 French, 8000 Australians and 2500 New Zealanders as well smaller numbers from Newfoundland and India.
War cemeteries

Amongst the dead where two men who competed at the Olympic Games;
Oswald Carver was the private school educated son of a wealthy Manchester merchant. He studied at Charterhouse School and at Cambridge University where he rowed in 1908 Varsity Boat race. Later that summer Carver was a crew member of the University boat that won the bronze medal at the first London Olympics. A captain in the Royal Engineers he was wounded in the back on the 4th of June 1915 and died three days later. He left a widow and two children.

Paul Kenna was a career soldier who earned the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest military honour, for bravery during the Anglo-Sudan War.
“On 2 September 1898, at the Battle of Omdurman, Sudan, when a major of the 21st Lancers was in danger, as his horse had been shot in the charge, Captain Kenna took the major up on his own horse, to a place of safety. After the charge Captain Kenna returned to help Lieutenant De Montmorency who was trying to recover the body of an officer who had been killed”
He also fought in Somalia and in the Boer War before making his Olympic appearance in 1912 in his fiftieth year. In October 1915 Brigadier-General Kenna was touring the front line when he was shot and killed by a sniper.
Paul Kenna

Chris Porter was not technically an Olympian since he was only a non-playing member of the Great Britain football team at the 1908 Olympics but it would be an oversight not to mention him here. The son of a Manchester publican played league football, as an amateur, for Stockport County and Glossop North End and was a free scoring member of the England national amateur team.
Porter served as a private with the 6th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment but was sadly killed in action during the Gallipoli Campaign in June 1915.

The events of the Gallipoli Campaign particularly resound in Australia as this was the first time Australian troops had ever suffered large losses. Although a number of prominent Australian sportsmen lost their lives during the campaign, no Australian Olympian perished in the conflict.
Claude Ross, who competed at 400m in the Stockholm Olympics, survived only to be killed later in the war whilst serving in France. Rower Keith Heritage was amongst the first to land and last to leave the peninsular but he too met his fate whilst serving on the Western Front.

Wilfred Kent-Hughes was wounded at Gallipoli but recovered to claim a place in the Australian team in the 400m hurdles. Although a Member of Parliament at time, he served as an officer in the Australian Army in WW2 and was a prisoner of war in Singapore. He was to become the chairman of the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Committee.

Olympic rugby champions Sydney Middleton and Tom Richards, swimmer Frank Schryver and athlete turned actor Joseph Lynch also served in the Dardanelles.

One in every five table tennis Olympians is Chinese

The World Table Tennis Championships are getting underway on April 26 in Suzhou (China). World Championships in the sport were first held in 1926, but it took until 1988 for the sport to make it to the Olympics. From the first Games at Seoul, the sport has been dominated by China.

Deng Yaping, who won back-to-back singles and doubles titles in 1992-1996.

This is of course not a secret: you just have to look at the medal tables. Of the 88 Olympic medals awarded in this sport, 47 have been won by China (53%), but with 24 of the 28 gold medals (86%) going to the People’s Republic.

China’s dominance is so large that also the IOC and the ITTF (the IF for table tennis) have taken notice. In 2008, the men’s and women’s doubles events were discontinued in favor of team events. This change ensures that China can win at most one medal in those events. To date, however, China has won all four team golds awarded at the Olympics. In 2012, further regulations were introduced to limit the amount of Chinese medals. After China sweeping all six singles medals in Beijing, the athlete quotum per nation was reduced to two, ensuring at least one non-Chinese medal in each singles event. In London, the Chinese table tennis players achieved a maximum score, occupying both finals.

The vast amount of Chinese talent competing for an ever smaller chance to compete in the Olympics has driven many Chinese players abroad. Even three of the thirty-six Chinese players that did manage to represent their motherland at the Olympics have competed for another nation. Wei Qingguang, 1988 gold medalist, returned to the 2000 Games as Seiko Iseki (Japan). Another 1988 champion, Chen Jing, represented ‘the other China’, Chinese Taipei in 1996-2000, while Barcelona silver medalist Jun Gao competed under the US flag three times.

Jun Gao (previously competing for China) is playing for the US here against Xue Wu, another native Chinese who represents the Dominican Republic

However, there are just the tip of the iceberg. Of the 666 (!) Olympic table tennis competitors, there are 630 that have never represented the People’s Republic of China. However, at least 91(*) of them have been born in China. Combined with the Chinese competitors, this means that about a fifth of all table tennis Olympians are Chinese!

These 91 Chinese competitors represented 24 different nations, mostly these five:

Nation Competitors
Hong Kong 11
Canada 10
Singapore 9
Australia 8
United States 7

The Singaporese table tennis team that won silver in Beijing 2008 consisted entirely of naturalized Chinese players

Hong Kong is not a surprising entry on the list, considering it is a Special Administrative Region of China, but with its own delegation at the Olympics. Singapore has a large community of ethnic Chinese, and has set up the Foreign Sports Talent Scheme to grow the pool of national athletes. Three Chinese-born women made up the team that won silver for Singapore in 2008, the city state’s greatest Olympic achievement (the country had won one earlier silver medal back in 1956). Canada, the US and Australia have of course been popular emigration destinations for Chinese, and some of the “Chinese” Olympians from these nations moved there at a young age or to marry, and not just to gain different passport and compete internationally.

(*) The actual number could be even bigger than 91. For a large number of table tennis competitors, we don’t have birth data, and this includes 11 Hong Kong players, but also some other possible Chinese, such as the Swiss player Dai-Yong Tu.

NCAA Basketball and Triple Crowns

With the NCAA basketball final tonite in the United States (which Duke will quite obviously win [disclaimer – yes, I went to Duke]), this is one of the three major basketball titles that US basketballers can win. Technically, any player could win, especially that foreign players are now much more common both in the NBA and in college basketball, but historically this has been mostly limited to American players.

How many players have managed to win the Triple Crown – winning a title at the NCAA level, in the NBA, and an Olympic gold medal? Well, its only 7 players and it hasn’t happened now in quite awhile, possibly because the top players don’t stay in college as long. Here is the list:

Name Olympics NCAA NBA
Clyde Lovelette 1952 Univ. of Kansas-1952 Lakers-1954/Celtics-1963-64
Bill Russell 1956 Univ. of San Francisco-1955-56 Celtics-1957/59-66/1968-69
K.C. Jones 1956 Univ. of San Francisco-1955-56 Celtics-1959-66
Jerry Lucas 1960 Ohio State Univ.-1960 Knicks-1973
Quinn Buckner 1976 Indiana Univ.-1976 Celtics-1984
Michael Jordan 1984/92 UNC-1982 Bulls-1991-93/96-98
Magic Johnson 1992 Michigan State Univ.-1979 Lakers-1980/82/85/87-88

Of note, Clyde Lovelette won an NBA title with the Lakers when they were the Minneapolis Lakers.

Its now been 23 years since Magic and Michael Jordan were on the Dream Team in 1992 and Magic completed his Triple Crown – Michael had already done that in 1991 when he led the Chicago Bulls to the NBA title.

Evelyn Furtsch

Evelyn Furtsch, gold medalist in the 4×100 metre relay with the United States team at the 1932 Olympics, died in her sleep in Santa Ana, California on 5 March 2015. She was 100-years-old, only a few weeks short of her 101st birthday (17 April). In our post (by Paul Tchir) a few days ago on oldest living Olympians, Furtsch was described as the oldest living gold medalist in track & field athletics, while in fact she had passed away a few weeks before we wrote that. The news has only just reached us.

There are still six remaining Olympic centenarians (see http://olympstats.com/2015/03/23/oldest-living-olympians-part-2/). The oldest living track & field Olympian remains Simone Schaller (USA-1932/1936), born 22 August 1912, and now over 102-years-old.

The oldest living female track & field Olympic gold medalist now becomes Dana Zátopková, Czech javelin thrower who won the 1952 Olympic title, who will turn 93-years-old on 19 September of this year, and is three days older than Esther Brand, who won the high jupm that year in Helsinki. The oldest living track & field gold medalist, however, is Cliff Bourland, who won gold in the 4×400 relay at the 1948 Olympics. Bourland was born 1 January 1921, and is now over 94-years-old. We believe the oldest living female gold medalist in any sport  is Finnish cross-country skiier Lydia Wideman, who won gold in the 10 km race at the 1952 Oslo Winter Olympics, and was born on 17 May 1920.

Rest in peace to Evelyn Furtsch, a pioneer in women’s sports in the United States, and our sympathies to her family.

Evelyn Furtsch

Oldest Living Olympians – Part 2

From our group of OlyMADMen, the following has been produced by Paul Tchir, aka Canadian Paul, our resident expert on oldest living Olympians.


The death at the age of 106 of Swiss artist Hans Erni, believed to be the oldest living former Olympian, raises the issue of who has succeeded him in this title. Erni was the second-longest-lived Olympian of all time, behind his predecessor to the title American Walter Walsh, as well of one of very few remaining individuals who competed in the Olympic Art Competitions, which were last held in 1948. Although there were are a handful of Olympians older than Erni whose death has not been confirmed, it seems unlikely that someone would have reached 106 years of age in the era of the internet and escaped any notice whatsoever.

Poster for a documentary of the life of Hans Erni
Poster for a documentary of the life of Hans Erni

Erni was born in 1909 and was the last known living Olympian to have been born that year. His longevity meant that he outlived the final known survivors from 1910 (Italian Attilio Pavesi, a double Olympic champion from the 1932 cycling tournament, who died August 2, 2011) and 1911 (Chilean Juan Reccius, a competitor in the 1936 triple jump, who died June 29, 2012), although Mien Klaver, an alternate on the Dutch women’s 4×100 metre relay team, turned 104 on February 26 of this year. Olympians born in 1912, however, have fared far better, with four of the five Olympians who reached their centenary in 2012 still with us as of this posting (the fifth, French skiing legend and 1936 Olympic bronze medalist Émile Allais died several months after his 100th birthday). They are:

Guo Jie of China, who took part in the men’s discus throw at the 1936 Summer Olympics. Guo, born January 16, 1912 in Dalian, is his nation’s longest-lived competitor, the last member of its delegation to the 1936 Games, and was still physically active at his 102nd birthday. To the best of our knowledge, he now takes the title of the oldest living Olympic competitor.

Swedish diver Ingeborg Sjöqvist, born April 19, 1912, who took part in the 1932 and 1936 Summer Olympics and was runner-up in platform diving at the 1931 and 1934 European Championships.

American athlete Simone Schaller, born August 22, 1912, who participated in the 80 m hurdles tournament in 1932 and 1936 and is the longest-lived American female Olympian.

Baron Eduard von Falz-Fein, born September 14, 1912, who represented Liechtenstein in bobsled at the 1936 Winter Olympics and is the longest-lived Winter Olympian.

Additionally, there are three other known living Olympic centenarians:

Sándor Tarics, born September 23, 1913, who was a member of Hungary’s gold medal-winning water polo team in 1936 and is confirmed as the oldest living Olympic champion and the second- longest-lived Olympic champion, behind American James Stillman Rockefeller, who died in August 2004 at the age of 102 years, 63 days.

Evelyn Furtsch, born April 17, 1914, who earned a gold medal with the United States’ 4x100m relay team in 1932 and is the longest-lived Olympic track and field gold medalist.

Evelyn Furtsch

American John Lysak (born August 16, 1914), who competed in the Men’s Folding Kayak, 10 km canoeing event at the 1936 Summer Games.

Outside of centenarians, Carla Marangoni (born November 13, 1915) is notable as the last known survivor of the 1928 Summer Olympics: she won a silver medal for Italy in the team gymnastics competition that year. Moreover, it is also possible to produce a definitive list of the six oldest Olympic champions:

Sándor Tarics, born September 23, 1913, M HUN WAP 1936

Evelyn Furtsch, born April 17, 1914, F USA ATH 1932

Durward Knowles, born November 2, 1917, M BAH SAI 1964 (also bronze in 1956 and competed in 1948, 1952, 1960, 1968, 1972, and 1988)

Martin Lundström, born May 30, 1918, M SWE CCS 1948 (twice, also bronze in 1952)

Adolph Kiefer, born June 27, 1918, M USA SWI 1936

Jack Günthard, born January 8, 1920, M SUI GYM 1952 (also silver)

Betty Brey

Field Parameter
Full Name Elizabeth Evadna "Betty" Brey (Mullen-)
Used Name Betty Brey
Born 23 November 1931 – Weissport; Pennsylvania (USA)
Died 21 March 2015 – Orlando; Florida (USA)
Vitals (1956) 165 cm / 59 kg
Affiliations Walter Reed Swim Club; Washington
Olympics Event Place Medal
1956 Summer 4×100 free relay 2
Pan-Ams Event Place Medal
1951 200 freestyle 2 Silver
1951 4×100 free relay 1 Gold
1955 100 butterfly 2 Silver
1955 4×100 medley relay 1 Gold

Betty Brey won two gold medals at the Pan-American Games, winning with the 4×100 freestyle relay in 1951 and the medley relay in 1955. She also won individual silvers in the 200 freestyle in 1951 and the 100 butterfly in 1955. Brey won three national titles, swimming with the winning Walter Reed Swim Club medley relay at the 1956 AAU Indoors and Outdoors, and winning the 100 yard butterfly at the 1955 AAU Indoors, where she set a short course world record. She competed as Betty Mullen until 1956. At the 1956 Olympics she swam in the heats of the 4×100 freestyle relay, and by the rules in force at that time, she did not receive a medal.

Brey attended Purdue University where she was a majorette with the Purdue Marching Band, She was also an accomplished musician and later coached swimming at George Washington University. Brey is a member of the Indiana Swimming Hall of Fame. Her son, Mike Brey, became a well-known college basketball coach in the United States, serving as an assistant coach at Duke from 1987-1995, as head coach of the University of Delaware from 1995-2000 and as head coach at Notre Dame beginning in 2000. His mother, Olympian Betty Mullen Brey, died the morning that he coached his Notre Dame team to a victory against Butler in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. She must be smiling down today, cheering on the Irish.

Marianne Vos wants 3 golds in 3 cycling disciplines

Dutch cyclist Marianne Vos has announced that she will be focusing on mountain biking for the coming season, as she aims to win a gold medal in the cross-country in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Vos has already won gold medals in track cycling (2008) and road cycling (2012), and winning in mountain-biking would a third gold in a third cycling discipline. Has that been done before?

Marianne Vos winning the road race in Londen 2012

Combining cycling disciplines is not rare. Quite a few of today’s road racing stars – where most money is earned – have started out on the track or on a mountain-bike. And many of them have excelled in both, as there’s well over 400 cyclists who have competed in multiple disciplines at the Olympics.

Winning medals in multiple disciplines is much rarer, although there are still 23 Olympians who have achieved this. All of them have done this in two disciplines – so Vos would be the first to do it in three. In all cases, the combination was between track cycling and road racing. Of these 23, 7 have won gold medals in both disciplines. (A full list of all track/road medallists follows below.)

The first time a cyclist won medals in more than one discipline was in 1906, when two Frenchmen, Fernand Vast and Maurice Bardonneau, won medals in both types of events. Women’s cycling was introduced at the Olympics only in 1984, but by 1992 two women had already doubled in cycling disciplines. On the podium of the Barcelona women’s 3,000 m individual pursuit, both silver medallist Kathy Watt and bronze medallist Rebecca Twigg had already won medals in road cycling. Only one cyclist has won multiple medals in multiple disciplines. This is Dutch cyclist Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel, who in 2000-2004 collected three golds on the road, while adding one of each color in track cycling.

Although Vos is inexperienced in mountain-biking competition, her prospects of qualifying and winning (a medal) are not that bad. Vos is a 7-time world champion in cyclo-cross, a non-Olympic cycling discipline that features off-road racing with regular width tyres, as opposed to the “fat” MTB tyres.

Marianne Vos riding towards her seventh cyclo-cross world title

But even if Marianne Vos would fail to become the first cyclist to win (gold) medals in three cycling disciplines, she could still set a record by participating. Since the third (mountainbiking) and fourth (BMX) discipline have been added at the Olympics in 1996 and 2008 respectively, there have been several athletes to compete in one of these in addition to another cycling discipline, but so far no cyclist has competed in three.

Cyclist NOC Years Track Gold Track Silver Track Bronze Road Gold Road Silver Road Bronze
Judith Arndt GER 1996-2012 0 0 1 0 2 0
Maurice Bardonneau FRA 1906 0 1 0 0 1 0
Chris Boardman GBR 1992-1996 1 0 0 0 0 1
Jean Van Den Bosch BEL 1924 0 0 1 0 1 0
Robert Charpentier FRA 1936 1 0 0 2 0 0
Bernd Dittert GDR/GER 1988-1992 0 0 1 1 0 0
Jacques Dupont FRA 1948 1 0 0 0 0 1
Jean Goujon FRA 1936 1 0 0 1 0 0
Rik Hoevenaers BEL 1924 0 0 1 0 2 0
Henry Kaltenbrunn RSA 1920 0 0 1 0 1 0
Guy Lapébie FRA 1936 1 0 0 1 1 0
Leon Meredith GBR 1908-1912 1 0 0 0 1 0
Fernand Saivé BEL 1924 0 0 1 0 1 0
Olga Slyusareva RUS 2000-2004 1 0 1 0 0 1
Frank Southall GBR 1928-1932 0 0 1 0 2 0
Rebecca Twigg USA 1984-1992 0 0 1 0 1 0
Fernand Vast FRA 1906 0 0 2 1 0 0
Michel Vermeulin FRA 1956 0 1 0 1 0 0
Marianne Vos NED 2008-2012 1 0 0 1 0 0
Kathy Watt AUS 1992 0 1 0 1 0 0
Bradley Wiggins GBR 2000-2012 3 1 2 1 0 0
Vyacheslav Yekimov RUS 1988-2004 1 0 0 2 0 0
Leontien Zijlaard-van Moorsel NED 2000-2004 1 1 1 3 0 0

Bradley Wiggins won his fourth Olympic cycling gold – and his first on the road – at the London 2012 Games

Toyota New TOP Sponsor of IOC

Although the rumor mill was in action for several weeks noting that this would occur, Toyota officially signed on today to be a TOP Sponsor of the Olympic Movement for the 2017-2020 and 2021-2024 Olympiads. This is a game changer in many ways.

The figures announced are that Toyota will provide support to the IOC equal to $835 million (US) over 8 years. In the most recent Olympiads TOP Sponsor support has been in the $100-$150 million range per Olympiad, but Toyota is increasing this to the $400-$425 million range.

Below we give the details of all the TOP sponsors since the program began in 1984. TOP originally stood for The Olympic Programme, but more recently has been changed to The Olympic Partners. TOP was devised by then IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch and Vice-President Dick Pound as a way to generate income for the IOC and make it less dependent on the largesse of US television networks. The plan was to make it exclusive, with only a few sponsors, and only one in each product category, but to charge dearly for that exclusivity. The idea was based on the sponsorship policy that Peter Ueberroth used to make the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics so financially successful.

But paying dearly is relative. In the 1985-88 Olympiad, TOP brought in about $96 million total, while companies now must pay more than that each simply to be a member. Official figures are not always announced anymore so the numbers below from 2004-2016 must be considered estimates, but they are certainly close for total revenue generated by the IOC. You will note that for TOP VIII (2013-16) total revenue to the IOC was about $1.15 billion (US). The Toyota support for TOP IX (2017-20) will already push those numbers to $1.56 billion (US), a 35% increase.

But if the Toyota deal becomes more standard, and other companies are pushed to provide support in the same range, this could completely change Olympic economics for Organizing Committees (OCOGs). Let’s assume that the IOC can get $300 million per Olympiad now per company, still less than what Toyota is paying, and that it gets between 10-15 TOP sponsors each Olympiad (there have been a maximum of 12). That now brings the numbers up to the $3-4 billion range per TOP program (perhaps more), an increase in the 250-300% range.

Further, the IOC provides money from the TOP program to OCOGs with most recent figures being about 50% provided to the OCOGs and a large percentage of the rest to the NOCs (International Federations receive IOC money from television sponsorship money). The IOC has kept only about 10% of TOP dollars for its own operating expenses. Assuming those expenses are relatively fixed, increasing perhaps slightly more than inflation, the IOC could now afford to provide a larger percentage of TOP income to OCOGs and NOCs, and this would be a larger percentage of an already greatly increased corpus.

While recent summer host cities have been receiving money in the $1.0-1.5 billion range from the IOC, via TOP income and television contracts, as seed money to get started with their operating expenses, it is possible, with this new paradigm for TOP sponsorship that this could greatly increase, perhaps more than even double. That would make the option to host Olympics again more financially viable to host cities.

A few other things about the Toyota sponsorship. Its becomes the first automobile manufacturer to become a TOP sponsor. It is the 30th company to become a TOP sponsor and its sponsorship of TOP is also a landmark for the IOC, making it the 100th sponsorship overall, as many companies have been sponsors multiple times. Coca-Cola, Matushita/Panasonic, and VISA have been TOP sponsors at every Olympiad since the program’s inception, although Coca-Cola and VISA have not yet signed on for 2021-24. As Michael Payne, former director of IOC marketing, pointed out in a tweet, it will be interesting to see how the Toyota deal affects negotiations for future TOP sponsorship with Coca-Cola and VISA.

End 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012 2016 2020 2024 Totals
3M x x 2
Acer x 1
Atos Origin x x x x 4
Bausch & Lomb x x 2
Bridgestone x x x 3
Brother x x 2
Coca-Cola x x x x x x x x x 9
Dow Chemical x x x 3
Federal Express x 1
General Electric x x x x 4
IBM x x 2
John Hancock x x x 3
Johnson & Johnson x 1
Kodak x x x x x x 6
Lenovo x 1
Manulife x 1
Mars x 1
Matushita/Panasonic x x x x x x x x x x 10
McDonalds x x x x x x 6
Omega x x x x 4
Philips x x 2
Proctor & Gamble x x x 3
Ricoh x 1
Samsung x x x x x x 6
Schlumberger SEMA x 1
Time/Sports Illustrated x x x x 4
Toyota x x 2
UPS x x x 3
VISA x x x x x x x x x 9
Xerox x x x 3
# Sponsors 8 12 10 11 10 12 11 11 12 3 100
Money ($US [millions]) $96 $172 $279 $579 $663 $866 $958 $1155 $1560 $900 $7228

Cricket and the Olympics

On the 14th of February, the 2015 Cricket World Cup got underway in Australia and New Zealand. It is the largest sporting event after the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup, although it will be mainly followed in (former) members of the British Commonwealth. Cricket was an Olympic sport for only a single match, but connections between the two stretch from 1866 to 2012.

Crystal Palace

Our connection begins 30 years before the first modern Olympics, at the 1866 British National Olympic Games. These were in a large part the effort of William Penny Brookes. Brookes was also the founder of the Wenlock Olympian Games, first held in 1850 and still contested today.

Held at Crystal Palace, the National Olympic Games were a big success. The 440 yard hurdles event was won by an 18-year-old who had taken some time off from a cricket match: W.G. Grace.

Most cricket connaisseurs will need no further explanation, but for those not in the know, William Gilbert Grace, going by W.G. Grace, is one of the greatest cricketers of all time. The bearded legend is described well at CricInfo:

The statistics of his career are alone enough to explain why – more than 54,000 first-class runs (there are at least two different versions of the precise figure, so let’s leave it at that) spread across 44 seasons, including 839 in just eight days of 1876, when he hit a couple of triple-centuries, and only one other batsman managed to top a thousand runs in the entire season; a thousand in May in 1895, when he was nearly 47; and 2800-odd wickets costing less than 18 runs apiece.

An Olympic sport

In 1894, cricket’s association with the Olympics becomes much closer. At the time the IOC is founded, cricket is one of the few well-organized sports, and it is therefore not surprising that it ends up on the short-list of sports for the first Olympics in 1896.

The sport was however never held, no doubt hampered by the fact that Athens (or Greece, for that matter), lacked a wicket.

The first and only ever Olympic cricket match was held at the 1900 Games. Belgium, Britain and the Netherlands, were scheduled to send a team to France, each to play the host nation, but not each other. However, the Low Countries failed to send teams, leaving France v. Great Britain as the only match.

Great Britain (or England, as they were billed) was represented by the touring Devon and Somerset Wanderers, while the French team was made up of clubs that belonged to the Union des Sociétés Français de Sports Athlétiques (USFSA). Most of the “French” players were actually British expatriates living in France, and we’ve only been able to confirm three team members to be French.

The twelve-a-side match was not an exciting affair, the British side being far stronger, eventually winning by 158 runs (see the original scorecard as well as a match report). Most of the Olympic competitors were, as Ian Buchanan has put it “distinctly average club players”, with the exception of two Wanderers players: Montague Toller and Alfred Bowerman, who both played first-class cricket (that’s the top-level, three-days-or-more form of cricket).

No return to the Games

The closest cricket has ever got to making a return to the Olympic Games after its brief appearance in 1900 came four years later in the unlikely setting of St. Louis, Missouri. September 22 was due to see the start of a tournament to decide the “World’s Amateur Cricket Championships” but, a few weeks before it was due to begin, the event was cancelled due to a lack of available pitches. The only confirmed entry we know of came from the city of Philadelphia. The Philadelphians, who included America’s greatest ever cricketer Bart King, would have been rated  alongside South Africa, England and Australia as the four best teams in the world at the time.

Tentative plans were made for a cricket tournament at the 1908 Rome Olympics. When Rome relinquished its right to hold the Games, London made no effort to follow through with these plans.

 So far, cricket has never returned to the Olympics, although the short Twenty20 format seems an ideal candidate for this. Reasons for the sports non-inclusion are rumored to sit with the sport’s governing body ICC and its most powerful members. The ICC is recognized by the IOC.

First-class Olympians

Toller and Bowerman, who played in 1900, are not the only Olympians to have played first-class cricket. We have identified at least 38 more Olympians with at least 1 first-class match. 24 of them competed at the Olympics in field hockey, which makes sense if you know that in Britain, cricket was only played in summer, with hockey or rugby being the winter-time activity.

Brian Booth batting for Australia

Of these 40 first-class players, there are four who have also played in Test matches (first-class matches between countries that have been given Test status):

  • Brian Booth played 29 Test matches for Australia (1961-66), after competing at the 1956 Olympics in hockey. He captained the team for two matches during the 1965-66 Ashes series.
  • John Douglas played 23 Test matches for England (1911-25). In 1908, he won Olympic gold in the middleweight boxing division. He died tragically in a shipwreck off the Danish coast.
  • Claude Buckenham contested 4 Test matches for England (1909-10), all in the English tour of South Africa in those years. Earlier, Buckenham had played football for Upton Park FC, which represented Britain in football at the 1900 Olympics, winning the Olympic “tournament”.
  • Jack MacBryan is credited with a single Test match for England. He played during a rain-plagued match against South Africa in 1924, where did not bowl, bat or dismiss anybody, while fielding for 66.5 overs. Four years earlier, he had won a gold medal in field hockey.

 Cricket venues

As a final link between the Olympics and top class cricket, four cricket grounds have been used as an Olympic venue. This does not include the 1900 Olympics, as that match was held as the Vincennes velodrome.

In 1928, the demonstration sport of kaatsen (similar to the US version of handball and pelota) was held on the cricket grounds outside the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium. A much better known venue is the Melbourne Cricket Ground. At the 1956 Olympics, it was the main stadium, hosting the opening and closing ceremony, the track and field competitions, as well as matches in football and field hockey. Demonstration matches in baseball and Aussie rules football were also conducted at the MCG.

For the 2000 Olympics, several football matches were held in the stadium. The same occurred in Brisbane, where the Brisbane Cricket Ground served as the venue.

The most famous cricket ground in the world is Lord’s, which calls itself “The home of cricket”. With some right: it has been in use at its current location since 1814. At the 2012 Olympics, the archery competitions were held there.

The archery competitions at Lord’s.