Olympians Competing for an Unknown Country

Today on the Oldest Olympics blog, we wanted to make a quick post about a slightly offbeat topic: competitors for whom the country they represented is unknown. Before 1908, there are more than a handful of competitors for whom their nation is debatable. For example, as noted in Jeroen’s recent post about the first Olympics with competitors from across the world, double tennis silver medalist Demetrius Casdagli is listed as Greek in most places, although he never identified as such and a case could be made for him being Egyptian or, more strongly, British.

That situation, however, is not what we are raising here today. Instead, we wanted to highlight the case of two Olympians for whom we do not have any evidence of what country they represented: Fritz Eccard and A. Laffen. Both competed in the Olympic art competitions at the 1912 Stockholm Games, specifically the architecture event.

(The winning architecture entry from the 1912 Olympic art competitions, pictured at 24heures.ch)

As noted by Bill Mallon, “The names of the 1912 Olympic art competitors mostly derive from an anonymous piece of paper in the IOC archives. Although deciphered by Richard Stanton, not all of the names have been matched to known architects”. Thus, lacking this identifying information (as well as the name of their submission), it is unknown what countries Eccard and Laffen might have represented. In Eccard’s case, there are a few individuals by this name and of an appropriate age in Switzerland and Germany, but none that can be linked to architecture, let alone the Olympian. For Laffen, we have no clues to go on at all.

That is all there is to the story at this point, but we thought it would be an interesting case to share with our readers. Before we conclude this entry, however, we wanted to point out one more update. Two posts ago we discussed Olympians who had been removed from our lists recently without any notice. Today we have more to add: Danish rower Ove Nielsen, born November 15, 1924. Until recently, we believed that we had confirmation from 2015 that he was still alive. Unfortunately, it turns out that he died at the end of 2008, long before becoming a nonagenarian, and thus we have removed him from our tables.

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