One hundred years ago today, the athletics events of the Antwerp 2020 Olympic Games got underway and, as can be imagined, they had a rather different complexion to the more recent celebrations in the 21st century.

Only 25 countries participated, 16 from Europe, and a mere 509 competitors contested 29 events, although none of them were for women and they would have to wait for another eight years before having events for them added to the Olympic athletics programme.

Nevertheless, it was a memorable Games and pivotal one in Olympic history, not least because it took place less than two years after the end of World War I, and – with striking parallels to 2020 – also in the wake of the global Spanish Flu pandemic which killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide and was only considered to have abated a few months before the Games got undewrway.

Spectators in the Olympisch Stadion were to witness the advent of the Flying Finns who were to capture and captivate the world’s sporting attention for more than a decade.

Finland acquired an astonishing total of nine gold medals and finished just behind the USA in the athletics medal table with the legendary Paavo Nurmi taking the first three of his nine Olympic gold medals with victories in the 10,000m, cross country event over approximately 8km and the cross country team event, although he had to settle for silver in the first of his Antwerp finals when France’s Joseph Guillemot sprinted away from him over the final 200 metres of the 5,000m  

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