Sport Australia honours Armistice Centenary
More than 330,000 Australians served overseas during the war from 1914-18, and more than 62,000 were killed.
The display shines a light on the Inter Allied Games – a one-off multi-sport event held outside Paris, France after the end of World War I.
“The Armistice is such an important moment in our history,” Adam Allison from AIS Site Services says. “We want to honour the sacrifice Australians made in fighting for our freedom and acknowledge the role sport can play in healing not just people, but countries as well.”
The display, at the entrance to the Visitor Centre, includes a video where historians Scott Patterson and Bruce Coe tell the story of the Inter Allied Games.
“After the Armistice of 1918 you had 200,000 Australia soldiers stuck in Europe. At best they thought they could get home 10,000 a month … it was going to take well and truly over a year before they could repatriate all the ANZAC soldiers back home,” Patterson says.
Around 1,500 athletes from 18 nations competed in 19 sports including athletics, boxing, basketball, football, swimming, shooting and fencing at Pershing Stadium from 22 June – 6 July, 1919.
“Being Australians, they knew their sport and they loved their sport and as a matter of fact, you know, the Australians were always going to be competitive in everything that they did,” Patterson added.
A Rowing regatta was held two weeks after the Games as crews were competing at the Royal Henley Peace Regatta in England, the first King’s Cup. The Sport Australia display includes three medals, including one gold, won by Arthur Scott on loan from the Australian War Memorial. Scott was part of the eight-man crew to win the first King’s Cup. Today the King’s Cup is Australia’s blue riband annual rowing race for the men’s coxed eights.
"While it’s not a major sporting event on the world stage, the inter allied games did have a purpose and it succeeded in having a wonderful exchange between soldiers of the allied armies coming together in peace and in a joyful atmosphere exchanging sporting competitions, generating friendships, and indeed for a number of them, perhaps preparing them for their experiences on a grander scale of the Olympic Games and other international sporting events, after being through the maelstrom of World War I,” Coe added.
Some men had competed at the Stockholm 1912 Olympic Games and others would go on to represent Australia at Antwerp in 1920, and play for the Wallabies.
The event was only open to military personnel who were currently serving, or had served, in the armed forces during the war.
“One chap in the Australian team, who’d been an Australian champion prior to the war – he lost part of his part of his leg towards the end of the war, but he was on the swimming team…he had a disability but was able to compete and competed well,” Coe says.
“Sport was a huge part of that rehabilitation and in many ways, instigating this form of rehabilitation 100 years before we started to hear about the Warrior Games in the United States or the Invictus Games for the Commonwealth,” he added.
You can view the Sports and the Armistice display in the AIS Visitor Centre.
Thank you to the Australian War Memorial for providing access to their collections.