This is about the time we were all supposed to be gearing up for the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. Since that’s on hold, let’s instead talk about the Inter-Allied Games, which began in Paris on this day in 1919. Plus: if you’d like some fierce sporting competition from this century, try out the American Hedgehog Bowling Association (and don’t worry, the hedgehogs aren’t bowled down the lanes).
WWI Soldiers Held their Own Olympics After the War (History.com)
This is about the time we were all supposed to be gearing up for the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, with athletes from all over the world coming to Tokyo for peaceful yet fierce competition.
That’s all on hold until next year, of course, but we do have some sports news from you, as long as you don’t mind that it’s from a century ago.
It was on this day in 1919 that the Inter-Allied Games began in Paris.
Why were there Inter-Allied Games?
At the end of World War I, the U.S. and its allies had huge numbers of troops in Europe.
The signing of an armistice was good news in that the fighting was over, but the military leaders now had to figure out how to get all those troops back home from “over there.”
There weren’t enough transport ships to bring them back, and even if there had been, there was a flu pandemic underway.
So to keep the soldiers from getting extremely restless, the Allies organized a massive, Olympic-style sporting event.
The American and French soldiers even build a temporary stadium in which to compete.
In some respects the Inter-Allied Games were like a giant company picnic – they had leapfrog and relay races.
But there were also more traditional individual and team sports – and then a few military-themed events like hand grenade tossing.
It’s worth noting that the U.S. fielded an integrated team at these games.
The Black American participants included Sol Butler, who set an American long jump record and went on to compete in the 1920 Olympics.
The Inter-Allied Games lasted until July 6th; there was no repeat.
So, essentially, everyone who won an event there is still the defending champion, a century later.
Most sports in 2020 remain on hold, at least the ones involving humans.
But the American Hedgehog Bowling Association has just held its first tournament!
And no, it’s not people using hedgehog in place of bowling balls.
The hedges are the competitors!
They meander their way through some bowling pins and get points for each one they knock down.
It’s as adorable as it is competitive.