My previous post described how the 1908 Great Britain Olympic football squad was in fact the English national amateur team.
One other thing of interest in that Olympics was that the Home Nations representated themselves in some sports.
For example, in Hockey there was a English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh side. (This before before the independence of Ireland and the partition of Northern Ireland.)
They competed with France and Germany to get the medals.
England won gold. Ireland won the silver. Scotland and Wales shared the bronze, as there was no 3rd place play-off.
England and Ireland representated themselves at Polo.
The IOC rules about countries competing only if they have an IOC committee in place where enforced at these London games.
This was a British ploy to prevent the situation that had happened two years previous in the 1906 Intercalated Olympics – basically a mid term Olympics between 1904 and 1908.
Peter O’Connor, an Irish long jumper, high jumper and triple jumper, was sent to Athens by the GAA and the IAAA, Irish sport authorities. Of course, Ireland at the time was not independent from Britain and hence Peter and other Irish atheletes found themselves listed as representing Britain.
In a controversial long jump competition, Peter came second, but as the Union flag was raised to represent his silver, Peter climbed the flagpole and waved his Irish flag instead.
He later won the gold medal in the triple jump.
That’s why the IOC ruling was enforced in 1908 by the London Olympics, to try and stop any such political statements. However to primarily appease the Irish they allowed the Home Nations to represent themselves at some sports; particularly in those sports where Ireland had a good chance to win a gold medal.
A knock-on effect of this ruling was that Finland – at the time ruled by Russia – was listed as Russian. This was particularly upsetting for the Finns as Russia had not even bothered to send a team.
They decided to have no flag instead.
The official report on the London games stated “it might on another occasion be better to consider separate entries from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales…as well as from both New Zealand and Australia”
Even in the imperial mood of 1908 came the realisation that separate teams were the way forward.
One hundred years later and we’re still having the debate in the UK!