Riots Over Gold At the Antwerp Olympics

By Jane Wynyard, August 10, 2012 

It's fantastic to see Team GB winning so many gold medals at the Olympic Games. Despite the French complaining about our cyclists and the Australians ignoring New Zealand in the medal stakes  - the games have run without any major international incident.

But as we know - the Olympics haven't always been held with a sporting nature and there have been many serious incidents during the Games' history. One of those was in 1920, at the Antwerp Olympics, when Britain won Gold in the water polo.

My grandfather, Lieutenant Edward Gordon Gedge, who was competing for Britain in the Modern Pentathalon at the Games, told this story to the New Zealand Herald in 1986 about the climax of those unhappy games - the British Belgium Water Polo.

The British Modern Pentathlon Team in the 1920 Olympics. 
That's my grandfather, Lieutenant Edward Gordon Gedge MC (Royal Artillery), in the very front. 
Pop, who was born in 1895, retired from the Artillery in 1920. He died in New Zealand in 1991 at the age of 95.

My grandfather described how on the day of the match, he and a friend and climbed to the top of the diving tower to watch the water polo. 

"Already there was the great United States swimmer Duke Kahanamoku, also from Hawaii, seeking a good view and a little Belgium ready to raise the flag of the winning country, " he said.

He went on..."Britain won and a riot among the disappointed Belgiums erupted. They smashed up seats and the royal family were hushed away. The police could not control the situation and soldiers clad in full riot kit with rifles and bayonets were brought in. But some of them were pushed into the pool (which was apparently a huge moat around the Olympic venue) and they sank like stones.  We dragged some out, but there were drownings."

Duke Kahanamoku also found himself in the pool. After a scuffle with the little Belgian who refused to raise the British flag, the Olympic star attempted to raise the flag himself. But the mast broke and the Hawaiian fell into the pool amid a very confusing scene.

Water Polo at Antwerp 1920
My grandfather died in 1991 at the age of 94 after an incredible life that saw him grow up as in Egypt as a companion of the royal children, win Bronze at Antwerp and receive a Military Cross in the first world war for bravery. 

He was also the first Wing Commander at Ohakea Air Force Base in New Zealand. He was a true hero, a fantastic storyteller and he and my grandmother had a huge impact on my life. They don't make them like my grandparents any more ....

About the Modern Pentathalon

Modern Pentathalon celebrates 100 years at the London Olympics 2012 this year.  The sport first appeared at the Stockholm 1912 Olympic Games, while the women’s competition made its debut at Sydney 2000. The competition involves swimming, show jumping on an unfamiliar horse, a 3km run and shooting.

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