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Czech Olympic Committee (1912)

Ceský výbor pro hry olympijské

Last modified: 2011-05-27 by andrew weeks
Keywords: czechia | bohemia | olympics |
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Bohemian 1912 flag

[Bohemian 1912 flag] image by Chrystian Kretowicz, 12 Jul 2002

I'm creating a website about the Olympic Games since 1896 and I need the flag of Bohemia before World War I. I only found in your big collection Bohemia's flag as the German protectorate during Word War II.
Alexander Picolin jr, 12 Jul 2002

As far as I know there was no "Bohemian flag" in 1896, so athletes from Bohemia probably participated in the first Olympic games under the Austro-Hungarian flag.
Jarig Bakker, 12 Jul 2002

In the old Czech 'Vexilologie' bulletin (from late 1970s) there was an article about the Bohemian flag being carried at 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. It was an Austrian version  of the Bohemian arms displayed on the white flag. Attached is my own, crude rendition of that flag.
Chrystian Kretowicz, 12 Jul 2002

Before 1900 Czechs were part of Austrian Olympic Team, while Hungary had its own Team.  That was because of non-existence of Czech (or Bohemian)  Olympic Committee in that period of time. As for terms Czech/Bohemian: it is not easy to translate the Czech original as we make no differences between territorial (Bohemian Böhmisch) and national (Czech/Tschechisch) identity. Both terms are "Český" in Czech. As you will see - founders of Czech Olympic Committee were in spite of German names (Rössler, Guth) only Czechs.
Aleš Křížan, 24 Jul 2002

Flag of the Czech Olympic Committee 1912

[Flag of the Czech Olympic Committee 1912] image sent by Aleš Křížan, 24 Jul 2002

Although founder of  Czech Olympic Committee, Mr. Jirí Stanislav Guth - Jarkovský was collaborator of Baron de Coubertin  for many years, the first separate participation of our Olympic team was on Games in London, 1908. Our team flew the  "Böhmische Landesfarben", that is white over red and not red over white, as many German Encyclopaedias insisted.
In Stockholm 1912 they used another flag in two versions: with rectangle  field and with (almost) square  shape.
This square  flag was made of woollen cloth: A copy of that had every Czech participant of Olympic Games in Stockholm 1912. A flag carried in parade the rectangular. (roughly 1:2 ?). The high of shield with Bohemian Arms was same in both cases. Rectangle flag with border of red and white triangles was hoisted by Mr. Rössler - Orovský (one of fathers of our sport movement) on 20 October 1918 (!) as a symbol of future Independence of our state.
Description of picture. The field is white, grey triangles are in fact red, Arms including Crown of St. Wenceslas are in "natural" colours (red field, white lion, yellow coronet and tongue, colourful gemstones and red "cap" on Royal  Bohemian Crown). Let me  explain the background of that case. Founder of Czech Olympic Committee was Secondary school teacher Jirí Stanislav Guth - Jarkovský. Austrian Ministry of Education has in 1891 published a new program of education in sports (as far I know not in the games). Deputy teacher called Guth during his Paris studies met "some Coubertine". This was the beginning of long co-operation  of Pierre de Coubertin and J.S. Guth - Jarkovský, who became member of International Olympic Committee right from the beginning. Guth  represented not Austria, but Kingdom of Bohemia, a country with developed sporting movement ("Sokol"). In the beginning of the year 1900 came "Český výbor pro hry olympijské" (Czech committee for Olympic Games". Our sportsmen were starting as separate team on Olympic Games in London 1908 under red and white flag of Bohemia (rather white and red) - it led to protests of Austrian Olympic Committee. Secretary General of Czech Olympic Committee Josef Rössler - Orovský struggled hard for Czech Olympic team under Czech flag.

When Olympic Games in Stockholm 1912 were prepared, Austria has threatened with boycott, if Czechs started as separate team (under name Bohemia, of course). Secretary general showed to Austrian Ambassador Count Kolowrat a written permission from Emperor and King Francis Joseph to use "Landeswappen" in  Letters, Stamps and on Seal. So why not on flag? The result was above mentioned flag. In parade had Czech team TWO flags - a "Bohemian" one and Austrian (most probably "Reichsfarben", because black and yellow were used as a flag on Land). The Czech flag was on the left side (from frontal view).

But this was definitively not official Flag of Bohemia! How it came to life? Mr. Rössler has later written, that even "Landesausschuss" of Bohemia (Representation of the Land Bohemia) did't know WHAT FLAG OF BOHEMIA IS. (Do not forget - Kronländer had Landesfarben only. And Landesfarben was not kind of flag yet, it is to translate "Livery
Colours") So sportsmen  bought some unofficial flag with Bohemian Arms within white and red bordure of triangles.

According to information from official server of Czech Olympic Committee Coubertin negotiated about this topic with the Austrian Government. They agreed to label our team "Autriche - Tchéque", although the first designation of the Olympic Committee was rather cryptic - "Český výbor pro hry olympijské" is "Bohemian (or Czech) Committee for Olympic Games". Václav Pacina in his book spoke on the name Boheme.  If Czechs won, small Flag  of Bohemia would to be hoisted next to Imperial (state) Flag. Similar agreement was reached between International Olympic Committee and Imperial Russian Government in favour of Finland..
Aleš Křížan, 24 Jul 2002