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Workers' Olympiad (Twilight of a New Era)

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The Workers' Olympiad (WO) is an international multi-sport event celebrated approximately every four years since 1925. The founding congress (1920) of the Sozialistische Arbeiter Sport Internationale (SASI) mandates the organization of sports events as socialist alternative to the 'bourgeois' Olympics. Its first edition was in 1925 in Frankfurt am Main (Germany). The SASI-Sportintern is the governing body and organizes the Workers' Olympiad from 1936.

Name of the WO in the working languages of the SASI-Sportintern
Language Name
English Workers' Olympiad
French Olimpiade Ouvrière
German Arbeiter Olympiade
Russian Рабочих Oлимпиад / Rabochih Olimpiad
Esperanto Laborista Olimpiado
Spanish (non-official language Olimpiada Obrera

Main characteristics

Its difference with the Olympic Games is that it's open to all sportsmen and sportswomen regardless of nationality and professional or amateur status.

Athletes mainly represent workers' sports associations, voluntary sports societies, sports communities, sports clubs, civic recreational associations, ad hoc associations or teams. Participants also have the option to subscribe individually.

The SASI-Sportinern mainly promotes and fosters team sports, mass recreational events and physical fitness.

One of the goals of worker's sports is to wither away the difference between amateur and professional athletes. Particularly because amateurism became linked to upper or middle class practitioners while professionalism is played for payment and competition. The advent of the state-sponsored "full-time amateur athlete" (or sports worker) of the socialist countries further eroded the ideology of the pure amateur athletes.

Only a red flag is shown and the Internationale is sung. One of the main events is the Days of the Mass Events that are organized as a series of recreational and sports events as a means to erase the division between athletes (professional or amateur) and the public.

Since 1941 it is also the main venue of the International Pavilion of Industry and Science, organized by the ICSS.

Organization of the Workers' Olympiad

As it was said above, the Workers' Olympiad came out of a mandate of the SASI. The SASI was created to represent and promote co-operation between workers' sports associations. Every two years it organized a Congress where its members meet to discuss sporting policy, elect its Executive Committee and designate the venue of the Workers' Olympiad.

Red flag

Red Flag

The Comintern, created the Sportintern as a rival organization in 1923. Its main purpose was to sway worker sports organizations around the world away from the SASI and convert them into revolutionary organizations to united the "physical vanguard of the proletariat". It organized three Spartakiads (Berlin 1928, Moscow 1930 and 1934). It was only successful in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Transcaucasia. The Latvian Coordinating Committee of Worker's Sports was a member between 1925-1928, before joining the SASI.

In 1936 as a consequence of change in the policy of the Comintern and the Labour and Socialist International and willingness to re-establish unity of the socialist movement both agree on the merge of the SASI and Sportintern. The 1. Common Congress of the SASI-Sportintern agreed to continue the organization and promotion of the Workers' Olympiad as ... an event that promotes international friendship and solidarity among the working people and nations of the world ... and promoting the people's participation and recreation ... '.

In the Congress of Unity of the SASI-Sportintern it was established that besides the usual member organizations (workers' sports associations and voluntary sports societies) it would accept the membership of sports communities, sports clubs, civic recreational associations or ad hoc associations or teams. These organizations already participated but had no official recognition or participation in the SASI or Sportintern. As expected, the famous and trophy winning Anglo-French-American athletic team NIKE-Victoria/Venko became a full member. In the Water Games of 1937, the majority of the participants in yachting and synchronized swimming where ad hoc teams.

SASI-Sportintern

SASI-Sportintern
Laborista Olimpiado (TNE)

Flag of SASI-Sportintern, used since 1937

Motto Sporto por ĉiuj
Hynm The Internationale
Working languages used by SASI-Sportintern Esperanto, French, English, German, Russian and the host country's official language when necessary.
Headquarters Executive Committee Lucerne, Switzerland
Establishment 1936

The SASI-Sportintern, successor of the Sozialistische Arbeiter Sport Internationale (SASI 1920-1936) and Sportintern (1923-1936) is the workers' sports international organization with the purpose of promoting international solidarity of the working class and people. Its aims are to organizing sporting and cultural festivities, competitions and manifestations. It also promotes and represents its member organizations that practice activities in the field of sport and physical culture within their own country.

Its membership is opened to workers' sports associations, voluntary sports societies, sports communities, sports clubs, civic recreational associations, ad hoc associations or teams. Participants also have the option to inscribe individually for sporting and cultural events.

The World Congress of the SASI-Sportintern, that meets biannually, elects an Executive Committee, a Controlling Commission, the Technical Commissions and a Court of Arbitration and Judges.

At national level there are national committees and sport federations that integrate the national or regional Worker's Sports Union Coordination (WSUC). The WSUC celebrate regional or national congresses and send delegates to the World Congress.

Besides organizing and promoting the Workers' Olympiad, the SASI-Sportintern it sponsors national workers' sports festivals organized by the national WSUC and its associated organization the Working Women's Sports League (WWSL)

The SASI-Sportintern has also fraternal and co-operating relations with the International Falcon Movement – Socialist Educational International (IFM-SEI), Naturefriends International, World Pioneer Organization and Workers' Sokol Community (Dělnická obec sokolská, DOS), International Aid for Workers (IAH) and Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund Internationale.

Ceremonies and events of the Workers' Olympiad

EHStadion040606w

Praterstadion, main venue of 3. WO of 1933 in Vienna

The opening ceremony in main venue the hosting committee of the WO starts with the Parade of the Working People. All participating sports teams and athletes march enter the venue in order according to a language selected by the organizing. Its allow and encourage that members of the public also participate and march along the athletes . After all delegations and sportsmen and women have entered, the president of the Organizing Committee declares the opening of the WO.

We, in the name and for the working people and youth of the World declare open the Games of [name of the host city] celebrating the [ordinal number of the Olympiad] Workers' Olympia. (in the main language of the host's venue and Esperanto)

Next, the red flag and the fag of SASI-Sportintern are carried horizontally into the venue and hoisted as the Internationale is played.

After each sports event is completed, a victory ceremony is held (also called in Esperanto Podio de Venkintoj). The Summer Games usually conduct the ceremonies immediately after the event at the respective venues, whereas the Winter editions would present the medals at a nightly victory ceremony held at a medal plaza (Victor's Square, in Esperanto: Placo de Venkintoj). A three–tiered rostrum is used for the three first places winners ascending to the platform. The winners received olive wreaths from a members of the public, and the diplomas awarded by the participating athletes. At all victory ceremonies only a red flag is showed and the Internationale is sung. (in the main language of the host's venue and Esperanto)

All Games have a mass exercise demonstrations (Massenturnen) open to all public and athletes. The mass excises are based on the routines of the sokols. The mass exercise demonstrations consists of several events and contests:

a) the main event, in which large numbers of performers take part in a highly regimented performance that emphasizes group dynamics rather than individual prowess.
b) live statues contests.
c) human towers.
d) Dance sport.
e) festive marches.

Also there are free lessons of swimming, cycling, skating, skiing and fitness exercises (calisthenics) given out. Of all exhibition sports the highlight is gymnastics in all its forms. The Friends of Nature, Red Falcons (Rote Falken) and Young Pioneers have joint and sectional meetings. They also organize and monitor the children´s sports festival. Some sports, like football, basketball, hiking, table tennis, tug of war, yachting, swimming, cycling, skating and skiing are open and encourage for the public to participate.

The closing ceremony is held at main venue and begins with the Parade of Victors (the winners of sports events), that the blend with all others participating athletes, and ends with entrance of the public, that dispersed and mingled. The President of the SASI-Sportintern declares the games ended:

I, in the name of the public, athletes and victors declare the Games of the [ordinal number of WO] Workers' Olympiad closed, and I call upon the working people and youth of the world to assemble from now in [name of next host city] to celebrate the Games of the [subsequent ordinal number of WO] Worker's Olympiad. (in the main language of the host's venue and Esperanto)

Then, the Internationale is played, the red flag and SASI-Sportintern flag that were hoisted during the opening ceremony are lowered from the flagpoles and carried from the stadium.

Women's sports in the WO

The International Women's Sports Federation (Fédération Sportive Féminine Internationale, FSFI) was founded in 1921 because of the unwillingness of existing sports organisations, such as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF), to let women compete in sports, particularly at an international level. Until this period in the Olympic Games, women had competed officially only in tennis, swimming, and ice-skating. The SASI invited the FSFI to participate and organized the participation of women in the I. WO of 1925.

The FSFI besides organizing its own Women's World Games co-organized and encouraged women's participation and demonstrations, specifically in the track and field athletics, swimming and ice-skating events of the WO of 1925. Later the FSFI added barrette, cycling, football, basketball, gymnastic, table tennis and tennis in the WO of 1929. Given the high number of public attendance and women's team and individuals participating the Congress of SASI voted to open all sports to women in 1930.

In the 1930s the IOC increased the participation of women in sports from 65 at the 1924 Summer Olympics to 331 at the 1936 Summer Olympics and IAAF agreed to take control of all international women's athletic events. Although the FSFI had partially achieved most of its goals it decide in 1932 to withdraw from the SASI-Sportintern and centered its activities in the IOC and IAAF. To fill the absence of FSFI and encouraged by similar women's groups and sports teams the Working Women's Sports League (WWSL) was formed as an associated organization in charge of the organization, promotion and regulation of women's sports in the SASI-Sportintern.

The IOC does not allow and discourages mixed gendered team sports. The SASI-Sportintern approved for the WO of 1937 and 1941 mixed gendered team sports competitions in trial and exhibit basis. After an evaluation, a proposal might be voted for its integration the programs of the WO.

Editions of the WO

Editions of the Workers' Olympiad
Version Date Summer Games (Someraj Ludoj) Winter Games (Vintraj Ludoj) Water Games (Akvaj Ludoj) Notes
1. 1925 Frankfurt am Main (Germany) n/a n/a Summer and Winter Games
2. 1929 Antwerp (Netherlands) n/a n/a Summer and Winter Games
3. 1933 Vienna (Austria-Hungary) Prague (Austria-Hungary) n/a
4. 1937 Barcelona (Spain) Oslo (Norway) Trieste (Austria-Hungary) First event organized by the SASI-Sportintern
5. 1941 Manchester (England) Minsk (Belarus) Odessa (Ukraine)

Sports played in the WO

  • Alpine skiing (team and individual) Winter Games
  • Athletics (team and individual)
  • Barrette
  • Baseball (team, added in 1941)
  • Basketball (team and mass event)
  • Basque pelota
  • Beach Volleyball (team and individual) Summer Games, later part of Water Games
  • Boxing (individual)
  • Boating (team and individual)
  • Boating and Canoeing (team and individual) Summer Games, later part of Water Games
  • Bobsleigh (team and individual), Winter Games
  • Cricket (exhibition game)
  • Cycling (team and individual)
  • Dance sport (exhibition sport and Mass Event)
  • Diving (team and individual) Water Games
  • Figure skating (team and individual) Winter Games
  • Football (team and Mass Event)
  • Gymnastics, including artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, trampolining, Team Gym, tumbling, aerobic gymnastics and acrobatic gymnastics. (team and individual and exhibition game)
  • Handball (team)
  • Hiking (exhibition sport and Mass Event)
  • Ice stock (team) Winter Games
  • Ice Hockey (team) Winter Games
  • Judo (team and individual)
  • Karate (team and individual)
  • Nordic skiing (team and individual) Winter Games
  • Mass exercise demonstration (open to all), in all Games.
  • Petanque (team)
  • Rugby sevens (team)
  • Sailing (team and individual) Summer Games, later part of Water Games
  • Sambo (martial art)
  • Skating (Mass Event) Winter Games
  • Skiing (team, individual and Mass Event) Winter Games
  • Speed skating (team and individual) Winter Games
  • Synchronized swimming (team and individual) Water Games
  • Swimming (team, individual and Mass Event) Summer Games, later part of Water Games
  • Tennis (team and individual)
  • Table tennis (ping-pong) (team, individual and Mass Event)
  • Tug of war (team, individual and Mass Event)
  • Volleyball (team)
  • Yachting (team, exhibition game and Mass Event) Water Games
  • Wrestling (team and individual)

Other Games

Chess was initially included in the WO of 1925. Since 1929 it has organized the biannual People's Chess Tournament for amateur and professional players. Due to its success and as a form to popularize other strategy games, the Mind Sports Games Tournament are held in parallel. Its participating games are Chess, Go, Draughts, Backgammon and Xiangqi (Chinese Chess). These games are open to individuals and teams.

Members of the SASI-Sportintern

International fraternal organizations

  • International Federation of People's Chess (1926 to date)
  • Working Women's Sports League (WWSL) Established in 1932.

National and regional members of Worker's Sports Union Coordination (WSUC)

Europe

  • Arbeiterbund für Sport und Körperkultur in Österreich (ASKO, Austria)
  • Dělnická tělovýchovná jednota (Workers Gymnastics Union  DTJ, Bohemia -Čechy)
  • Workers' Association of Sport and Physical Education (Dolgozók Szövetsége Sport és Testnevelési DSST, Hungary)
  • Workers' Association of Sport and Physical Education (Asociația Muncitorilor de Educație Fizică și Sport, AMEFS, Transylvania)
  • South Slavic Worker's Sports Federation (Illyria and Slovenia)
  • Arbeiter-Turn- und Sportbund (ATSB, Germany)
  • Kampfgemeinschaft für Rote Sporteinheit - Rotsport (KG, Germany)
  • Schweizerischen Arbeiter-Turn- und Sportverbandes (SATUS, Switzerland)
  • Fédération Socialiste des Sports et Gymnastique (FSSG. France. Split into FST and USSGT)
  • Fédération sportive du travail (FST, France, merged with USSGT in FSGT)
  • Union des sociétés sportives et gymnique du travail (USSGT, France, merged with FST in FSGT)
  • Fédération sportive et gymnique du travail (FSGT, France)
  • Fédération sportive du Travail d'Alsace et de Lorraine (Labour Sports Federation of Alsace and Lorraine FSTAL, Alsace-Lorraine, joined FSGT)
  • Fédération sportive et gymnastique du Travail d'Alsace et de Lorraine (Labour Sports and Gymnastics Federation of Alsace and Lorraine FSGTAL, Alsace-Lorraine, joined FSGT)
  • Unione Italiana Sport Popolare (UISP, Italy)
  • Związek Robotniczych Stowarzyszeń Sportowych (Polish Workers' Sport Federation, ZRSS)
  • Morgnshtern (Poland)
  • Shtern (Poland)
  • Association Francophone du Sport Travailliste Belge (AFSTB, Belgium)
  • Arbeidersvoetbalbond (Belgium)
  • Nederlandse Arbeiders SportBond (NASB, Netherlands)
  • British Workers' Sport Federation (BWSF, Great Britain)
  • National Workers' Sports Association (NWSA, Great Britain)
  • Workers' Wimbledon Tennis Championship Committee (London, England)
  • National Athletic and Cycling Association (NACA, Ireland)
  • Dansk Arbejder Idraetsforbund (DAI, Denmark)
  • Arbeidernes Idrettsforbund (AIF, Norway)
  • Kampforbundet for Rød Sportsenhet (Rød Sports, Norway)
  • Finnish Workers' Sports Federation (TUL, Finland)
  • Estonian Sports Association Kalev
  • Latvian Coordinating Committee of Workers' Sports Unions
  • Lithuanian Sports Society "Žalgiris"
  • Workers' Sports club "Viltis” (Lithuania)
  • Federación Deportiva Cultural Obrera (FDCO, Spain)
  • Supreme Council of Fitness Culture and Voluntary Sports Societies of Russian FSR (SCFC-VSS Russia)
  • Supreme Council of Fitness Culture and Voluntary Sports Societies of Ukraine (SCFC-VSS Ukraine)
  • Supreme Council of Fitness Culture and Voluntary Sports Societies of Belarus (SCFC-VSS Belarus)
  • Federal Council of Fitness Culture and Voluntary Sports Societies of Transcaucasia (FCFC-VSS Transcaucasia)
  • Volunteer Society for Cooperation with the Army, Aviation, and Fleet (DOSAAF, Federation of Socialist Republics)

Middle East

  • Hapoel (Palestine Mandate)

Americas

  • Federación Deportiva Obrera (FDA, Argentina)
  • Confederación Socialista Deportiva (CSD, Argentina)
  • Workers' Sport Association (WSA, Canada)
  • Workers' Sport Association Confederation (WSAC, Canada)
  • Federación Roja del Deporte (FRD, Uruguay)
  • Labor Sports Union of America (LSUA, United States)

Assistance Societies (First Aid and medical services)

  • Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund Internationale / Worker’s International Samaritan Federation / Federation Internationale des Sociétés Samaritaines Ouvrier
  • International Aid for Workers (IAH)

Observers and co-participants

  • International Women's Sports Federation (Fédération Sportive Féminine Internationale, FSFI), sponsored, regulated, and co-organized participation of women in sports. Withdraw in 1932.

See also

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