Swedish triple jumper Olsson quits ahead of London Olympics

Swedish Olympic gold medalist triple jumper Christian Olsson is abandoning his bid to compete at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the one-time world record holder said as he announced on Monday he was retiring from the sport.

Swedish triple jumper Olsson quits ahead of London Olympics

“It’s a damn disappointing for Christian to not be able to fulfill his efforts to compete in the Olympics,” Swedish athletics team trainer Stefan Olsson told the TT news agency.

Having been plagued by injuries since 2007, Olsson re-emerged on the international athletics stage in 2011 with a fifth place finish at the European indoor championships in June. He also placed second in a Diamond League competition in New York.

He also participated in the Athletics World Championships in South Korea, finishing in sixth place.

But last week the Swedish triple jumping star, who claimed a gold in the event at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, was forced to abandon the Swedish athletics team’s training camp in the United States due to recurring problems with his right foot.

Athletics coach Olsson explained that he realized the 32-year-old triple jumper’s career was in jeopardy after he left training so close to the Olympics.

“He was very focused on the Olympics, not to go there and participate, but to give the best jumpers in the world a run for their money,” he told TT.

“He wanted to go there and fight for a medal.”

After making his Olympic triple jumping debut in 2000 in Sydney, Olsson came to dominate the sport. Between 2002 and 2006 he captured six gold medals, including an Olympic gold in Athens in 2004.

Olsson also matched an indoor triple jump record at the 2004 world championships with a jump of 17.83 metres.

But Olsson’s career became plagued by injuries to his right foot starting in 2007, forcing him to miss the 2008 Beijing Olympics and sidelining him from a number of major competitions.

While an operation last autumn had renewed hopes that Olsson would compete in his third Olympics, Monday’s decision means that Sweden will have one less medal hope heading into the London Olympics.

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The year Sweden organized the Olympics and defied expectations

Stockholm Olympic Stadium defied those who said Sweden wasn't advanced enough to host the Olympic Games in 1912, and has survived to become the world's oldest Olympic stadium actively in use.

The year Sweden organized the Olympics and defied expectations
Stockholm's Olympic Stadium as it used to look. Photo: Bertil Norberg/TT

This article was written for Members of The Local. Read more articles for Members here.

Taking inspiration from the medieval city wall of Visby on the Swedish island of Gotland, Swedish architect and athlete Torben Grut designed a stadium for the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm that would stand as a fortress of athleticism.

His success was both immediate and enduring, and the now-historic stadium has lived up to its impressive façade for more than a century, hosting countless sporting and cultural events, witnessing more than 80 athletic world records, surviving a bombing, and simply reminding the world of its important place in Olympic history.

Initially, however, the outlook for both the stadium and the Stockholm Olympics – the fifth modern Olympic games – was far from promising. As historian Therese Nordlund Edvinsson wrote in a 2014 article in The International Journal of the History of Sport, despite Sweden's “modest ambitions” for the games, “critics argued that the country was too undeveloped to arrange a major sport event”.


Djurgården versus AIK in 1915 at Stockholm Stadium. Photo: TT

The original plan for the stadium was an accordingly modest – and temporary – whitewashed wooden structure. The decision to make it permanent was likely a relief to Grut, whose other designs included Solliden Palace, the summer residence of the Swedish royal family on the island of Öland. Though still relatively small, with an original seating capacity of around 20,000, the completed stadium became a model for subsequent Olympic stadiums. Likewise, and in defiance of the critics, the Stockholm Olympic Games were considered a great success.  

In a 2012 article entitled, “Stockholm 1912 set the gold standard for the modern Olympics,” in the British newspaper The Guardian, sports journalist Frank Keating wrote, “Stockholm's 1912 Games are still considered standard-setting for Olympic decades to come. Women's competition was allowed for swimming and diving, while men's boxing was banned: and on the track photo-finish electronic-timing was introduced as a back-up to the hand-held judges' stopwatch.” It was also, he explained, “the last Olympics where any individual could just turn up and hope to enter a competition”.


One of the numerous concerts organized at the Stockholm Stadium. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Over the years, the appearance of Stockholm Olympic Stadium has changed little, and the seating capacity has even been reduced. In 2011 and 2012, the stadium underwent its only major renovation in preparation for its centenary. Nonetheless, it has been an incredibly adaptable venue, serving for many years as home to Swedish football team Djurgårdens IF, and accommodating a wide variety of sporting and cultural events – from ice hockey to American football and from Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti to Swedish DJ Avicii. It is also where the Stockholm Marathon ends each year.

The stadium has also maintained a long and at times somewhat chequered connection to the Olympic Games. In 1956, for instance, the equestrian events of the Summer Olympics taking place in Melbourne, Australia, were hosted some 15,000 kilometres away in Stockholm Olympic Stadium due to animal quarantine restrictions in Australia. And in August 1997, as Stockholm vied to host the 2004 Summer Olympics, the stadium was one of several sites in Sweden bombed or set alight by Swedish far-right extremists opposed to Sweden hosting the games.

READ ALSO: Polls suggest Italians much more enthusiastic about Olympic bid than Swedes

Although modern stadiums designed or used for the Summer Olympics now typically seat three to four times more people than Stockholm Olympic Stadium did in 1912, the historic venue still has a chance of returning to its Olympic origins. If Stockholm-Åre is selected to host the Winter Olympics in 2026, the snowboarding competitions are slated to take place in the landmark stadium, neatly tying together 114 years of Olympic history.

Victoria Martínez is an American historical researcher, writer and author of three historical non-fiction books. She lives in Småland county, Sweden, with her Spanish husband and their two children.