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Sports Festivals - Expo Ghent 1913

Sports Festivals at the Exhibition Expo Ghent 1913

It is not long since the conception of education was aimed only at the intellectual culture of the individual and relegated his physical development to the background; it was considered unnecessary or too boring.

This disregard for the principles of bodily health provoked a reaction, and in all countries an intense movement was created in favour of athletics. Like all reactions, this one sometimes exceeded the limits that should be attributed to physical culture; as much as it should be encouraged as a form of recreation or as an adjunct to the maintenance of health, it is also necessary to speak out against over-training and excesses that provoke sometimes violent disorders in the body.

Now that many specialists have taken an interest in this question, we have returned to principles better adapted to our physical nature. Almost all sports are aimed at the relaxation of those who take part in them; they serve as powerful correctives to our hectic, enervating and anaemic life. It is particularly these sports that were encouraged at the Ghent Exhibition. They lend themselves to the organisation of charming parties, very much appreciated by the general public, especially in Belgium, where all sports are practised with mastery.

The Executive Committee of the Exhibition entrusted the organisation of these parties to a central committee. The programme was particularly extensive. There were so many parties and competitions throughout the Exhibition that, in addition to the sports ground, which was occupied on Sundays and several weekdays, the fields of the Royal Athletic Association of Ghent and the Racing Club of Ghent had to be used for lawn tennis and football matches.

The Central Sports Committee was composed of Messrs Fernand Feyerick, industrialist, member of the Executive Committee of the Exhibition, president; Baron Albert van Loo, president of the Royal Society of Ostend Races, vice-president; artillery commander Eugène Grade, secretary; Jean Delori, treasurer; Messrs Réon Braun, Carlos de Hemptinne, and Lieutenant Thiryn, members. Mr. Maurice de Smet de Naeyer, general manager of the Exhibition, was the honorary president.

The importance of the programme to be carried out led the committee to call upon the Ghent sports societies. All of them responded with eagerness and a strong desire to justify, once again, Ghent's long-standing reputation as a city of sport.

The following 21 sub-committees were formed: Aeronautics, Jeu de Boules, Colombophilie, Cycling, Fencing, Football, Golf, Gymnastics, Calisthenics, Children's Gymnastics Festivals, Small Ball, Archery, Lawn-Tennis, Rowing, Athletic Sports, Dog Sports, Horse-riding, Shooting with firearms, Pigeon Shooting, Yachting.

Messrs. E. Vanderstegen, T. de Grie, G. de Geest, M. Dhondt, E. Pappens, E. Gondry, Rob. Feyerick, Priem, Otten, A. de la Kethulle de Ryhove, F. A. Leperre, C. Bekaert, E. Lordier, lieutenant M. De Busscher, R. Robelus, Firmin Ligny, Ch 't Kint, A. Vandernoot, R. Ditte, baron C. de Meulenaere, F. de Coorebyter, F. Beernaerts, E. F. Van Ceulebroeck, G. Bossu, A. Wulleman, L. de Kerchove de Denterghem, N. Van Waesberghe were appointed as secretaries of these different groups.

For two consecutive years, the central committee and the various sub-committees met and worked with untiring dedication to ensure the perfect success of the sports events. They did a lot of hard work, and the great effort they put into it is beyond praise. Everything was carefully considered and the great success of the various events was the best reward for all those who devoted themselves to this task.

Among the many happy measures taken by the Central Committee for the benefit of the participants in the sports events, one that cannot be overlooked is the question of insurance. All athletes and participants in meetings were insured against accidents. The public itself who attended these meetings was covered by insurance against the risks of any accident. This question of safety, which sometimes had serious consequences, was treated by the Central Committee and the sub-committees with the utmost care. It was a good decision.

The Central Committee commissioned the statuary C. de Cock, professor at the Academy of Fine Arts, to model a commemorative sports medal. Mr. De Maertelaere, a painter, won the competition for the creation of a sports diploma, which was distributed to the participating societies and federations.

Lack of space does not allow us to give the results of all the events, nor the records established or beaten, nor the performances accomplished. However, we would like to review each of the branches of sport that were the subject of a demonstration at the Ghent Exhibition.

Aeronautics. The territory of Ghent offers few free spaces; therefore the organisation of balloon competitions presented serious difficulties.

The Aero-Club solved the problem by organising distance and landing competitions, in which many competitors took part.

In aeroplanes, the aviator Crombez made numerous exhibitions; Messrs Diefmans, De Muyter, Pelgrims, H. de Hemptinne, Van Someren were the winners of the landing and distance competition; the longest journey was 735 kilometres.

The aeronautics sub-committee, under the presidency of Mr. A. de Breyne, had the good fortune to bring to Ghent the aviator Pégoud, who performed his famous looping, tumbling and inverted flight experiments in front of innumerable crowds of people who had flocked from all over the world, on the closing day of the World Fair.

Ball game. Very fortunately inspired, the committee reserved in the Modern Village, a very large place for popular sports, and particularly for the game of bowls. It is one of the most practised games; all those who know our country, know the care that the players bring to the maintenance of their ground, and the passion that they put in their favourite game.

Colombophilie. The monster release which took place at the Exhibition, on September 17, attracted a considerable crowd; it followed the flight of the 10,000 pigeons which evolved a few minutes in the air, before going to their dovecotes.

Fencing. The clash of weapons made the Palais des Fêtes resound for several days.
French, Italian, Danish, Dutch, English and Swiss fencers met there. The invincible French team won the team prize; but our compatriots and the other nations distinguished themselves in the individual sabre, foil and epee events.

A happy innovation was the competition at the Place d'Armes; it allowed the population of Ghent to appreciate the fine and elegant sport of arms.

Shooting for the King is one of the most glorious traditions of the old gilds. The one of the Royal and Knightly Confraternity of Saint Michael took place on the Old Flanders Square; thanks to the picturesque setting, it was a real treat for the amateurs.

The Belgian School of Fencing occupies a preponderant place in the world of weapons; its numerous successes, as well those gained by the Masters as by the amateurs, in the foreign and Belgian tournaments, place it unquestionably in the first rank. The juries were placed under the direction of Messrs. General Werbrouck and G. Renard, whose high competence was much appreciated.

Football. For some years now, this game has taken on a great extension in Belgium.

Football. In recent years, the game has grown in Belgium.

Many circles compete to maintain its superiority. Numerous teams from France, England and Holland have been playing exciting and hotly contested matches in front of many spectators. In the past, football matches were neglected. The public has become a competent appreciator; it judges the qualities of a team quickly and very fairly.

Golf. This game, introduced in Belgium a few years ago, but much practised in the past in Wallonia in a popular form, called lacrosse or crossette, was not long in becoming a great success. The competitions organised during three days on the Buttes-blanches links in Laethem-St-Martin were very well attended by numerous Belgian and foreign players. The Grand Prix de l'Exposition and the National Championship gave rise to matches contested by more than 40 players.

Gymnastics. The great importance of the Gymnastics Societies in Belgium led the Central Committee to give a special emphasis to this branch of sports. It also wanted to innovate by allowing the public to appreciate for the first time, next to the existing federations practising gymnastics with apparatus, calisthenics as it is taught at the Institute of Physical Education annexed to the University of Ghent and in the Belgian army.

The Belgian Gymnastics Federation, the oldest one, held its XXXVth Federal Gymnastics Festival. Masterfully organised by the Committee comprising the delegates of the eight Ghent societies under the direction of Mr. Camille Mys, this festival brought together more than 5,000 gymnasts, including 35 ladies. The French delegation alone numbered 800 gymnasts.

The procession of flags and gymnasts, crossing the exhibition in splendid weather, was a unique spectacle worthy of the setting in which it took place.

Alongside the Belgian Gymnastics Federation, two important organisations have developed: the National Federation of Catholic Gymnastics and Weapons Societies of Belgium, and the National Federation of Socialist Gymnastics Circles.

Baron de Dieudonné and Mr. F. Dumont led the organisation of the meetings of the Catholic Federation. This one has acquired an extraordinary importance; the progress of its gymnasts
progress of its gymnasts has been very noticeable. Their 19th federal festival was well conceived, and the overall movements executed with great precision. Their parade, their movements with the rifle, the imposed exercises of ensemble obtained a frank success of the numerous public which ran to admire them.

The National Federation of Socialist Circles, still very young, nevertheless had a fairly large number of members: 76 groups, 3100 members. The participation of young people and girls was important. Its president, Mr Gaston Bridoux, worked hard to make the meetings a success. The tableaux vivants and plastic poses presented on the Vieille Flandre theatre were charming, well ordered, of perfect taste and execution.

The meetings organised under the presidency of Mr J. Devos, professor at the Institute of Physical Education attached to the University of Ghent, were an innovation. A former artillery officer, Mr. Devos was one of the first to deal with the Swedish method, innovated in Belgium under the impulse of lieutenant-colonel Lefebure, who, making himself the apostle of it in the army, rendered the greatest services to our country; 2,500 gymnasts took part in the demonstration of pedagogical and educational gymnastics on July 6, 1913. There were delegations from the various Belgian universities, the normal school of gymnastics of the army, the school for pupils of the army regiments, the normal school for teachers, the primary schools of Brussels and its suburbs, the city of Leuven, etc., etc.

The Ghent Vriendschap society specialises in children's competitions and events, and was responsible for organising the children's festival and the flower procession. It was a pleasure to watch the boys and girls parade.

The children's games and competitions were well attended. The flower procession showed the initiative of our Ghent horticulturists. Delightful groups of flowers, exquisite little sledges, delightful vegetable carts, colourful Japanese canopies, in short a delightful ensemble of shimmering colours, aroused the enthusiasm of the spectators of this unforgettable festival.

Small ball game. By a delicate attention of the organizing committee, the first party which took place at the sports ground was the one offered to the small ball players. This was the occasion to welcome our brothers and friends from Wallonia to the old city of the Van Artevelde family, and to show them that in Flanders we like to receive them and to see them playing their favourite game of "la petite balle".

They were very sensitive to this tribute, and their president, Mr. Victor Lechien, was keen to underline this attention and to thank the Committee.

Homogeneous teams made us witness some very disputed passes which made us admire the skill of the players.

A warm acclamation greeted the winner, who was presented with the silver ball and the trophy medals of the Ghent Exhibition; the prize went to the Paume Royale de Bruxelles, one of the most important Belgian societies.

Crossbow shooting. The old Gilde de Saint-Georges of Ghent, and its devoted dean, Mr. Frans Coppejans, did their utmost to re-establish their crossbow shooting in a delightful corner of Old Flanders. In a charming room next to the shooting range, they reconstituted the Gilde's Oath room, and exhibited their old crossbows as well as the old cups, flags and objets d'art; helped by the confreres of Saint-Roch, presided over by Mr. Verhegge, they gave a large number of well-attended meetings.

One knows the care that each shooter puts into adjusting his crossbow, the concern that he has for this real piece of goldsmithery. Only he can use it when it is adjusted and he hardly ever separates from it. This very attractive shot has many followers in Flanders. The large crossbow shoots at 32.20 and 13 metres, the small one at 6 metres. There are still about 200 crossbow groups in our country.

The inauguration of the shooting took place on the 1st of May, with a "Tir au Roi", in which Mr. De Klerck was the winner. A picturesque procession crossed Old Flanders on this occasion, in accordance with traditions. The shootings were frequent and lively; the "noble game" brought together more than 400 shooters. One of them managed to put six arrows into the centre rose in six shots.

Lawn Tennis. The "La Gantoise" athletic association was willing to take on the organisation of this branch; it had excellent courts. Thanks to the help of Mr. Solvay, honorary president, and the knight of Borman, they were able to organize interesting matches.

Unfortunately, there are so many water city tournaments in the summer that some famous players defected and the interest was thus diminished. The public became so eclectic that it only flocked to the sensational meetings. However, thanks to the large place given to handicaps, allowing good players to compete, there were, in spite of everything, a large number of good rackets competing for prizes.

Mr. G. Vanderstegen was the soul of this organisation, whose main prizes were won by the well-known Duvivier, Watson, Count Salm, Bergman and Logie.

Regattas. Regattas and the successes achieved in this category by Ghent societies are both one of the favourite pleasures and one of the prides of our citizens.

The rowing enthusiasts remember the famous teams of Artevelde, Pardaff and so many others; no one is unaware of the triumphs of Henley where our rowers made the Belgian colours shine; the nautical clubs of Ghent have formed unforgettable teams of the first order, thanks perhaps to the famous Ghent rowing stroke, which was so discussed at first and has been imitated since. Mr. Gregoire, Mr. Lippens and Mr. Verdonck are the great leaders who lead the Ghent teams to victory.

The Terdonck regattas are a popular festival in the grandiose and vast setting of the Terneuzen Canal, which no citizen of Ghent would want to miss. It is the first sports festival of the spring, the first flight of city dwellers to the countryside.

The European championships were held here; the prizes went to foreign teams from Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Holland, Italy, Russia, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and Hungary. Never were more important sports days organised for Rowing on the continent. On the eve of the races, a Congress brought together the delegates of all the countries registered with the International Rowing Federation. At the banquet where both winners and losers were present, the latter were thanked by the alderman of Weert on behalf of the City of Ghent and by the Executive Committee of the World Fair.

Archery. The old Gildes and Confraternities of Saint Sebastian, the great patron saint of archery, and the large circles practising this sport are among the most numerous societies in Belgium, in Flanders as well as in Wallonia and Northern France. Also, when the announcement was made of the major events that were to be held on the sports ground, the Central Committee received numerous registrations.

Baron de Pélichy, clerk of the Chief Royal and Knightly Confraternity of Saint-Sebastian, accepted the delicate role of chairman of the archers' sub-committee. Nearly five thousand shooters came to compete for the many prizes. These various meetings encouraged them to create a National Federation of Archers. This was founded at the Palais des fêtes on 8 October 1913.

One cannot get an idea of the skill and strength of the archers, of their habits, and of the care they put into the maintenance of their bows. They are all fetishists, believing that a detail of costume, a habit, a vein holder will make them shoot the coveted bird. All this gives the competitions an attractive and very characteristic appearance.

Firearms. As soon as a project of exhibition was announced, the firearms shooters, so numerous in our old city, showed a great desire to give a prominent place to their sport.

Their initiative was encouraged and we can affirm that shooting was one of the institutions that gathered the most members; it was also a financial success.

Surrounded by an elite committee of well-known and dedicated shooters, Mr. Van Herrewege, honorary president of the Cody Club, had a charming, practical and well-understood pavilion erected.
A shooting with the "Dragon" was crowned with great success. The most skilful shooters were awarded a reproduction of the famous dragon on top of the old belfry of Ghent as a prize.

More than 800 shooters competed in the Ghent events; there were Flobert rifle, small arms, pistol and international war weapons competitions; 1003 individual prizes and 89 group prizes were awarded; superb results were obtained by Messrs René Georges, van Aesbroeck, van den Heede, Wulleman, Loontjens, etc.

The pigeon shooting sub-commission, chaired by Mr. J. Rooman d'Ertbuer, organised very well attended meetings at the Afsné shooting range.

Equestrian sports. The organisers of this section wanted to create military endurance events which received the most precious encouragement as soon as the programme appeared. But the reorganisation of our army did not allow this idea to be followed up.

The Viscount G. de Nieulant et de Pottelsberghe, vice-president of the National Federation of the big racecourses of Belgium, supported by all the horse lovers of Ghent, and the idea was not implemented.
of Ghent, and it is known that they are numerous and competent, succeeded in organising a horse show such as one rarely sees. Officers from all over the world came to compete for the Military. The show jumping and high jump competitions were well attended. The track laid out in the Festival Palace by Lieutenant Lambin was a real marvel of good taste. The high and skilfully combined obstacles were overcome with brio. Numerous flowerbeds cast their cheerful note on this harmonious whole. France was represented on the jury by Colonel Blacque Belair, of the Saumur school.

Athletics. Under the presidency of Baron de Laveleye, president of the Belgian Olympic Committee, the athletics events were contested. The grand prize of the Ghent Exhibition was the highlight of the meeting.

Dog sports. About 1,600 dogs were presented at the dog show, admirably organised by baron van Zuylen van Nyevelt. The great effort made by the breeders of police and defence dogs was very noticeable; these breeds are very much in demand and the breeders obtain very profitable prices.

Yachting. The excellent idea of a cruise bringing together all the pleasure yachts in Ghent was very much appreciated; the inauguration of the Terneuzen canal was all the more brilliant. Charming boats from England, France, Germany and Holland joined their Belgian counterparts.

There were regattas in Zeebrugge and Terneuzen. The whole flotilla came to Ghent to celebrate the visit of King Albert.

Falconry. Viscount Le Hardy de Beaulieu, had kindly exposed in a charming showcase some specimens of falcons armed and ready to hunt.

His crew from Brève goes out three times a week, and his hunts are well attended. The falcon takes magpies, crows, etc. Nothing is more curious than to follow one of these hunts on a beautiful afternoon. The struggle of the bird against the falcon is most curious. It takes all the skill of the handler to launch the hawk and then call it back.

In general, falcons are caught quite young in the Pyrenees; they require a lot of care and their breeding is very delicate.

This brief review of sporting activity in Ghent, during the whole of the Exhibition, is symptomatic; it is only a pale reflection of an overflowing activity and a series of successes. More than ever before, Ghent was the City of Sports. It is only fair to thank all the collaborators who contributed with dedication and generosity to the greatness and success of the sports part of the Ghent Universal and International Exhibition; at the head of them we should mention the name of Albert Feyerick, dean of the Royal Confraternity and knight of Saint Michael.

©Livre d'Or de l'Exposition Universelle & Internationale de Gand 1913