In the Inter-Allied Games of 1919, one of the sporting events included in the games was tug-of-war. This image shows a tug-of-war competition between the United States and Italy. It was held in an arena and had what appears to be several spectators filling up the seats to watch. It was played on a dirt surface within the arena, and this image shows the American team with 9 players in view of the camera. According to the Official Athletic Almanac of the American Expeditionary Forces, 1919, the United States tug-of-war team won the Inter-Allied championship by a clean sweep of victories. The United States team beat France with a score of 2-0 in the first round of competition, beating the French in less than a minute. This photo of the United States vs. Italy was the semi-finals, which the American team went on to win 2-0 and advance to the final round. The United States also beat Belgium 2-0 in less than one minute once again, making the American tug-of-war team undefeated for the entire duration of the games and were crowned champions of the event.
In order to win a tug-of-war competition, a team must achieve 2 out of 3 “pulls” before the other. When the second mark on the rope from the red mark on the center crosses over the center line on the ground, the team that pulled the rope to their area wins. Tug-of-war was also featured in the Olympic Games around the same time as the Inter-Allied Games. This event was only played in the Olympics from 1900-1920, and the United States team won the gold metal one time in the 1904 games in St. Louis. In 1920 the Olympic Committee decided to delete several team sports from the games in an effort to reduce the number of participants, and this included the tug-of-war competition. Despite being taken out of the Olympics, tug-of-war still remained a popular competition and athletic discipline around the world. Many countries established their own Tug-of-War Associations, organizing competitions internationally. One thing that made tug-of-war so appealing to have in the Inter-Allied Games was that no matter what country the athletes were from, the rules were easy for everyone to understand and participate in. The game is played the same way across the board for every country, so it was a simple yet exciting event to have in the games. Another interesting aspect of having tug-of-war as an event in the Inter-Allied Games was that it was one of the more “warlike” events. Aside from the word “war” being right in the name of the event, the competition consists of teams made up of soldiers from two different countries competing against each other in a display of whose physical strength is greater than the other. This event and the throwing of the grenade were perhaps the two events that were considered the most uniquely warlike. The tug-of-war in the Inter-Allied games was among one of the many events that drew in many spectators, and its uncommonness likely added to its appeal among fans.
“The Online Books Page.” United States. Army. A.E.F., 1917-1919 | The Online Books Page. Ed. Col. Walt C. Johnson and Elwood S. Brown. American Sports Publishing Co., n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2017.
Terret, Thierry. The Military “Olympics” of 1919: Sport, Diplomacy, and Sport Politics of World War One. N.p.: International Society of Olympic Historians, 2006. Web.