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1950 FIG Congress

1950: The 29th FIG Congress and the Attempt to Get Rid of Pommel Horse

Do you wish that pommel horse weren’t a part of men’s artistic gymnastics? If Sweden had its way in 1950, the apparatus would be gone.

Do you wish that men would use floor music? Hungary and Poland wanted that to happen in 1950.

Do you wish that women still competed on flying rings? Well, you have several federations to blame for that.

Oh, and you have Hungary to thank for the size of today’s floor exercise.

Let’s dive into the details of the 1950 FIG Congress.

1950 FIG Congress: 1950 Men’s Technical Committee Meeting | 1950 Women’s Technical Committee Meeting | 1950 General Assembly

Additional: End-of-Year Technical Committee Meeting | Resignations | The Official Minutes

The 1950 FIG Congress

The 29th FIG Congress took place on July 11-13, with the general assembly on July 17.

The Men’s Technical Committee

Dr. Klinger of Czechoslovakia couldn’t make it to the Men’s Technical Committee meeting. More on that below.

The chair should have been Dr. Klinger (Prague), who, however, excused himself for reasons related to the country’s internal politics. The first Vice-President, Lapalu (France), also had to cancel at the last hour due to a sudden illness. And so Ernest Maurer (Switzerland), as 2nd Vice-President, and Pierre Hentgès (Luxemburg), as Secretary, shared the management of the debates and the minutes.

Den Vorsitz sollte führen Dr. Klinger-Prag, welcher sich jedoch entschuldigen liess aus Gründen, die mit der innern Politik des Landes zusammenhängen. Auch der este Vizepräsident, Lapalu-Frankreich, musste sich in letzter Stunde abmelden, wegen plötzlicher Erkrankung. Und so teilten sich in die Führung der Debatten und des Protokolis Ernest Maurer-Schweiz als 2. Vizepräsident und Pierre Hentges-Luxemburg als Sekretär.

Luxembourg’s Le Gymnaste, August 1/15, 1950

It took them a long time to prepare for the 1950 World Championships.

The first order of business was the organization of the World Championships: appointing the jury, determining the order of the teams by drawing lots, finalizing the schedule, inspection and assessment of the available equipment, scoring practice, etc. etc. All this took 6 meetings of the Executive Committee.

Die erste Arbeit war die Organisation der Weltmeisterschaft: Ernenung der Jury, Bestimmung der Reihenfolge der Sektionen durch das Los, definitive Festlegung des Studenplanes, Besichtigung und Begutachtung der zur Verfügung stehenden Geräte, Wertungsversuche usw. usw. Dies alles nahm 6 Sitzungen des Exekutivausschusses in Anspruch.

Luxembourg’s Le Gymnaste, July 1, 1950

The Olympics in Helsinki would follow a similar individual and team structure to the 1950 World Championships.

[The Helsinki Olympics] take place under the provisions of the new technical regulations, which include: Participation of full teams, as well as 1-3 individual gymnasts if a country cannot muster a full team.

Dieselben finden statt unter den Bestimmungen des neuen technischen Reglements, welches u. a. vorsieht: Beteiligung von vollen Mannschaften, sowie auch von 1–3 Einzelturnern, wenn ein Land keine volle Mannschaft aufbringen kann.

Luxembourg’s Le Gymnaste, July 1, 1950

Note: Generally speaking, prior to the 1950 World Championships, countries had to send full teams to participate. Individuals weren’t allowed to compete. (There were exceptions like the 1896 Olympics.)

Denmark wanted to add tumbling to the program, and Sweden wanted to abandon pommel horse.

A proposal by Denmark to add another exercise called “tumbling” to the competition was rejected, as was Sweden’s request to withdraw the pommel horse from the competition.

Ein Vorschlag Dänemarks, den Kämpfen noch eine weitere Uebung “Tumbling” hinzuzufügen, wurde abgelehnt, desgleichen der Antrag Schwedens, das Pauschenpferd vom Wettkampf abzusetzen.

Luxembourg’s Le Gymnaste, July 1, 1950

Tumbling was rejected by a vote of 12 to 3. The proposal to abandon pommel horse was rejected by a vote of 11 to 2.

Note #1: Tumbling was part of the program for the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.

Note #2: The desire to abandon pommel horse would resurface later in the year.

The Hungarian delegation wanted music for the men, and they wanted the floor area to be increased to 12 x 12 m, which is the size of today’s floor area.

Hungary wanted to innovate floor exercise by allowing each competing country to cover the entire floor area with their own mat. — Furthermore, the exercises for men should be able to be performed to music at will. Both were rejected with all votes against that of Hungary and Poland. — Another Hungarian proposal to increase the floor exercise area to 12×12 m was accepted.

Ungarn wollte eine Neuerung für das Bodenturnen einführen, indem es jedem konkurrierenden Lande freigestellt sein sollte, die Bodenfläche ganz mit einer eigenen Matte zu überziehen. — Ferner sollte die Freiübung für Männer nach Belieben auf Musik ausgeführt werden können, Beides wurde abgelehnt mit allen Stimmen gegen diejenige Ungarns und Polens. — Ein weiterer ungarischer Vorschlag, die für das Bodenturner zur Verfügung zu stellende Fläche auf 12×12 m zu vergrössern, wurde angenommen.

Luxembourg’s Le Gymnaste, July 1, 1950

Note #1: At the 1903 World Championships, men actually performed to music.

Note #2: While the documentation for the 1948 Olympics does not include the size of the floor exercise area, the floor was only 8 x 8 m at the 1936 Olympic Games.

Handbook of Sports Regulations, Gymnastics, XIth Olympiad, Berlin

In the 1950 General Instructions for the women, the floor area was increased to 10 x 10 m.

General Instructions, 1950 World Championships

At the 1952 Olympic Games, the floor would be 12 x 12 m, as the Hungarian delegation suggested.

Règlements, Gymnastique, XV Olympiade, Helsinki

The Soviet Union’s proposals were tabled to another time.

Various proposals from Russia had to be postponed to a later meeting because Russia had not sent any representatives and was therefore unable to explain and defend its proposals.

Verschiedene Vorschläge Russlands mussten auf eine spätere Tagung verlegt werden, weil Russland keine Vertreter entsandt hatte, mithin seine Anträge nicht erklären und verteidigen konnte.

Note: One of those proposals was to assign more difficulty values to skills. The 1949 Code of Points assigned difficulty values only to the vaults.

Russia makes suggestions for scoring the difficulty, and requires prior submission and scoring of each individual exercise. 

Russland bringt Vorschläge ein zur Wertung der Schwierigkeit, und verlangt vorheriges Einsenden und Werten jeder Einzelübung.

Luxembourg’s Le Gymnaste, July 1, 1950

The United States wanted to make the Olympic Games a competition of specialists. Everyone else disagreed.

US proposal.

According to this proposal, the gymnastics competitions at the Olympic Games would be placed on the basis of other individual competitions, such as athletics: each nation would present its best specialists to each apparatus, who would no longer be forced to perform all the events. There would therefore be first the individual classification by event, and then the classification by nations would be done by adding the points obtained in the individual classifications.

The delegate of the United States, Mr. Roy E. Moore, defends this thesis very warmly. But most delegates point out that in this way we will leave the ground of our educational principles and – on the vote – the proposal was rejected by all voices except that of the United States.

Procès-Verbaux, XXIX Congrés

The Women’s Technical Committee

Eleonora Buddeusová of Czechoslovakia could not attend the Congress, even though she was the President of the Women’s Technical Committee. More on that below.

It was also symptomatic for the meetings of the women’s committee that the president, also a Czech, Madame Buddeusová from Prague, could not be present. She was replaced as Chair of Committee meetings by Miss Taylor (England), First Vice-President. Secretary and actual conductor was Madame Villancher (France).

Für die Sitzungen der Damen-Kommission war es ebenfalls symptomatisch, dass die Präsidentin, gleichfalls eine Tschechin, Madame Buddeusova aus Prag, nicht anwesend sein konnte. Sie wurde in ihrem Amt als Vorsitzende der Kommissions Sitzungen durch Miss Taylor (England), erste Vizepräsidentin, ersetzt. Sekretärin und eigentliche dirigierende Person war Madame Villancher (Frankreich).

Note: That was the extent of Luxembourg’s coverage of the WTC meetings.

Pertaining to the Competition in Basel

During the 1950 World Championships, gymnasts had a choice of flying rings or uneven bars. Only two nations chose flying rings.

Regarding the choice of the suspension apparatus, only two nations have opted for the rings: SWEDEN AND AUSTRIA.

Concernant le chois de l’engin de suspension, deux nations seulement ont opté pour les anneaux: SUEDE ET AUTRICHE.

Procès-Verbaux, XXIX Congrés

And there wouldn’t be a deduction for going out of bounds during the individual floor exercise at the 1950 World Championships.

It is understood that there will be no penalty if, during her exercise, a gymnast slightly exceeds the 10×10 surface reserved for free-hand exercises.

Il est entendu qu’il n’y aura pas de pénalisation si, au cours de son exercice, une gymnaste dépasse légèrement la surface 10×10 réservée aux exercices à mains libres.

Procès-Verbaux, XXIX Congrés

While the following decision didn’t impact the 1950 Worlds, it’s important to note that the women’s technical committee voted to expand the size of the floor to 12 x 12 m (today’s size) for future competitions.

Ms. Herpich wanted the dimensions of the floor used for group exercises and preliminaries to be 12 by 12 in future competitions. This proposal is adopted.

Mme. Herpich désirerait que les dimensions du plancher utilisé pour les exercices d’ensemble et les préliminaires soient de 12 sur 12 dans les compétitions futures. Cette proposition est adoptée. 

Procès-Verbaux, XXIX Congrés

The following gymnasts were allowed to compete under the age of 18 because they had medical certificates:

The leaders submit the final list of gymnasts as well as the medical certificates of competitors under 18 years of age. Those are:

Melles Ackein (Poland), Scaricabarozzi (Italy), Berggren and Nordin (Sweden), Wilkowna (Poland), Kocis and Cerne (Yugoslavia)

Les montrices remettent la liste définitive des gymnastes ainsi que les certificats médicaux des concurrentes endessous de 18 ans. Ce sont:

Melles Ackein (Pologne), Scaricabarozzi (Italie), Berggren et Nordin (Suède), Wilkowna (Pologne), Kocis et Cerne (Yougoslavie)

Procès-Verbaux, XXIX Congrés

Pertaining to the 1952 Helsinki Olympics

On the Monday after the competition, the Women’s Technical Committee voted on the program for the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games.

When given a choice of competing on uneven bars or flying rings, the federations chose uneven bars.

It is decided that there will not be, as in Basel, the choice between bars and rings.

Vote for bars with different heights:

BELGIUM — HUNGARY — ITALY — YUGOSLAVIA — POLAND — CZECHOSLOVAKIA — FRANCE

For the rings:

AMERICA — FINLAND — HOLLAND — ENGLAND — SWEDEN.

Abstention by AUSTRIA.

By 7 votes against 5, the bars with different heights will appear on the Olympic program.

Procès-Verbaux, XXIX Congrés

During the men’s competition at the 1950 World Championships, countries could send full teams or 1 to 3 individual competitors.

The women also voted to allow for individual competitors in 1952.

Only the delegates of Yugoslavia and Sweden wish the participation of a team.

The other delegates present agree to admit the individual gymnasts whose number would be fixed from 1 to 3 per country.

Procès-Verbaux, XXIX Congrés

To use a tremplin élastique or a tremplin dur? They chose a tremplin dur for Helsinki.

Vote for tremplin élastique::

BELGIUM — ITALY — FINLAND — ENGLAND — SWEDEN.

For the tremplin dur:

HUNGARY — AUSTRIA — AMERICA — YUGOSLAVIA — POLAND — HOLLAND — CZECHOSLOVAKIA — FRANCE.

The tremplin dur remains on the program by 8 votes against 5.

Procès-Verbaux, XXIX Congrés

Note: If you want to learn about the different types of boards, head over to this post.

To vault on a horse with pommels or without? They chose without.

For the horse with pommels:

ITALY — HOLLAND — ENGLAND.

For the horse without pommels:

HUNGARY — AUSTRIA — YUGOSLAVIA — CZECHOSLOVAKIA — FRANCE — SWEDEN.

Horse without pommels: 6 votes against 3.

Procès-Verbaux, XXIX Congré

To compete with music for the individual floor exercise in 1952? They chose without.

The delegates of HUNGARY, CZECHOSLOVAKIA, POLAND, would like it to be accompanied by music.

SWEDEN — ITALY — FINLAND — YUGOSLAVIA — HOLLAND — AMERICA — ENGLAND — FRANCE without music.

At 8 votes against 3, the floor exercise (optional and compulsory) will be performed without music.

Procès-Verbaux, XXIX Congré

The General Assembly

Saarland and Japan were provisionally accepted.

New admissions: After lengthy discussions, Saarland was “provisional,” i.e. included in the FIG with full rights until its international status has been definitively settled. — Likewise Japan. Voting ratio: 14 against 4 and 15 against 4, respectively

Neuaufnahmen: Nach längeren Diskussionen wurde das Saarland «provisorisch», d. h. bis zur definitiven Erledigung seines internationalen Statues in die F.I.G. mit vollen Rechten aufgenommen. — Desgleichen Japan. Stimmenverhältnis: 14 gegen 4 resp. 15 gegen 4.

Luxembourg’s Le Gymnaste, July 1, 1950

Note #1: Saarland is currently a state of Germany. After World War II, though, the French military occupied the area, establishing a protectorate.

Note #2: In 1950, Japan was still occupied by the Allied Powers. When the Treaty of San Francisco was signed in September of 1951, the agreement re-established peaceful relations between Japan and the Allied Powers, legally ended the U.S. occupation of Japan, and settled obligations to pay reparations for its wartime acts. Notably, neither China nor Korea was a signatory.

Poland tried to expel Spain from the FIG.

A motion by Poland aimed at expelling “fascist Spain” from the FIG was rejected with the same proportion of votes because the FIG closed itself to all questions of a political nature in principle.

Ein Antrag Polens, hinzielend auf Ausstoss des «faschistischen Spaniens» aus der F.I.G. wurde mit dem gleichen Stimmenverhältnis ausser Diskussion gestellt, weil die F.I.G. sich prinzipiell jeder Frage politischer Natur verschliesst. 

Luxembourg’s Le Gymnaste, July 1, 1950

Note #1: When the Soviet Union first tried to join the FIG, the expulsion of Spain was one of its requests.

Note #2: Spain was under the fascist dictatorship of Francisco Franco at the time.

Note #3: Already in 1896, the FIG took a stance against politics and religion in gymnastics.

Fees were increased.

The annual contribution is increased to 200 Swiss francs.

Der jährliche Beitrag wird auf 200 Schweizer Franken erhöht. 

Luxembourg’s Le Gymnaste, July 1, 1950

Hungary requested that Russian become the official language of the FIG.

Proposal by Hungary to recognize the Russian language as the official language: In view of the technical difficulties, as well as the fact that practically everyone can speak their language in FIG meetings if they arrange for translators (e.g. the Norse had brought her own translator) the Stockholm decision to have French as the sole official language is upheld. Voting ratio 14/4

Vorschlag Ungarns, die russische Sprache als offizielle Sprache anzuerkennen: Angesichts der technischen Schwierigkeiten, sowie auch des Umstandes, dass in den F.I.G.-Sitzungen praktisch genommen ein Jeder seine Sprache reden kann, falls er für Uebersetzer sorgt (so hatten z. b. die Norländer ihren eigenen Uebersetzer mitgebracht) wird der Stockholmer Beschluss aufrecht erhalten, das Französische als alleinige offizielle Sprache gelten zu lassen. Stimmenverhältnis 14/4

Luxembourg’s Le Gymnaste, July 1, 1950

Note: This was one of the requests of the Soviet Union when it first tried to join the FIG.


The End-of-the-Year Technical Committee Meetings

The Technical Committees met in Brussels at the end of 1950. The compulsory routines for the 1952 Helsinki Olympics were the main topic of conversation.

There were proposals from four countries: Finland, France, Hungary and Switzerland. Finland and Switzerland had each sent a gymnast ([Kaino] Lempinen and [Josef] Stalder), who took turns doing the individual exercises and exercise parts. The agreement was reached in an objective way, with everyone trying to find the best solution. In general, the difficulty has been reduced somewhat, but without leaving the level that a world championship deserves. However, according to the regulations, the exercises can only be published at a later date.

Lagen Vorschläge aus vier Ländern vor: Finnland, Frankreich, Ungarn und Schweiz. Finnland und Schweiz hatten je einen Turner entsandt (Lempinnen und Stalder), welche abwechseind die einzelnen Uebungen und Uebungsteile turnten. Die Einigung geschah auf objektive Art, indem man sich allerseits bemühte, die beste Lösung zu finden. Im allgemeinen ist die Schwierigkeit etwas vermindert worden, ohne jedoch das Niveau zu verlassen, welches einer Weltmeisterschaft gebührt. Die Veröffentlichung der Übungen kann aber erst, reglementsgemáss, an einem späteren Datum erfolgen.

Luxembourg’s Le Gymnaste, January 15, 1951

Reduce the team sizes? Abolish pommel horse? Abolish compulsories? All those topics were discussed, and no decisions were reached.

A number of general issues were then discussed in a special session. The priority was the long-standing issue of simplifying the championship program. Various proposals (the Committee could not agree on any) were shelved for the next plenary session, which is likely to be held in Florence in May. 1) Proposal to abolish all compulsory exercises; 2) proposal to abolish pommel horse exercises; 3) Reduction of teams to 5-6 men instead of 6-8 as before. — It is characteristic of Helsinki that the elastic springboard was again replaced by the hard one for technical reasons. — The meetings were chaired by Ernest Maurer (Switzerland), Vice-President; Pierre Hentges acted as secretary.

In einer besonderen Sitzung wurden dann eine Reihe von allgemeinen Fragen erörtert. Im Vordergrund stand die seit langer Zeit akute Frage einer Vereinfachung des Meisterschaftsprogramms. Verschiedene Vorschläge (die Kommission konnte sich auf keinen einigen) wurden zur nächsten Plenarsitzung, welche wahrscheinlich im Mai in Florenz stattfinden wird, zurückgestellt. 1) Vorschlag zur Abschaffung sämtlicher Pflichtübungen; 2) Vorschlag zur Abschaffung der Uebungen am Pauschenpferd; 3) Reduzierung der Mannschaften auf 5–6 Mann, statt wie bisher auf 6–8. — Bezeichnend für Helsinki ist, dass das elastische Sprungbrett aus Gründen technischer Art wieder durch das harte ersetzt wurde. — Den Vorsitz bei den Besprechungen führte Ernest Maurer (Schweiz), Vizepräsident; Pierre Hentges amtierte als Sekretär.

Luxembourg’s Le Gymnaste, January 15, 1951

Note #1: If you don’t know what a “hard board” or “tremplin dur” is, head over to this post.

Note #2: This wasn’t the first time that the Men’s Technical Committee contemplated removing compulsory routines from the program. At the 1935 F.I.G. Congress, for example, the topic came up. Here’s what the Polish federation’s publication recorded:

The technical committee discussed the competition regulations, which will already apply at next year’s Olympic competitions. They made the final redaction of the compulsory exercises for the Olympic competitions, and discussed projects, the first of which aimed at introducing only optional exercises, and the second — limiting vault to be either compulsory or optional; These conclusions were not taken into account and the current form of competitive exercises was retained: compulsory and optional.

Komisja techniczna omówiła regulamin zawodów, który obowiązywać już będzie na przyszłorocznych zawodach olimpijskich, dokonała ostatecznej redakcji obowiązkowych ćwiczeń na zawody olimpijskie, oraz przedyskutowała projekty, z których pierwszy dążył do wprowadzenia tylko dowolnych ćwiczeń wolnych, a drugi — do ograniczenia, by przeskok przez konia był tylko obowiązkowy lub dowolny; wniosków tych nie uwzględniono i pozostawiono dotychczasowy sposob ćwiczeń zawodniczych: obowiązkowych i dowolnych.

Dodatek Techniczny do Przewodnika Gimnastycznego “Sokół” 1935 11.10

The women finalized the program for the Olympics.

The women had similar problems to solve. The Olympic competition program is as follows: Compulsory exercises in free exercise (floor exercise), beam, uneven bars, vault (hard [board]), optional exercises in the same disciplines; also a group exercise in rhythmic gymnastics with hand apparatus of your choice and to music of your choice. Further progress was made on the issue of standardizing the rules of competition for women and men. — The women met under the chairmanship of Miss [Winifred] Taylor (England), Vice-President, Madame [Berthe] Villancher (France), Secretary.

Die Frauen hatten ähnliche Problem zu lösen. Das olympische Wettkampfprogramm ist das folgende: Pflicht in Freiübung (Bodenturnen), Balken, Barren ungleich, Sprungpferd (hart), Kür in denselben Disziplinen; ferner eine Gruppenübung in rhythmischer Gymnastik mit Handgeräten nach Wahl und auf Musik nach Wahl. In der Frage der Vereinheitlichung der Wettkampfregeln für Frauen und Männer wurde ein weiterer Fortschritt erzielt. — Die Frauen tagten unter dem Vorsitz von Miss Taylor (England), Vizepräsidentin, Mme Villancher (Frankreich), Sekretärin.

Luxembourg’s Le Gymnaste, January 15, 1951

Klinger and Buddeusová were absent again. As were the Hungarian delegates.

One regrets that the political situation was inhibiting joint work within the International Gymnastics Federation. Once again the president Dr. Klinger (Czechoslovakia), Member Zoltán Dückstein (Hungary) and, for women, President Madame Buddeusová (Czechoslovakia) and Hungarian Madame Herpich. First Vice-President Claude Lapalu (France) died last summer, as is known. And so, the two executive committes have thus become a veritable rump parliament, but hopes are that the unpleasant situation can be rectified at the forthcoming plenary session, at least before the Olympic Games.

Man bedauerte einmal mehr, dass die politische Lage sich hemmend auf das gemeinsame Schaffen innerhalb des Int. Turnverbandes auswirkt. Wieder einmal fehlte bei den Männern der Präsident Dr. Klinger (Tschechoslowakei), das Mitglied Zoltan Dückstein (Ungarn) und bei den Frauen ebenfalls die Präsidentin Mme Buddeusova (Tschechoslowakei), sowie die Ungarin Mme Herpich. Erster Vizepräsident Claude Lapalu (Frankreich) ist wie bekannt im vergangenen Sommer gestorben, und so sinde die beiden Exekutiv-Ausschüsse zu einem wahren Rumpfparlament geworden, aber man hofft, auf der demnächstigen Plenarsitzung, jedenfalls noch vor den Olympischen Spielen, die unerquickliche Lage bereinigen zu können.

Luxembourg’s Le Gymnaste, January 15, 1951

Note: Long-time readers of this site might know Madame Herpich as Valerie Nagy, the one who was judging rhubarb at the 1968 Olympics instead of watching Čáslavská’s beam routine.


The Resignations of Klinger and Buddeusová

As we saw above, the presidents of both the Men’s and Women’s Technical Committees were absent from these meetings.

It is reported that Dr. Klinger and Madame Buddeusová, Presidents of the Technical Committees (men and women) of the FIG in agreement with the Czechoslovak Sokol Union, have sent in their letters of resignation to the President of the FIG. We know that both of them have only been able to attend the international meetings very irregularly in recent years, but have not been able to attend them at all since the Stockholm meeting in August 1949. Much has been made of these abnormal abstentions, some citing illness, some professional, some even political reasons as the cause. The situation in the FIG Technical Committee had become downright unsustainable, especially since the 1st Vice President Claude Lapalu (France) has meanwhile died.

Dr. Klinger is regarded internationally as a technical authority of the first rank. The writer of these lines has known him for several decades, already as a gymnast, later as a technical leader (Moniteur général or General Leader) of the Sokols, as which he led the Sokol Festival and the World Championships in Prague in 1938. For many years he was a member of the technical committee of the FIG, of which he took over the presidency, succeeding the unforgettable Alphonse Huguenin. In 1930 he was leader of the Sokols at the FIG Tournament in Luxembourg.

Madame Buddeusová was also very respected by the gymnasts. Internationally, she first came to prominence in London, when she succeeded Madame Provazníková as the president of the technical committee. Madame Provazníková had resigned of her own accord and had not returned to Czechoslovakia since the London days. Madame Buddeusová was still in Luxembourg in 1949 on the occasion of the international technicians’ conference at the time of our anniversary celebrations.

One reluctantly sees the two of them leaving their posts, and one very much hopes to see them at work again in the future. In any case, the step they took of their own accord is to their credit insofar as their resignation did much to clarify an awkward situation within the FIG.

Es verlautet dass Dr. Klinger und Mme Buddeusova, Präsident und Präsidentin der technischen Kommissionen (Männer und Frauen) der F. I. G. im Einverständnis mit dem tschechoslowakischen Sokolverband, dem Präsidenten der F.I.G. ihr Demissionsschreiben eingesandt haben. Wir wissen, dass beide im letzten Jahren nur sehr unregelmässig, seit der Tagung von Stockholm im August 1949 aber überhaupt nicht mehr den internationalen Sitzungen beiwohnen konnten.Es wurde viel um diese anormalen Enthaltungen gedeutelt, indem man teils Krankheit, teils professionelle, teils gar politische Gründe als Ursache annahm. Die Lage in der techn. F.I.G. Kommission war geradezu unhaltbar geworden, besonders seit der 1. Vizepräsident Claude Lapalu-Frankreich inzwischen gestorben ist.

Dr. Kliner gilt im internationalen Lager als technische Autorität ersten Ranges. Der Schreiber dieser Zeilen kennt ihn seit manchem Jahrzehnt, schon als Turner, später als technischer Führer (Moniteur général) der Sokols, als welcher er das Sokolfest und die Weltmeisterschaften in Prag 1938 leitete. In der F.I.G. gehörte er seit langen Jahren der technischen Kommission an, deren Präsidium er als Nachfolger des unvergesslichen Alph. Huguenin übernahm. Er leitete die Turnerkämpfe der Olympiade 1948, blieb aber der Weltmeisterschaft in Basel, wie bereits oben besprochen, fern. 1930 war er Moniteur der Sokols auf dem F.I.G. Turnier in Luxemburg.

Auch Madame Buddeusova war bei den Turnerinnen sehr geachtet. International trat sie zum ersten Male in den Vordergrund in London, als sie die Nachfolge von Madame Provaznikowa in der technischen Präsidentschaft der Turnerinnen übernahm. Mme Provaznikowa war aus eigenem Antrieb zurückgetreten und kehrte seit den Londoner Tagen auch nicht mehr zur Tschechoslowakei zurück. Mme Buddeusova weilte noch 1949 in Luxemburg gelegentlich der Internationalen Techniker-Tagung zur Zeit unsers Jubiläumsfestes.

Man sieht die Beiden nur ungern von ihrem Posten scheiden und hofft sehr, sie später wieder einmal am Werke zu sehen. Jedenfalls ist ihnen ihr aus eigenem Antrieb erfolgter Schritt insofern hoch anzurechnen, als ihre Entsagung viel zur Klärung einer misslichen Situation innerhalb der F.I.G. beiträgt.

Pierre Hentgès in Luxembourg’s Le Gymnaste, Feb. 1, 1951

Reminder: 

  • In February of 1948, communists took over the Czechoslovak government. 
  • During the Czechoslovak gymnastics festival in 1948, many Sokol gymnasts defied the communist government by cheering for Edvard Beneš, the previous leader of Czechoslovakia. 
  • As a result, the government cracked down on the Sokol leadership.
  • One of the targets was reportedly Marie Provazníková, who was the President of the Women’s Technical Committee of the FIG at the time.
  • Provazníková defected at the London Olympics, and Eleonora Buddeusová became president of the WTC. (More here)

A Bit More Historical Context

Czechoslovakia was in a state of extreme surveillance at the time.

Efforts to collect general information on the population were evident also after the Communist takeover of power in Czechoslovakia in February 1948. From the middle of 1948, information was gathered through secret police units, the “instructors,” who assessed the loyalty, reliability, and competence of party members and state officials. A campaign of mass arrests of “asocial elements” in October 1948 saw broad, sweeping arrests directed against those from certain social and political groups, including former members of nonCommunist political parties, former state employees, citizens from socially marginal groups, or those who were undisciplined in the workplace. A party verification campaign from the end of 1948 compiled information about party members’ political affiliations, class backgrounds, and social connections. An operation called T-43 in October 1949 explicitly targeted class enemies, granting broad powers to the police to detain thousands of citizens from potentially hostile categories, such as members of non-Communist political parties, wealthy citizens, and asocial groups (the “work shy,” unemployed, prostitutes, or those who came to work late). The centralized card catalog later used by the State Security (Státní bezpečnost, or StB) in actions such as “Operation ˇ B,” in which class enemies were removed from cities, was compiled during the T-43 campaign. In early 1950, instructions were issued on “planning operative work,” which signaled a shift toward an increased use of informers in operations. In June 1950, regional offices reported wide discrepancies in the numbers of informers they recruited. The office of Prague reported 75; Ceské Budějovice, 78; Plzeň, 1,135; Karlovy Vary, 679; and Hradec Králové,  28. By August 1950, 11,019 citizens were registered with the Czechoslovak Ministry of National Security (Ministerstvo národní bezpečnosti, o MNB), a far smaller percent of the population than the informers registered in Poland.

Molly Pucci, “The Anatomy of Stalinist Police States: Blanket Surveillance Networks in Communist Czechoslovakia and Poland, 1949–1952”

Party purges and secret police were common across the Eastern Bloc.

Transnational exchanges were important during the period of high Stalinism and the party purges as well as the era of national roads to socialism. The Czechoslovaks traveled to Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary in April 1949 to study training programs there. They returned to Prague with training materials that captured the new political vocabulary of the age, including lectures on the “kulak question,” “building socialism in the countryside,” and the “dictatorship of the proletariat.” The Soviets used other countries of the Eastern Bloc to exert pressure toward political conformity on Czechoslovakia and force them to adopt the vocabulary of Stalinist terror, noting in 1949 that the Czechoslovaks were expected to adopt a term they had learned from the Polish Communists (“rootless cosmopolitanism”) “to a Czechoslovak reality.” This term constituted a crucial part of the anti-intellectual campaign sweeping through the Soviet Union at the time and underpinned the violence that removed old Communists, particularly intellectuals, from power between 1949 and 1951. 

Molly Pucci, “Translating the State: Czechoslovakia’s Search for the Soviet Model of the Secret Police, 1945–52”

My Thought Bubble: The world was in a state of flux, and, as this post has illustrated, the political chaos and tensions of the time spilled over into the meetings of the FIG.


The Official Minutes (Procés-Verbaux)

Thanks to Hardy Fink for supplying these minutes.

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