By Philip Barker

Philip BarkerThe city of Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina has sweet and bitter memories for the Olympic Movement. In 1984, the XIV Winter Games proved a fortnight of tremendous charm and wonderful sport. Tragically, civil war soon ravaged the city and at the 1994 Lillehammer Games, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Juan Antonio Samaranch was forced to make a plea for peace at the Opening Ceremony.

Happily, tranquillity has now returned to the region but the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo, had unleashed World War One, the most terrible conflict the world had ever seen. Tomorrow marks the centenary of when Great Britain declared war on Germany, with fighting continuing until the November 11, 1918 - Armistice Day. Millions died, many were sportsmen and at least 160 had competed in the Olympic Games.

Hungarian fencer Béla Zulawszky was killed in action in Sarajevo itself. He had won silver in the sabre at the London Olympics of 1908 at the age of 39. A career soldier in the army of the Austro Hungarian Empire, he had reached the rank of captain and was killed in action a day after his birthday in October 1914. His team mate Béla Békessy also died on the front in 1916. He had competed in foil, epee and sabre at the Stockholm 1912 Games where he had won the silver medal.

Strangely, although hostilities had begun, domestic sport still took place in many countries as if nothing had happened. In England, Lord Roberts and the famous cricketer WG Grace both expressed their unhappiness with this situation. In Australia there was still a wish that "earnest efforts be made for proper representation at the Olympic Games in Berlin".

By the following spring, attitudes had changed. In England, so many of the crowd wore military uniform at the FA Cup final when Sheffield United beat Chelsea that the match was dubbed the "Khaki Cup Final". Soon the only sport to be seen was at schoolboy level or between military teams as many sporting installations were pressed into service as processing stations for military recruitment. Sportsmen were encouraged to set an example and special regiments of sportsmen were set up. The England rugby international Edgar Mobbs famously led a battalion from the sport. In Australia, the YMCA held a patriotic appeal to provide sporting facilities for those serving in the armed forces. Souvenir medallions bore the inscription "The Greater Game Fund".

Even IOC President Baron Pierre de Coubertin signed up for the French army and stood down from the leadership of the Olympic Movement for the duration.

"I do not think it is right that our committee should be led by a soldier," he said.

A few months before he had asked: "Will war someday shatter the Olympic framework?"

The Swiss Godefroy de Blonay took interim charge for the duration of hostilities and the headquarters of the Olympic Movement moved to Switzerland.

Coubertin later revealed that he had intended to step down permanently from his role as IOC President in 1917 but changed his mind because as he put it "the captain does not leave the bridge of his ship during a storm".

In 1916, he wrote to the IOC members.

"I ask you to give your confidence and support. We have restored an ancient not a short-lived tradition. However terrible the present upheavals may be, the course of history cannot be interrupted and Olympism has gone down in history."

It had been planned that Berlin would host the Olympics in 1916. A stadium had been opened by Kaiser Wilhelm in the summer of 1913. The celebratory displays were rather militaristic in tone.

When war broke out Coubertin wrote: "The Germans, who at that time believed in a rapid and sure victory, did not ask to be relieved of the Olympic mandate." Even so, he later recalled that "barely two weeks had passed since the invasion of Belgium when I first received proposals for transferring the games."

Coubertin resisted moves from the United States and Scandinavia, fearful that it would "risk subsequent cracks in Olympic unity without any advantage for anyone."

In the meantime, the IOC lost one of their members to the conflict. Baron Karl von Venningen Ullner Von Diepurg had been a Prussian cavalry officer. A member of the IOC since 1909, he had been recalled to military service at the age of 48 and died in France in the first autumn of the war.

Eventually it was decided that the Berlin Games could not take place but as Coubertin reminded his members: "An Olympiad may fail to be celebrated; its number remains." To this day Berlin 1916 is listed in the record books as the Games of the Sixth Olympiad. The stadium was used instead for war competitions. In Sweden and the Netherlands, national "Olympic" events were staged during the war years. Both nations were neutral in the conflict.

Swimmer Cecil Healy, a gold medal winner in the 1912 freestyle relay, died at the Somme ©Hulton ArchiveSwimmer Cecil Healy, a gold medal winner in the 1912 freestyle relay, died at the Somme ©Hulton Archive

Some had their doubts that things could ever be the same again. Sir Theodore Cook had been a senior member of the 1908 Organising Committee. He spoke of "complicated perils to the true spirit of sport. It seemed to me that sport with Germany as a comrade had become impossible." Cook had been an IOC member since 1909 but now stood down. Coubertin was critical of British public opinion, which he said, "showed itself for the first time lacking in moderation and level headedness."

Coubertin remained hopeful that normality would return by 1920 and had already received overtures from the French city of Lyons and Antwerp in Belgium.

In the meantime, the toll at the front continued to mount. The great Australian swimmer Cecil Healy was one of the casualties. A gold medal winner in the 1912 freestyle relay. He might well have won individual gold in the 100m freestyle. His only realistic challenger, the great American Duke Kahanamoku and his team mates did not arrive in time to take part in the semi-final. Healy intervened and an account published in 1916 told how he "strongly urged the Australian representative to insist that the Americans being given an opportunity to compete in a special semi-final, insisting that it would be unsportsmanlike to bar their entry."

Healy had been a lifeguard with the Manly Surf Club and was decorated for his bravery in the surf. In wartime, he served with the 19th Sportsmen's battalion of the Australian Imperial Forces and died at the Somme.

Runner Wyndham Halswelle died in action in 1915 after winning 400 metres gold at the 1908 London Olympics ©Hulton ArchiveRunner Wyndham Halswelle died in action in 1915 after winning 400 metres gold at the 1908 London Olympics ©Hulton Archive

Runner Wyndham Halswelle had been born in London of Scottish heritage. He had demonstrated his talent over one lap in military competitions when he served in South Africa during the Boer War. Commissioned as a second lieutenant, his talent was identified by Jimmy Curran and when he returned home, he became one of the finest Army athletes of all time. In London at the 1908 Games, he became Olympic champion. The way he did it went into the annals as one of the strangest episodes in Olympic history.

He qualified for the four-man final where he found himself up against three Americans, among them one John Carpenter.

The race proved to be a rough one and Halswelle later wrote: "Carpenter's elbow undoubtedly touched my chest, for as I moved outwards to pass him he did likewise, keeping his right arm in front of me. In this manner he bored me across quite two thirds of the track, and entirely stopped my running. When about thirty to forty yards from the tape, I saw the officials holding up their hand so slowed up, not attempting to finish all out."

Carpenter was disqualified and his American team mates pulled out in solidarity with him. Halswelle ran the one lap on his own in a very creditable 50 seconds to take the gold.

He received his prize from Queen Alexandra, but was said to have become very disillusioned and quit the sport shortly afterwards. He rarely talked about his athletics career. By the time the First World War began, he had risen to the rank of captain and was wounded in France. He returned to action and in 1915, his life was ended by a sniper's bullet in Neuve Chapelle.

Tony Wilding, who had won Wimbledon every year from 1909 to 1913, died in Neuve Chapelle ©WikipediaTony Wilding, who had won Wimbledon every year from 1909 to 1913, died in Neuve Chapelle ©Wikipedia

Tony Wilding was another casualty in Neuve Chapelle. A New Zealander, he had been the supreme tennis player in the immediate pre-war years. He won Wimbledon every year from 1909 to 1913. He also played in the Olympic tournament in Stockholm where he took bronze. He was a popular figure because of his "manly brand of tennis".

This was an era when many University men excelled in mainstream sport. The Magdalene College four from Oxford University won Olympic gold at Henley in 1908. The quartet seemed destined for great things but two of them perished in the war.

John Robert Somers-Smith lost his life on the first day of the battle of the Somme. His crew mate Duncan Mackinnon was killed in 1917.

The sport of rowing was particularly hit. At 18, Canadian Geoffrey Taylor had been the youngest oarsman at the 1908 Olympic regatta. A member of the Argonaut Rowing Club he won two bronze medals. Yet within seven years he had died at Ypres. His name is on the Menin Gate Memorial.

The German Fritz Bartholomae won bronze alongside his brother in the eight at the 1912 Games in Stockholm but was killed in the second year of the war.

Hanns Braun was a runner who embodied Coubertin's ideals of excellence in sport complemented by achievement in other fields. A sculptor who had studied in Munich and Berlin, he won 800 metres bronze behind American Mel Sheppard at the 1908 London Games and was part of the German team which won silver in the team relay. His form over one lap was truly impressive and as a stylist he won many plaudits and the nickname the "Soundless one". He won the German championship three times in the build up to Stockholm and it took an Olympic record by Charles Reidpath to beat him.

Braun's war was fought in the air and tragically he was killed in a mid air collision barely a month before the armistice. His name is still revered in German Olympic circles. The 1936 Berlin Olympic Park had a street named after him and a bridge at Munich's Olympic complex also bears his name.

Stockholm 1912 5,000 metres silver medallist Jean Bouin (right) lost his life during World War One ©WikipediaStockholm 1912 5,000 metres silver medallist Jean Bouin (right) lost his life during World War One ©Wikipedia

In Paris, the Stade Jean Bouin pays tribute to a great French middle distance runner. As a youngster, he had excelled in everything but athletics. Eventually though, his true talent was revealed and he was chosen for the 1908 London Games. He was knocked out in the heat of the 1,500m but was part of the French squad for the three-mile team race. Unfortunately, he became involved in a fight in a bar on the eve of the race and spent the night in a police cell. He was released too late to take part in the final.

His talent became clear over the next four years in the build up to the Stockholm Games. He dominated the International Cross Country Championships. He found himself up against the great Finnish runner Hannes Kolehmainen. Their race over 5,000m has gone into the annals of athletics. The official Olympic report for 1912 described it as "the most interesting, the severest and probably the finest long distance race ever seen."

Within two years, Bouin had enlisted in the conflict and although the exact circumstances of his death remain a mystery, it is thought that he was killed by a grenade.

Great Britain's football team won the gold medal at the 1912 Games in Stockholm, a tournament played in the heat of summer. Joseph Dines was a schoolmaster who played in all three matches. When war came he volunteered along with his two brothers. When he was posted to the front he survived only 11 days.

Russian Andrei Akimov played in the tournament and lost his life at some stage in 1916 and German player Hermann Bosch also perished.

Isaac Bentham from Wigan in the North West of England was part of the all-conquering British water polo team at the 1912 Games in Stockholm. His opponents in that tournament included Belgium's Herman Donners who was killed at Calais in 1915.

The war devastated families. Sprinter Arthur Emilius David Anderson of Great Britain competed in the 100m and 200m at the Stockholm Olympics. He was decorated with the Distinguished Service Order and the Military Cross. His younger brother Laurie was a hurdler at those Games but he went out after a fall in the semi-finals. He was only 25 when he died at Ypres in the first year of the war.

The Chavasse brothers both competed in the 400m at the 1908 Olympics and both answered the call of their country. Christopher Maude Chavasse was ordained and served as a chaplain. He was decorated with the Military Cross. His brother Noel won the highest British award for gallantry, the Victoria Cross, but died at Ypres in 1917. He was posthumously awarded a bar, the equivalent of a second Victoria Cross.

Noel Chavasse won the highest British award for gallantry, the Victoria Cross ©Hulton ArchiveNoel Chavasse won the highest British award for gallantry, the Victoria Cross ©Hulton Archive

Two American brothers competed in the tennis at the 1904 St Louis Games. The older of the two, Joseph Wear was knocked out in the men's doubles semi-final. Arthur Yancey Wear four years his junior partnered Clarence Gamble to the silver medal. During the war, he commanded a battalion and refused treatment for an ulcer. He died only five days before the armistice was announced.

It was not only athletes who suffered. Lord Desborough, the organisational genius behind the London 1908 Games lost his sons Julian and Billy within a few months of one another. Both were killed in action.

The IOC did not meet again until 1919.

It gathered in the Hotel Beau Séjour in Lausanne where they decided "as a unanimous tribute to Belgium" to choose them as host city for the 1920 Olympics.

British official Theodore Cook for one was highly critical of this decision. "Celebrating the Olympic Games at Antwerp was one of the most fatal strokes ever given to the movement. Neither the Organising Committee nor the competing visitors were really ready for such an effort so soon after the horrors of war," he wrote. Antwerp was beset by financial problems and never did find the money to produce an official report of the Games.

The Prince of Wales lays a wreath to the fallen at the 1924 Paris Olympics ©Philip BarkerThe Prince of Wales lays a wreath to the fallen at the 1924 Paris Olympics ©Philip Barker

Many teams included a contingent who paraded in military uniform and the new members of the IOC included soldiers such as Sir John Hanbury-Williams of Canada and Brigadier-General Reginald Kentish in Great Britain. Kentish had been involved with the military Games held in 1919 and had a distinguished career in the Olympic Movement over the next decade.

The teams that marched included only the victorious powers. Germany and Austro-Hungary were among those excluded.

The acts of remembrance continued in 1924 when many teams visited the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The Prince of Wales even laid a wreath in tribute.

The previous year, a stadium in California dedicated to remembering the fallen had opened. In 1932, the Olympic Games took place in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Philip Barker has worked as a television journalist for 25 years. He began his career with Trans World Sport, then as a reporter for Sky Sports News and the ITV breakfast programme. A regular Olympic pundit on BBC Radio, Sky News and talkSPORT, he is associate editor of the Journal of Olympic History, has lectured at the National Olympic Academy and contributed extensively to Team GB publications. To follow him on Twitter click here.