Poster of the 1920 olympic gamesBelgium puts on a low-key but much praised Olympics as Europe recovers from First World War

The 1916 Olympics had been due to be held in Berlin but were cancelled due to the outbreak of the First World War. When the War was over, the 1920 Games were awarded to Belgium as a mark of respect for the ravages inflicted upon the country during the conflict.

The stadium was not completed in time due to the shortage of money and building materials; rather than a luxurious billet in the athletes' village, athletes slept in fold-down cots in an abandoned school; instead of climate-controlled coaches, they travelled to their heats and finals in a ramshackle lorry.

As the aggressors, Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary and Turkey did not receive invitations from the International Olympic Committee at the insistence of the president Baron Pierre de Coubertin and were conspicuous by their absence among the countries that paraded before His Majesty King Albert at the opening ceremony that saw the introduction of the five-ringed Olympic Flag and Athletes' Oath.

A picture has emerged of a quaint yet, given the deprivation in post-War Belgium, admirably organised Games which may have attracted few spectators owing to the cost of tickets but were contested in the true Olympic spirit and produced the first true superstar, "Flying Finn" Paavo Nurmi, winner of three gold medals, including the 10,000 metres.

But Britain had its own hero in Albert Hill, who won the 800m and 1500m - a feat that would not matched by another Briton until Kelly Holmes 84 years later. He thrived on an unusual diet. Having suffered a serious illness during the war, Hill refused to drink the Belgian water and existed on a diet of Stella Artois beer.

He defeated the great American, Earl Eby, and the notoriously hard-drinking and chain-smoking South African, Bevil Rudd, into second and third places in the 800m, then, in his fifth race in five days, romped to victory in the 1500m final. As the man from The Times observed, the previously disregarded Hill was "a runner of unbeaten courage and a great tactician to boot". Upon his return to England, Hill went straight back to his duties as a railway ticket collector in Tooting.

After winning the AAA one-mile championship the following year, Hill retired from competition to coach Sydney Wooderson, who broke the mile world record in 1937.

Among the oddities of these Games was that ice hockey was held in the summer Olympics for the only time and tug-of-war made its last appearance.

Date Games held: April 20-September 12

Number of nations represented: 29

Number of competitors: 2,668 (77 women)

Number of medal events: 154