12th August 2012. Austerity Olympics.
The Olympic Games in ancient Greece were part of the Panhellenic celebrations in honour of Zeus which included the Pythian, Nemean and Isthmian Games.
Today a Sunday in 2012 the XXXth Olympiad closed in the Olympic Stadium Hackney, London with Team GB against all expectations coming third in the medal list after the US and China.
Opening ceremony 1948.
It was different in the hurriedly arranged, post-war, London Games of 1948, which cost only £70,000, and the first Olympics since those of 1936 in Berlin.
German POW.s were employed in constructing the Olympic Way to Wembley Stadium which was ironic in that neither Germany nor indeed Japan were invited, and The Soviets refused to participate. However Italy who had joined the Allies after Mussolini’s demise was included.
After the war the Labour Government saw the boost to the nation which the Olympics would bring, but in this age of austerity a British National Serviceman in a letter to the Daily Telegraph wrote that troops were sent to Wembley from Devizes in a bid to increase attendance.
There was no ‘razzmatazz’ with just a formal opening ceremony by the King at Wembley, no custom built stadia, existing grounds and venues around London being used, and athletes were housed in army camps whilst females used colleges.
Cinders for the track came from Leicester, athletes provided their own food with competing nations providing their own. Much gym equipment was sourced abroad and embarrassingly the Union Flag went missing until Roger Bannister retrieved one from his car; but no drug scandals or worries about terrorism.(1)
Britain’s priorities in 1948 were focused on other matters than sport with food and other rationing, infrastructure requiring rebuilding and a massive war debt.
There was little media ‘hype’, but at least the Games were the first to be televised to the few thousand having a set around London.
(1) Bannister was to run the mile in less than 4 minutes in 1953.
The Empire Pool provided the first covered venue for swimming, with boxing taking place on a floating ring.
The first Starting Blocks were seen at the 1948 Games.
One innovation of the London 1912 Games was an art competition in 5 categories at the Victoria and Albert Museum, but 1948 was to be the last time this was held, as the artists being professional, went against the spirit of amateurism.
Medals awarded for this aren’t included in official records.
Daily Mail. 1948 Games Pics of opening and signage. Tom Goodenough 21.7.2012/Getty Images.
History of Athletics in Britain-Sport, Ancient and modern Athletics.British History Online.
bbc.co.uk/News/Wembley Way built by Germans. Mike Thompson.15.3.2010.