Great Olympic Cities-London
The Olympic Park in Stratford, East London is all set to host the 2012 Olympic Games, there are 9 purpose built stadiums where the hub of the action will focus on the brand new Olympic Stadium, which will hold the prestigious athletics events as well as the opening and closing ceremonies.
London will actually become the first city to host the Olympics on three occasions. The previous Olympic celebrations hosted by London in 1908 an 1948 were to prove both groundbreaking and exceptional in their own right.
White City 1908
London had been chosen to hold the fourth modern Olympic games after the devastating eruption of Vesuvius in 1906 which ruined the Italian economy and Rome's impressive effort to stage the games.
Boxing and football were held in the autumn, but the centre of the celebrations were at the superb White City Stadium which housed both the athletics track and swimming pool.
The expertise of the British at running sporting events meant that the London games were on a scale yet to be envisaged at the games.The number of sports had increased to 21 and for the first time gold medals were awarded to the winners.As usual the natural excitement and tension of the Olympics would make way for drama and controversy.
It was an exceptionally hot July afternoon, and the first marathon to be ran over 26 miles and 385 yards, (the distance run at every championship today) had 56 cosmopolitan men at the Windsor Castle start.
An incredible 250,000 lined the route and watched a fast early pace set by Britons Price and Lord.South African Charlie Heffernan took the lead at the half way mark, and with two miles to go the brave and plucky Italian Dorando Pietri found himself in front.
As the exhausted runner entered the stadium he turned right instead of left and collapsed in a heap on the track . The little man continued to fall several times as he tottered on. He was eventually helped over the finish line by officials and doctors, with the sympathetic crowd willing him to win each time he regained his feet.
Disqualification was inevitable and the winning medal was awarded to John Hayes of the USA.But it was Dorando's marathon,and he will be better remembered than the winner as he received a special cup from Queen Alexandra accompanied by thunderous cheers from the enthusiastic spectators.
The diversity of sports meant that Britain produced a clean sweep of medals in yachting,lawn tennis, rowing and polo.Archery and cycling also proved fruitful, and the British overwhelmingly won the most medals. It was the USA who won the most athletics events, and even then, these were the most important.
The1908 games were a huge success and the highly competent organisation and excellent production, brought faith back to The Olympic ideal after the disappointing 1904 St Lois Games.
London would have hosted the 1944 Games but for the war, and the IOC anxious to stage the games in 1948 realised London was the best choice.
Still rebuilding after six years of war it had to be "make the best of what we have." Wembley was used as the main stadium with a temporary cinder track layed for the athletics. The Empire stadium for swimming and boxing ,Earls Court and Harringay Arena were put to use with Henley staging the rowing events.The Olympic Village as such consisted of converted schools and military barracks . It became known as the Austere Games, with the main source of nutrition coming from home grown foods and Horlicks.
There were a record 4,000 competitors, and also a record number of women taking part.Many Wembley spectators were to witness a stunning all round performance from a female athlete by the name of Fanny Blankers-Koen.
She had previously competed in the 1936 Berlin Games and after marrying her coach Jan Blankers, the 30 year old Dutch house wife arrived in London to compete in four events.
Fanny won Gold medals in the 80 metres hurles.100 metres. 200 metres and spearheaded the dutch team to a 4 x 100 metres victory. It was tough for Fanny as she almost quit over stressful homesickness battle, as she missed her children,but the record books show the incredible Fanny ran in 12 heats and finals and won them all! The Flying Dutch Housewife also held the world records for the long jump and high jump at this time.
London on-lookers at Wembley Stadium were soon to realise they had seen the greatest all-round sportswoman ever.
The USA took most gold medals overall,35 including 11 on the track and the basketball again, held for just the second time The home nation won their share of traditional medals, but British athletics had reached it lowest, with the blame put on the lack of facilities.
Overall the British had good reason to be proud of their organization of the Games and even made a small profit. They proved The Olympic spirit had survived the war and the games could move forward to more majestic and grander times.
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