The First Post War Olympics - 1948 London

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In the aftermath of World War II The IOC decided that the games would be a focal point of bringing nations together again. As London had been selected to host the cancelled 1944 games, it was decided to offer them the games. Despite being offered the games at short notice, London accepted the offer and set about organising the venues and logistical problems that hosting an Olympic Games entailed.

With less than two years planning to get the games ready, it was a feat in itself that the games were ready in time. The budget that was allocated to host the games was £600,000 quite a small sum in comparison to the games of today that cost Billions of Pounds to stage.

In 1948 large parts of the city of London lay in ruins, and rubble strewn streets were still a common site. Food rationing was still in force and building materials were in short supply. Contingency plans were made, and it was decided the games would be held with no new venues or athletes village being built.

The wartime spirit that had developed was in great evidence as the participating nations rallied round to make the games a success. Elite athletes were housed in barracks that had been used by the Armed forces and Prisoners of War. College and school dormitories, and even private houses were used to accommodate the athletes from visiting nations.

There were no fancy facilities for the competing athletes either. Each athlete was allocated a share of a locker, a mirror and a water bottle, a far cry from the pampering they receive today. At mealtimes the athletes were given the same rations used by the British government to feed workers in the "essential" industries like mineworkers.

The spectators who came to the games had to bring their own food, as there were no facilities to provide catering at any of the sites. Even getting to the venues posed problems. The famous London Red Buses were used, and military vehicles, many driven by women volunteers, were also used to ferry spectators and athletes alike to the venues.

Despite these problems, all obstacles were overcome and the games opening ceremony was held on 29th June at Wembley Stadium. During the opening ceremony a message was shown on the giant scoreboard that overlooked Wembley.

It read: "The important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part. The Essential thing in Life is not conquering but fighting well."

59 countries and 4000 athletes took part in the London games. They competed in 136 various events. Out of the 59 competing nations 37 of them would go on to win some kind of medal. With World War II fresh in the memory, Japan, and Germany were not invited and the USSR chose not to compete.

A few of the African nations, including Kenya also chose not to compete. An Arab boycott of the games was averted when the IOC ruled that the new nation of Israel was not yet a member of the IOC and so therefore could not compete. Some countries competing for the first time included: Burma, Lebanon, Panama and Venezuela.

The 1948 games were notable for many firsts. The use of starting blocks for sprints was introduced in London. It was also the first time the games were televised, although very few people in Britain, around 88,000 owned a television. The TV coverage of the games was just 64 hours in total. Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) won their first ever medal when Duncan White took silver in the 400 metres hurdles.

The games also saw the first ever "Photo-finish". In the 100 metres two Americans Harrison Dillard and Barney Ewell fought out an exciting finish. Both men clocked the same time of 10.3 seconds. After the Photo it was Dillard who was deemed to have won, and he collected the Gold medal.

Some of the highlights and greatest performances of the games, included the amazing feat of USA athlete Bob Mathias, a 17 year-old who won Gold in the Decathlon only four months after taking up the sport. The star of the games was undoubtedly Fanny Blankers-Koen the Dutch sprinter. The housewife from Holland won 4 gold medals including the 80m Hurdle, 100m sprint the 200m and she also ran the anchor leg in the 4x100m relay guiding the Dutch to victory in the event.

Despite all the obstacles, the London games were a success and The Olympic flame and ideals shone brighter than ever.

Source: www.olympic30.com

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