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London 1908

Rushed prepararations

The 1908 Olympic Games were originally awarded to Rome, but were reassigned to London when it became apparent that Rome would not be ready. Despite the short notice, the Games were exceptionally well organised. For the first time, a stadium was specially prepared for the Games, and swimming events did not take place in the open water.

Fit for a king

The Organising Committee fixed the distance of the marathon at 42km and 195m, the last 195 metres being added on to ensure the race finished below the royal box in the London stadium. This distance became official from the 1924 Games onwards.

Courageous competitor

When Dorando Pietri of Italy entered the stadium at the end of the marathon, it was immediately apparent that something was wrong. Dazed, he headed in the wrong direction and then collapsed. The officials helped him to reach the finish line in first place and so he was disqualified for receiving outside aid, but his courage earned him immortality.

Olympic spirit

Sportsmanship existed at a level unimaginable in today’s more competitive world. One wonderful example took place when the middleweight Greco-Roman wrestling final between Frithiof Martensson and Mauritz Andersson was postponed by one day to allow Martensson to recover from a minor injury. Martensson duly recovered and won.

NOCs: 22
Athletes: 2,008 (37 women, 1,971 men)
Events: 110
Volunteers: n/a
Media: n/a

From Rome to London

When it became apparent that Rome would not be capable of hosting the 1908 Olympic celebration, the city of London offered to take up the challenge. Despite the short time left to prepare this edition of the Olympic Games itwas one of the best organised that had taken place to date.

The creation of sports facilities

For the first time, a stadium was specially fitted out for the Games, and swimming did not take place in the open water as a pool was specially built. For diving there was a special folding tower.

The Games attract athletes

The Games started to be known throughout the world and athletes from everywhere wanted to take part.

The official distance of the marathon

The most memorable event of the 1908 Games was the marathon. The Games Organising Committee fixed the distance of the marathon at 42km and 195m, the last 195 metres being added on to justify the route from Windsor Castle to the royal box in the London stadium. This distance became official from the 1924 Games onwards.

Appearance of a relay

The athletics events included for the first time, a relay, called "the Olympic relay". The athletes ran 200m, 200m, 400m and 800m.

The parade of the delegations

Also for the first time, the competitors paraded behind their country's flag in sportswear.

Union of two countries under the same name

Australia and New Zealand were represented by a single delegation, under the name of Australasia.

The important thing...

Inspired the words of the Bishop of Pennsylvania, Ethelbert Talbot, Pierre de Coubertin adopted them in a modified form to become the creed of the Olympic Movement: "The important thing in life is not the triumph, but the fight; the essential thing is not to have won, but to have fought well".

Ceremonies

London 13 July 1908. The British delegation.

Official opening of the Games by:
His Majesty The King Edward VII

Lighting the Olympic Flame by:
A symbolic fire at an Olympic Summer Games was first lit in 1928 in Amsterdam.

Olympic Oath by:
The athletes’ oath was first sworn at the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp.

Official Oath by:
The officials' oath at an Olympic Summer Games was first sworn in 1972 in Munich.

London 1908 Medals

On the obverse, the traditional goddess of victory, holding a palm in her left hand and a winner’s crown in her right. A design used since the 1928 Games in Amsterdam, created by Florentine artist Giuseppe Cassioli (ITA -1865-1942) and chosen after a competition organised by the International Olympic Committee. For these Games, the picture of victory is accompanied by the specific inscription: "XVIII OLYMPIAD LONDON 1948".

On the reverse, an Olympic champion carried in triumph by the crowd, with the Olympic stadium in the background. N.B: From 1928 to 1968, the medals for the Summer Games were identical. The Organising Committee for the Games in Munich in 1972 broke new ground by having a different reverse which was designed by a Bauhaus representative, Gerhard Marcks.

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London 1908 Poster

It represents the Shepherd's Bush Olympic Stadium. Behind the high jumper, in the centre, is the swimming pool and the cinder track. It is in fact the reproduction of the cover of the Games programme.

London 1908 Pins
London 1908 Official Reports

Organised for the third time as part of an international exhibition, the Games of the IV Olympiad held in London in 1908 had grown. The Organising Committee subsequently published “The Fourth Olympiad: being the official report of the Olympic Games of 1908 celebrated in London”, which may be regarded as the first official report on the Games. Indeed, both its form and content already met most of today’s requirements. It consisted of one volume in English.





  • London 1908
    • London 1908

      25 Sep 2013 |
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      Organised for the third time as part of an international exhibition, the Games of the IV Olympiad held in London in 1908 had grown. The Organising Committee subsequently published “The Fourth Olympiad: being the Official Report of the Olympic Games of 1908 celebrated in London”, which may be regarded as the first official report on the Games. Indeed, both its form and content already met most of today’s requirements. It consisted of one volume in English.

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