In a little more than a week, London will become the first city to host the Summer Games for the third time. Previously London has hosted the games in 1908 and in 1948. London was scheduled to host the games in 1944, but the war caused the games to be cancelled.
In 1908 London stepped in to host the games after the city of Rome withdrew due to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The Italians were ready to host the games, but funding was needed to repair the city of Naples which had been severely damaged by the volcano. White City Stadium was constructed in a short amount of time, and the venue seated 68,000. The stadium was set up with many sport venues set up in the middle, including a pool for the swimming and diving events, and areas for gymnastics and wrestling. The stadium was set up with 3 laps constituting a mile, instead of the current lap length set at 400 meters.
The marathon distance was set at these games, since the Olympic officials wanted the event to start at Windsor Castle. It moved from 25 miles to 26 and was adjusted a little further as Princess Mary wanted the start to be under the window of the Royal nursery. To ensure that the race would finish in front of the King, the finish line was moved, thus was given the set marathon distance of today at 26 miles 385 yards.
Twenty-two sports were contested at these games, coincidentally 22 Olympic Committees participated, including Finland, Turkey, and New Zealand. The United Kingdom participated as one organization which upset many under the Crown; Ireland felt they should have competed as Ireland. A concession was made and Ireland was able to participate as Ireland in several team sports.
Great Britain dominated the medal count winning 146 total medals 56g, 51s, 39b. The US was second with 47 medals 23g, 12s, 12b, with Sweden finishing third with 25 total medals 8g, 6s, 11b.
The 1948 Games are referred to as the ‘Games of Austerity’ since no new venues were constructed and there was not really an Olympic Village for the athletes, they used existing accommodations. A record 59 nations chose to participate in these games. Germany and Japan were not invited to attend, due to being the aggressors in World War II. These were the first Games since the 1936 Berlin Games.
Events were contested in 19 sport disciplines with the United States winning the Medal Count. More on that in a bit. This Olympics marked the advent of the Pictograms used to note the events. Although they would not be used again for 16 years, they have been used at every summer games since that hiatus.
This was also the first Games contested since the death of the modern games founder Pierre de Coubertin died in 1937. The Games opened in Wembley Stadium on the 29 July. 60 hours of the Games were televised on the BBC. The BBC paid £1000 for the broadcast rights.
These games marked the first political defection as Marie Provaznikova, the president of the International Gymnastics Federation refused to return to Czechoslovakia citing a lack of freedom.
The US finished with 84 total medals 38g, 27s, 19b, Sweden was second with 44 medals 16g, 11s, 17b, with France rounding out the top three with 29 medals 10g, 6s, 13b.
The 2012 Games start on 27 July. Hopefully the weather will be cooperative and these games will not be a soggy mess as one German magazine has predicted.