We’ve all been completely captivated by the Olympics this week, but did you know that this is the third time London has hosted the Olympic Games? These fun facts taken from The First London Olympics by Rebecca Jenkins provide a thought-provoking contrast to the London Olympics of 2012.
In 1908 London hosted its first Olympic Games by chance. Rome, the chosen host city, pulled out at short notice in spring 1906, because – it was said – of the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The crisis left Great Britain with just two years to get everything in place – a far cry from the bid for the 2012 Games won seven years in advance! And that's just the start of the differences between the two events . . .
Advertising: The logo for the 2012 Games controversially cost in the region of £400,000 and received mixed reviews. By contrast, the poster designed for the 1908 Olympics cost just £49!
The stadium: The 1908 68,000-seater stadium was built in White City in ten months for £85,000. One thousand feet long and 593 feet wide, the stadium was as broad as the Circus Maximus of ancient Rome and longer than the Coliseum. It included a 100 metre swimming pool two times the length of the standard modern Olympic pool. Today’s stadium cost an estimated £486 million to build and building work commenced in mid-2007 – over five years before the start of the Games. The 2012 stadium is the lightest stadium ever built and the first to feature HD TV free-frame coverage.
The opening ceremony: We were all blown-away by Danny Boyle’s spectacular opening ceremony last week, but did you know that the 1908 Games was the first games to feature an elaborate opening ceremony where the teams marched with flags?
The Americans: In 1908 James E.Sullivan and his American Olympic Committee selected a US team a team of 122 to compete at the Games. Of the 122 men (women were excluded from the 1908 US Team), 70 per cent would compete in track and field events. The American athletes won thirteen out of a possible twenty-three gold medals in track and field. And of those thirteen victories, eight were won by members of the Irish American Athletic Club of New York. The United States Olympic Committee sent a total of 529 athletes to London for this year's Games. The 268 women and 261 men will compete in twenty-five sports and the team has already won a whopping thirty-seven medals in just one week !
1908’s Doping Scandal: At the first London Olympics, there were rumours that Canadian Red Indian runner, Tom Longboat, the hot favourite to win the marathon, was nobbled with strychnine. (He collapsed and was unable to finish the race.) In 2012, the first five finishers in every event are tested, plus two at random, by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). So far this year, Albanian weightlifter Hysen Pulaku and Uzbekistan artistic gymnast have been disqualified from the Games after failing drug tests.
The marathon: Did you know that the distance of the modern Olympic marathon – 26 miles and 385 yards – was set and run for the first time at the 1908 Olympic Games? Sherlock Holmes’s creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, reporting for the Daily Mail, was one of the spectators of the thrilling end of the marathon race when Italian Dorando Pietri fell four times and was eventually helped across the line. Conan Doyle's report of the race was published all around the world. Sadly for 2012's team GB, marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe has been forced to pull out of the Olympic maratjon with a foot injury. Hopefully we'll see her back in action in 2016!
The First London Olympics 1908 is available to buy now from all good bookshops. You can also download this title as an ebook from all the major ebook retailers, so you can read it on your Kindle, iPad, Kobo or Sony Reader. To find out more, visit www.rebeccajenkins.com.
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