Olympics Retrospective: London as a Host City, Part II

My post from last week covering London 1908 (and the amazing tug-of-war skills of Team GB!) can be found here.


London was selected by the IOC to be the host for the 1944 Summer Games in 1939, just before the outbreak of the Second World War.  As the fighting spread, the Olympics were cancelled for the duration of the war, and were marked only by a small ceremony in Switzerland.  In addition to the 1944 Summer Games, the Olympics have been cancelled four times: the 1916 Berlin Summer Games; 1940 Tokyo Summer Olympics (later reassigned to Helsinki before being cancelled); 1940 Sapporo Winter Games (reassigned to St. Moritz and then Garmisch-Partenkirchen before being cancelled); and 1944 Cortina d’Ampezzo Winter Games.

Here’s an interesting article on London and Tokyo’s “Lost Games.”



Photo Credit: wikimedia commons

29 July to 14 August

4104 athletes (3,714 men and 390 women) from 59 countries participating in 136 events.

In the midst of post-war austerity, London was called upon to host the 1948 Summer Games on short notice, as the IOC had voted to locate the games in London just two years earlier.  The games mainly took place in Empire (Wembley) Stadium and Wembley Park, with no new venues constructed.  Germany, Japan, and the USSR did not participate.  This was the first Olympics to be televised.

Fanny Blankers-Koen of the Netherlands earned four gold medals, more than any other athlete.  She won the 100 m, 200 m, 80 m hurdles, and 4×100 relay.  At the time, Blankers-Koen was also the world record holder in the high jump and the long jump, but was only allowed to participate in three individual events.  Blankers-Koen was named the woman athlete of the 20th century by the IAAF in 1999.  Here’s what the Guardian had to say about her in 1948:

Blankers-Koen is easily the outstanding all-round woman athlete of her day.  Off the track she is as feminine as man’s capricious heart could wish.  On it not only is she as expert technically as most men champions but her actual foot and leg movements are straight like a man’s rather than a woman’s a temperamentally she is a lesson to all.  She is cheerful before going to her mark, is as steady as a rock on it and then starts as though she herself had been fired.

Great pictures of Blankers-Koen at the 1948 Olympics here.

Team GB came away with 27 total medals (USA in the lead with 84 total).  Stand out British athletes included David Bond and Stewart Morris in Sailing, Dickie Burnell, Burt Bushnell, Jack Wilson, and Ran Laurie (Hugh Laurie’s dad) in Rowing, and Alfred Thomson in the Art competitions, each of whom won gold.  Thomson was the only Briton to ever win in the art competitions at the Olympics, with his painting portraying boxers at the London Amateur Boxing Championships.  London 1948 was the final Olympic games to include art competitions.

Alfred Thomson’s other paintings can be seen here, and here’s more information about the Olympic arts competition.

61-year-old Briton Archibald Craig was the oldest athlete at the Olympics, on the men’s épée fencing team.

Ireland, which had been competing independently since 1924, had 83 participants in 34 events plus the arts competitions.  Letitia Hamilton won bronze for Ireland in the arts competition, for her painting Meath Hunt Point-to-Point Races.  Hamilton’s paintings can be seen here.

Here’s more information on the 1948 Irish Olympic team.

More good pictures from the 1948 games hereand hereHere is the BBC’s collection of broadcasts from the games.  And here’s a fun video on London 1948 from the Olympics website.


Photo Credit: wikimedia commons

One thought on “Olympics Retrospective: London as a Host City, Part II

  1. Pingback: Olympics Retrospective: London as a Host City, Part III | Isles Abroad

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