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London's 2012 Olympic Bid

1948 Women's hurdles
Fanny Blankers-Koen in action in 1948

London Olympics 1908 & 1948

The capital has hosted the Olympic Games twice before - both times at short notice.

London Olympic Factfile


The marathon's distance was changed from 24.85 miles to 26.2 miles for the 1908 Olympics so the course would cover the ground from Windsor Castle to White City Stadium.

Swedish shooter Oscar Swahn, was the oldest ever competitor to earn an Olympic gold medal, winning the running deer shooting, single shot at the age of 60.


The 1948 London Games were the first to be shown on home television.

Photo-finishes and starting blocks were introduced to the sprint races.


London was asked to host the 1908 Games after Mount Vesuvius erupted in 1906 causing Rome which was the chosen host to pull out.

Although it was given just two year's notice the capital carried out the organisation of the Olympics with aplomb - introducing qualifying rounds and limiting the number of competitors any one country could field.

Two thousand and thirty five athletes, representing 22 countries, took part in the Games which ran from April 27 until October 31.

Only 36 women took part in the 1908

The distance for all future marathons was set at 26 miles and 385 yards and the 100 metre swimming pool was introduced.

London 1908 also saw powerboat racing and tug-of-war contests in the Games for the first and last time.

However, the London Olympics were marred by international politics and controversial judging.

Problems started when Finnish athletes were told to march under the Soviet Union flag, and Irish competitors who wanted to represent Ireland were ordered to compete on Great Britain's behalf.

The US also refused to dip their flag in front of the Royal Box, the common practise of the day, because: "This flag dips to no earthly King."

But the biggest controversy arose during the 400 metre race when J.C Carpenter, who had come first, was disqualified for obstructing the British competitor, Wyndham Halswelle.

Marathon runner Dorando Pietri
Marathon runner Dorando Pietri

Part of the problem was that at the time Britain and the USA both had different rules governing obstruction.

The final was re-run but J.C Carpenter and the two other runners, both American, refused to take part leaving Halswelle to run round the track on his own.

Finally the winner of the marathon, Dorando Pietri of Italy, was later disqualified after he collapsed but was then revived and carried to the finish line by officials.

The second-placed American runner John Hayes was later awarded the Gold after the USA lodged a complaint.

All the controversial decisions at the 1908 games led to the creation of the International Amateur Athletic Federation which standardised track and field competition rules.

Also after the London Olympics the IOC decided to draw judges from an international pool rather then just the host country.


London had been awarded the 1944 Olympics in June 1939 but when war broke out just months later the Games were cancelled.

1948 Opening Ceremony
1948 opening ceremony

Once the Second World War ended London was again asked by the IOC to host this time in 1948 games.

Four thousand and ninety nine athletes, representing 59 nations, took part in the London Olympics - but defeated powers Germany and Japan were not invited.

Wembley Stadium had survived the Blitz and after it had been fitted with a temporary running track it was used as the Games' main stadia.

London was still rebuilding so athletes were housed in schools, government buildings and military barracks instead of the usual purpose built Olympic village.

Food was also being rationed so the IOC asked all the competitors to bring their meals with them - with left over food being donated to hospitals.

Fanny Blankers-Koen of the Netherlands was the star of the games clinching gold medals in the 100 and 200 metres, 80 metre hurdles and 400 metre relay.

Olympic Judges
Olympic judges in 1948

The London games saw the Olympics' first photo-finish between Harrison Dillard and Barney Ewell of the United States in the 100 metres final.

Both clocked in at 10.3 seconds but after the judges studied the results Dillard was awarded the gold medal.

And starting blocks were used for the first time in the sprint races.

last updated: 26/06/05
Have Your Say
Do you want London to host the 2012 Olympics?
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i think it would be amazing since it has not been here for so long and it means that our athletes have a better chance of winning because they will be able to train in the stadium and they will be able to get used to it.. =)

No!!! Should be held in Manchester where the financial input could a long way.

yes i do wont london to hold the olympics in 2012 so that the young people who enjoy watching it from england dont have to travell to far like they have been doing for what seems absolutley ages!

Daisy Searle
Of course it should be held in London!!!!!!

we got it

Yes, it will make people respect our country a lot more.


In your report on the 1908 Olympics you refer to Finns being required to represent the Soviet Union, a political entity which was not established until after the October 1917 revolution. Presumably the relevant country was referred to at hte time as the Russian Empire or something similar.

Ravindra Narayanan
Its long overdue

Andrew Burdett
It was fun seeing the french upset but the amount of money we bidded is more than sending everyone in britain who want't to see the olympics a first class eurostar ticket.

vivien bartlett
Sport is a wonderful reason for countries to get together. So yes, keep good will going, we will all have a good time.

James, London SE19
Fantastic news - totally sick of whinging Londoners who seem to think they'll be paying a fortune to host the games. Yes, there may be a few quid here and there on our tax bills but it's a price well worth paying. Everyone I know in London is excited - unfortunatley there are the miserable doom and glom merchants who probably haven't ever taken and risks or achieved anything!

Yes i think it's a great opportunity for London.

Yes I do want London to host 2012 as it will bring lots of torist to other areas of the UK. It will also make a lot of money for my business for my shop in London.

jean purssell
I think its just what is needed, we are so good at running this country down, and its a great country really, that its good that we all have something to work for

Cheers, London. Well played presentation. Looking foward to 2012.

I did not want them to win. I live in London and will be paying extra to regenerate an area I will not be visiting. I also work with a number of people who live in Hertfordshire who are excited at the prospect of the olympics being in London. But they do not have to pay for it. A bad day for London and its residents.

hosting the games can only benefit gb. we will be getting state of the art facilities,that can be used by the future generations of young olympians.

E Parrott, Cardiff
What is it about Londoners that they are standing in a queue to knock their own city? Are you completely incapable of seeing the magic of the Olympics? Have you forgotten the wonderful feeling that the whole nation felt when we hosted Euro 96? You might not be proud of London, but the rest of the country are proud of our nation's capitol. I spend a lot of time visiting London for both business and pleasure, I use the public transport system and I drive, and London doesn't have worse transport than any other large city. I believe that the Games would be good for all of us, but particularly, for London. Come on Londoners - get behind the bid!

Gillian Buchanan
No I don't. I don't think there's a chance of the required building work being done on time, huge sums of money have already been wasted which would have been better spent elsewhere on all the advertising and it will end up benefiting nobody. I will be very sorry for the athletes and visitors who come to the country to watch and participate if the Games are held in London because there's no way the transport infrastructure will cope with the extra load. Tony Blair should travel by bus and tube to and from Downing Street and find out just how little the system has improved under Mayor Livingston before he insists that London is a good place to hold the games. And where will all the money come from to build the extra stadia etc which will be required? The long suffering British citizen who is already being overburdened with hidden taxes as it is.

hannah dorsen
yes because london kicks ars

James Wright
It would be good for the capital to hoat the games and I would want london to win. But i hold no hope that will will get the games and think that it is vetually certain that Paris will win.

I think the olympics will be a great idea. It will help London as a whole, become the capital of the world like it ought to be.

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