London 1908 Olympics (1st Time)

London 1908 Olympic Games  - IV Olympiad1908 Olympics London

The IV Olympiad was originally scheduled for Rome, but the eruption of Mount Vesuvius prompted officials to move them to Britain.

Whilst this London games was a better organized and more cosmopolitan celebration than St. Louis, it still went on and on for more than 4 months. A total of 21 different sports featured, including ice skating, while bicycle-polo featured as a demonstration sport.

London was the first official Olympics where athletes marched into the stadium behind their respective national flags.  With over 100 events and more than 2,000 competitors the level of competition was high but controversy and national rivalry still left a bitter taste on the Games.

The shape and size of the running track had yet to be standardized, and the 68,000-seater stadium in Shepherds Bush held a 660 yd track making 3 laps to the mile.

Politics reared its head almost immediately.  The USA team spotted that there was no American flag among the national flags decorating the stadium for the opening ceremonies.  As a result USA flag-bearer Martin Sheridan responded by refusing to dip the Stars and Stripes as he passed King Edward VII's box in the parade of athletes. 'This flag dips to no earthly king,' Sheridan said.

At least the Americans had a flag, Finland was still ruled by Russia, who told their flag-bearer to carry a Russian flag, the furious Finns decided to march without any flag rather than carry the Russian flag.

Back at the races, the British and Americans had a dispute in the 400M the three Americans appeared to gang up and impede the sole British runner.  The officials ordered a re-run the next day, the Americans refused and the officials declared the Britain, Halswelle the winner of a walk-over.

As a prelude to a sub-plot in the 'Chariots of Fire' story in 1924, Forrest Smithson protested at having to run on a Sunday.  Legend has it he ran, and won, holding a bible.1908 Olympics London

Controversial 1908 London Marathon

The classic marathon distance of 26 miles and 365 yards was fixed once and for all in the London Marathon.  The peculiar distance came about when the course from Windsor Great Park to Shepherds Bush was extended by a mile and 365 yards so that it finished at the Royal Box. 

The London marathon staged the most controversial happening in all Olympic Marathons.  The race had been uneventful until Dorando Pietri of Italy staggered into the stadium, and then collapsed.  Perhaps you have seen the grainy film of him being half-carried across the finish line.  Some say Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was of those who helped the stricken runner.

What could the officials do?  After all, it was they who had helped Pietri.  Eventually, after protests from the Americans, Pietri was disqualified and Hayes was declared the winner.  However, Queen Alexandra upholding the British sense of fair play awarded Pietri a special gold-plated cup.

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So Few Competitors

The London 2008 Olympics only attracted 1,998 men and 36 women.  Shooting in the Olympics has more than its fair share of unusual happenings.  Here in 1908 the story was the first father and son to each won gold medals, Oscar Swahn, the father, was over 60.

Motor boating was also an official sport at the 1908 Olympics.  However, it was frowned upon because the competitors were often out of sight of the watching crowds. London1908 Olympics Fashion

Edwardian Fashion - Backdrop to the London 1908 Olympics

Crowds thronged to the London 1908 Olympics, many were dressed in the 'Empire line' or Directoire after the styles designed by fashion designer Paul Poiret.  The corset of this era almost reached the knees was intended to make the figure look slimmer.

London 2008 was a time of beautiful clothes and the peak of luxury living for a select few - the very rich and the very privileged through birth.

In retrospect we can see it is an era very separate from the 20th century despite belonging at its start. The attitudes and lifestyles of two decades were swept away by war and because the war was so atrocious a new socialism and sense of personal identity was born.

2012 Olympics Fashion Update

For sports follower of the 2012 Olympics there is Luxe sportswear.  What you will find is that fashionable clothes for the London Olympics embrace techno fabrics.   You will also see silky track pants with contrast band piped shorts.  Will and Guy will be sporting go faster stripes!  See more about Olympics 2012 inspired women's sportswear fashion.


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