1948 London Olympic Games

Tokyo was first selected to host the 1940 Olympics
but since Japan and China were at war by mid-1938,
Japan withdrew as host nation.

The invitation to host the Games was handed over to Finland
which accepted and eagerly embarked on preparations only to
be invaded by the Soviet Union in 1939. Most of Europe was
engulfed in war by September 1939 and it became abundantly
clear that the Olympics had to be cancelled.
After Germany invaded Poland, World War II was on.
Two years later the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour
and conflict did not cease until 1945.
Many athletes who participated in the 1936 Olympics died in the
war and the 1940 and 1944 Olympic Games did not take place.

So in 1948, after a break of 12 years, the Olympic Games were held in London in June.
As most of London was reduced to rubble in the blitz,
the no-frills Olympics of 1948 was held and was a success.
Germany and Japan were not invited to participate.
The Soviet Union was invited but chose not to participate
as it was not affiliated with the IOC.

The athletes were accomodated in barracks built
during the war for the American troops as well as in school buildings.
Many teams brought their own food as rationing was still on.
A temporary track was built at Wembley Stadium
and many government buildings were used to house
the media as well as for other purposes.
Many events were broadcast on television and radio.
This was the first Games in which
communist countries participated and during which there were defections.

Although hastily arranged, these Games attracted 4,099 athletes from 59 countries. Compared with the previous Games, there was a decrease in the number of male participants, from 3,738 to 3,714.
The number of female participants increased from 328 to 385.

The US won the most medals, but the outstanding performers
were Fanny Blankers-Koen of the Netherlands, a 30-year old mother of
two and 17 year-old Bob Mathias from California.

The ‘flying housewife’, Fanny Blankers Koen won gold in the
100m and 200m dashes and the 80m hurdles.
She also won a fourth gold anchoring the women’s 4x100m relay.
The Olympic rule which banned an athlete participating
in more than three individual events resulted
in her not winning golds in the high jump and long jump –
two events for which she held the world record.
Finnish gymnast, Veikko Huhtanen, won 3 golds
(combined, team and pommel horse),
1 silver (parallel bars) and a bronze (horizontal bar).
He thus came second to Blankers Koen in the medal tally.

Bob Mathias, just out of high school,
won gold in the decathlon. He had taken up this event
for the very first time earlier in the year.

Harrison ‘Bones’ Dillard (US) won the men’s 100m.
This was a tie with team mate Barney Ewell (10.3 sec)
but the judges awarded him the gold after studying the photo-finish.
Incidentally, this was the first time a photo finish was used in the
Olympics to decide on a winner.
Dillard won a second gold in the 400m men’s relay.

The only father and son to win golds in
the same event were Paul and Hilary Smart of the US.
They won the star class in yachting.
Audrey Patterson (US) was the first
black woman to win a medal, having finished third in the 200m.
Later, in the Games Alice Coachman
(US) was the first black woman to win a gold.

In swimming, the United States won
all six men’s events.They also took gold medals in all four diving
events.