A short history of the 14th Olympiad held in London, the first one after the second world war.
In 1948 the world had just emerged from the bloodiest war in history. The Olympics had been on hold since Adolf Hitler infamously staged the Berlin Games of 1936. With the country still under rationing, and widespread public controversy over investment on such scale, it was a testament to Britain’s war spirit that London, once again, pulls it off.
Queen Elizabeth II already had some experience for her role in opening the 2012 Olympics in London. She appeared at age 22 alongside her sister Margaret, mother Queen Mary and father King George VI, who declared the 1948 Games open at 4.00 p.m., 29th July, as 2,500 pigeons were set free and the Royal Horse Artillery sounded a 21-gun salute.
In one of the Austerity Olympics’ most lavish acts and spectacles, the Olympic Torch was lit at Greece’s Olympia before being borne 2,000 miles to the opening ceremony at Wembley on 29th July. Carried in relay across Europe by 1,600 runners, the Flame was accidentally extinguished just once, during its passage across the English Channel from France.
If there was one undisputed star to emerge in the 1948 Olympics, it was Dutch sprinter Fanny Blankers-Koen. Nicknamed ‘The Flying Housewife,’ the pregnant mother-of-two became the first woman in history to win three gold medals in the Olympics, before powering first past the finish line in the women’s 400-metre relay to take a fourth. This achievement has never again been matched by any woman, and Blankers-Koen has been named the female ‘Athlete of the (20th) century.’