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1948 Summer Olympics

Games of the XIV Olympiad
Host city London, United Kingdom
Nations participating 59[1]
Athletes participating 4,104
(3,714 men, 390 women)[1]
Events 136 in 17 sports
Opening ceremony 29 July
Closing ceremony 14 August
Officially opened by [1]
Athlete's Oath Donald Finlay[1]
Olympic Torch John Mark[1]
Stadium Wembley Stadium
1948 Summer Olympics

The 1948 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XIV Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event which was held in London, England, United Kingdom. After a 12-year hiatus because of World War II, these were the first Summer Olympics since the 1936 Games in Berlin. The 1940 Games had been scheduled for Tokyo, and then for Helsinki; the 1944 Games had been provisionally planned for London. This was the second occasion that London had hosted the Olympic Games, having previously been the venue in 1908. The Olympics again returned to London in 2012, making it the only city to host the games three times.

The event came to be known as the Austerity Games, because of the economic climate and post-war rationing. No new venues were built for the games, and athletes were housed in existing accommodation instead of an Olympic Village as were the 1936 Games and the subsequent 1952 Games. A record 59 nations were represented by 4,104 athletes, 3,714 men and 390 women, in 19 sport disciplines. Germany and Japan were refused permission to participate; the USSR was invited but chose not to send any athletes. The United States team won the most total medals, 84, and the most gold medals, 38. The host nation won 23 medals, three of them gold.

One of the star performers at the Games was Dutch sprinter Fanny Blankers-Koen. Dubbed "The Flying Housewife", the 30-year-old mother of two won four gold medals in athletics. In the decathlon, American Bob Mathias became the youngest male ever to win an Olympic gold medal at the age of 17. The most individual medals were won by Veikko Huhtanen of Finland who took three golds, a silver and a bronze in men's gymnastics.

These Olympics were the first to be broadcast on television.[2]


  • Election as host city 1
  • Organisation 2
  • Opening ceremony 3
  • Sport by sport overview 4
    • Athletics 4.1
    • Basketball 4.2
    • Boxing 4.3
    • Canoeing 4.4
    • Cycling 4.5
    • Diving 4.6
    • Equestrian 4.7
    • Fencing 4.8
    • Field hockey 4.9
    • Football 4.10
    • Gymnastics 4.11
    • Lacrosse 4.12
    • Modern pentathlon 4.13
    • Rowing 4.14
    • Sailing 4.15
    • Shooting 4.16
    • Swimming 4.17
    • Water polo 4.18
    • Weightlifting 4.19
    • Wrestling 4.20
  • Political defection 5
  • Filming in colour 6
  • Venues 7
  • Participating NOCs 8
  • Medal count 9
  • See also 10
  • Notes 11
  • References 12
  • External links 13

Election as host city

In June 1939, the World War II. The official report of the London Olympics shows that there was no case of London being pressed to run the Games against its will. It says:

The Games of 1944 had been allocated to London and so it was that in October 1945, the chairman of the British Olympic Council, Lord Burghley, went to Stockholm and saw the president of the International Olympic Committee to discuss the question of London being chosen for this great event. As a result, an investigating committee was set up by the British Olympic Council to work out in some detail the possibility of holding the Games. After several meetings they recommended to the council that the Lord Mayor of London should be invited to apply for the allocation of the Games in 1948.[4]

In March 1946 the IOC, through a postal vote, gave the summer Games to London and the winter competition to St Moritz. London was selected ahead of Baltimore, Minneapolis, Lausanne, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia.[5]

London, which had previously hosted the 1908 Summer Olympics, became the second city to host the Olympics twice; Paris hosted the event in 1900 and 1924. It became the first city to host the Olympics for the third time when London hosted the 2012 Summer Olympics.


Preceded by
London (1944)
cancelled due to World War II
Summer Olympic Games

XIV Olympiad (1948)
Succeeded by
  • "London 1948". International Olympic Committee. 
  • Exploring 20th century London – 1948 Olympics Objects and photographs from the collections of the Museum of London, London Transport Museum, Jewish Museum and Museum of Croydon.

External links

  • Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad London 1948 (1951). The Official Report of the Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad London 1948 (PDF). Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad London 1948. Archived from the original on 6 May 2010. Retrieved 27 April 2010. 


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "London 1948". Archived from the original on 3 May 2010. Retrieved 28 April 2010. 
  2. ^ Stan Greenberg, The 1948 London Olympics Gallery
  3. ^ "Past Olympic Host City Election Results". Archived from the original on 20 June 2009. Retrieved 29 April 2010. 
  4. ^ Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad London 1948(1951), pp. 17
  5. ^ "Olympic Games Fonds". International Olympic Committee Historical Archives. 6 November 2007. Retrieved 29 April 2010. 
  6. ^ "David George Burghley – lord of the hurdles (photos attached)". The official website of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Retrieved 27 April 2010. 
  7. ^ Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad London 1948(1951), pp. 18
  8. ^ Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad London 1948(1951), pp. 131, 135
  9. ^ Two sample tickets from 1948 Summer Olympics at the Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games
  10. ^ a b "British Olympic Movement". British Olympic Association. Archived from the original on 8 April 2008. Retrieved 26 April 2010. 
  11. ^ Mike Rowbotham (7 July 2005). "'"1948 Olympics: 'We had much more fun and a greater sense of achievement than modern athletes do. The Independent. Retrieved 26 April 2010. 
  12. ^ a b "London 1948". British Olympic Association. Archived from the original on 8 April 2009. Retrieved 26 April 2010. 
  13. ^ Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad London 1948(1951), pp. 221
  14. ^ Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad London 1948(1951), pp. 225
  15. ^ "Landmarks in the history of the media and the Olympics". The british Library. Retrieved 28 April 2010. 
  16. ^ "Athletics at the 1948 London Summer Games". Archived from the original on 23 March 2010. Retrieved 27 April 2010. 
  17. ^ "1948 London Summer Games". Archived from the original on 11 May 2010. Retrieved 27 April 2010. 
  18. ^ Chris Dhambarage (4 February 2010). "Sports striving for greater heights after Independence". Daily News. Retrieved 27 April 2010. 
  19. ^ Donald McRae (1 April 2010). "Cradle of champions where Jamaican sprinters earn their spurs". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 30 April 2010. Retrieved 27 April 2010. 
  20. ^ "Alice Coachman – First African American Gold Medallist". Retrieved 27 April 2010. 
  21. ^ Martin, David E.; Roger W. H. Gynn (2000). The Olympic marathon. Human Kinetics. p. 188.  
  22. ^ "Former congressman Bob Mathias dies at 75". USA Today. Associated Press. 3 September 2006. Retrieved 29 April 2010. 
  23. ^ Martin Weil (3 September 2006). "Bob Mathias; Congressman, Twice Olympic Champion". The Washington Post. Retrieved 29 April 2010. 
  24. ^ "Basketball Men's Basketball Medalists". Archived from the original on 4 April 2010. Retrieved 27 April 2010. 
  25. ^ "Basketball at the 1948 London Summer Games: Men's Basketball Final Round". Retrieved 27 April 2010. 
  26. ^ Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad London 1948(1951), pp. 637
  27. ^ Melody Merin (30 May 2008). "Asian Americans First Won Olympic Gold 60 Years Ago". Retrieved 27 April 2010. 
  28. ^ "Ilona Elek". The Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Retrieved 27 April 2010. 
  29. ^ """Portraits: The Great "Edoardo Mangiarotti. Retrieved 27 April 2010. 
  30. ^ "Edoardo Mangiarotti". Retrieved 27 April 2010. 
  31. ^ "London, 1948". FIFA. Retrieved 28 April 2010. 
  32. ^ "Modern Pentathlon at the 1948 London Summer Games". Retrieved 27 April 2010. 
  33. ^ a b "1948 London Olympic Sailing Competition". The International Sailing Federation. Archived from the original on 25 April 2010. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  34. ^ "Sailing at the 1948 London Summer Games". Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  35. ^ "Weightlifting at the 1948 London Summer Games". Retrieved 29 April 2010. 
  36. ^ Patrick Watson (27 November 2008). "Help Wilkes now". Trinidad and Tobago Express. Retrieved 29 April 2010. 
  37. ^ "Weightlifting at the 1948 London Summer Games: Men's Featherweight". Retrieved 29 April 2010. 
  38. ^ Alan Hubbard (17 February 2008). "London 1948 to London 2012: Rags to riches for the 'high-class Del Boy' who dreamt of gold, not money". The Independent. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  39. ^ "A Political Refugee". The Guardian. 19 August 1948. Retrieved 4 May 2010. 
  40. ^ Widescreen Museum entry
  41. ^ "Last remaining 1948 Olympic Games venue is saved". BBC Sport. 21 April 2011. Archived from the original on 29 April 2011. Retrieved 26 April 2011. 
  42. ^ Christopher Lyles (14 July 2008). "Countdown to the Beijing Olympics". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 April 2010. 
  43. ^ Wembley Way' built by German Prisoners of War"'". BBC News. 15 March 2010. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  44. ^ "'A very British Olympics'". BBC Sport. 18 October 2005. Archived from the original on 6 June 2010. Retrieved 28 April 2010. 
  45. ^ "Medal Table". British Olympic Association. Archived from the original on 18 September 2007. Retrieved 27 April 2010. 


See also

 Rank  Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 United States 38 27 19 84
2 Sweden 16 11 17 44
3 France 10 6 13 29
4 Hungary 10 5 12 27
5 Italy 8 11 8 27
6 Finland 8 7 5 20
7 Turkey 6 4 2 12
8 Czechoslovakia 6 2 3 11
9 Switzerland 5 10 5 20
10 Denmark 5 7 8 20
12 Great Britain (host nation) 3 14 6 23
[45] These are the top ten nations that won medals at the 1948 Summer Games, ranked by number of gold medals won. The host nation was 12th, with 23 medals, including three golds.

Medal count

Participating NOCs

A total of 59 nations sent athletes. Fourteen made their first official appearance: British Guiana (now Guyana), Burma (now Myanmar), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Korea, Lebanon, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.[42] It was the first time that the Philippines, India and Pakistan competed as independent nations at the Olympic Games. Germany and Japan, both under Allied military occupations, were not allowed to send athletes to the games. German forced labour was used for the construction of the facilities.[43] Italy, although originally an Axis power, defected to the Allies in 1943 following Benito Mussolini being deposed, and was allowed to send athletes. The Soviet Union was invited but they chose not to send any athletes.[44] The number in parentheses indicates the number of participants that each country contributed.

Number of athletes per country

Participating NOCs

  • Wembley Empire Exhibition Grounds

No new venues were built for the Games. A cinder track was laid inside Wembley Stadium and all other venues were adapted.[10] For the first time at the Olympics swimming events were held undercover, at the 8000 capacity Empire Pool. As the pool was longer than the standard Olympic length of 50 metres a platform was constructed across the pool which both shortened it and housed officials.[1] In 2010 one of the last remaining venues from the Games, the Herne Hill Velodrome where cycling events were staged, was saved when a new 15-year lease was agreed meaning that repairs could take place. Campaigners and users of the track had feared that it would be forced to close as it was in desperate need of refurbishment.[41]

Poster promoting the 1948 Olympics


For the Olympics, the Technicolor Corporation devised a bipack colour filming process – dubbed "Technichrome" – whereby hundreds of hours of film documented the events in colour, without having to use expensive and heavy Technicolor cameras.[40]

Filming in colour

London was the first Olympics to have a political defection. Marie Provazníková, the 57-year old Czechoslovakian President of the International Gymnastics Federation, refused to return home, citing "lack of freedom" after the Czech coup in February led to the country's inclusion in the Soviet Bloc.[38][39]

Political defection

Sixteen wrestling events were held, eight Greco-Roman and eight freestyle. All were open to men only. Both categories were dominated by two nations. Turkey was the most successful nation with six gold medals followed by Sweden receiving 5 gold medals. These two teams claimed 24 total medals, in other words half of the total medals given.


Six events were contested, all for men only. These games marked the addition of the bantamweight class to the Olympic programme, the first change to the programme since 1920. The United States won four gold medals, and eight overall; the remaining two gold medals were claimed by Egypt.[35] Rodney Wilkes won the first medal for Trinidad and Tobago in an Olympic games, winning silver in the featherweight division; the featherweight gold medal was won by Egyptian Mahmoud Fayad, with a new Olympic and World record of 332.5 kg.[36][37]


Eighteen nations fielded a team in these games, which were ultimately won by Italy, who were undefeated throughout. The tournament was conducted in a mult-tier bracket, with the best four teams from the group stages participating in a final round-robin bracket. Silver was claimed by Hungary, and bronze by the Netherlands.

Water polo

Eleven events were contested, six for men and five for women. The United States won eight gold medals, including all six men's events, and 15 medals in total.


Four events were contested, all open to both men and women, although all medals were won by men. In the 50 metre rifle, prone position, only two points separated the top three competitors. Károly Takács had been a member of the Hungary's world champion pistol shooting team in 1938 when a grenade shattered his right hand – his pistol hand. Takács taught himself to shoot with his left hand and, 10 years after his injury, he won an Olympic gold medal in the rapid-fire pistol event.[1]


The sailing events at the Games took place in Torquay, in the southwest of Great Britain.[33] Five events were contested, with the United States winning four total medals.[34] One of host nation Great Britain's three gold medals at the Games came in the Swallow class from Stewart Morris and David Bond. In the Firefly class Danish sailor Paul Elvstrøm won gold the despite the Danish Olympic Committee having misgivings about sending him to compete as the 18-year old could speak no English. This was the first of four consecutive Olympics with a gold medal for Elvstrøm.[33]


Seven rowing events were contested, all open to men only. Great Britain and the United States each claimed two gold medals. The events were held on the same course as the Henley Royal Regatta.


[32] Only one

Gold medalist William Grut of Sweden (foreground) competing in the running component of the modern pentathlon.

Modern pentathlon

Lacrosse was an exhibition sport at these Olympics. An English team composed of players from various universities played a U.S. team represented by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute at the Empire Stadium.


Nine events were contested, eight for men, and one for women. In the men's pommel horse, a tie was declared between three competitors, all Finns, and no medals other than gold were awarded in this event. Finland won six gold medals overall, and Switzerland three.


Eighteen teams entered the football competition at these Olympics. Due to the rise of the professional game during the 12 years since the Berlin Olympics the number of talented amateurs for teams to select from was reduced. The gold medal was won by Sweden, who defeated Yugoslavia 3–1 in the final. Denmark defeated hosts Great Britain, managed by Matt Busby of Manchester United, 5–3 to win the bronze medal. In the tournament's 18 matches a total of 102 goals were scored; an average 5.66 goals per match. The joint top scorers with seven goals each were Gunnar Nordahl of Sweden and Denmark's John Hansen. Nordahl and Swedish teammates Gunnar Gren and Nils Liedholm went on to play for A.C. Milan and together were nicknamed Gre-No-Li.[31]


Thirteen nations participated in the field hockey competition. The tournament was ultimately won by India, who defeated Great Britain to claim the country's first gold medal as an independent nation.

Field hockey

Seven events were contested, six for men and one for women. Ilona Elek, who had won the women's foil competition in Berlin, was one of only two competitors to successfully defend an Olympic title in London.[12] Elek's sister, Margit, placed sixth in the same event.[28] Edoardo Mangiarotti won three medals, two silver and a bronze, having previously won a gold medal in the 1936 Games. Throughout his career the Italian won 13 Olympic fencing medals and 27 world championship medals, both of which remain records.[29][30]


Six gold medals were awarded in equestrian, individual and team dressage, individual and team eventing and individual and team show jumping. Harry Llewellyn and Foxhunter, who would claim a gold medal in Helsinki, won bronze in the team jumping event.


Four diving events were contested, two for men, and two for women. The events are labelled as 3  metre springboard and 10  metre platform by the International Olympic Committee but appeared on the 1948 Official Report as springboard diving and highboard diving, respectively.[26] All four gold medals, and 10 out of 12 awarded in total, were won by the United States. Victoria Manalo Draves, who won both gold medals in the women's events, and Sammy Lee, who took a gold and a bronze in the men's events, became the first Asian Americans to win gold medals at an Olympic Games.[27]


Six events were contested – two road bicycle racing events and four track cycling events. No women's cycling events were contested. France won three gold medals and Italy two, while Great Britain captured five medals overall, but none were gold.


Nine events were contested, eight for men and one for women. This marked the first time that a women's canoeing event had been contested in the Olympics. Sweden won four gold medals (two by Gert Fredriksson) and Czechoslovakia three.


Eight different classifications were contested ranging from flyweight, for boxers weighing less than 51 kg, to heavyweight, for boxers over 80 kg. South Africa, Argentina and Hungary each won two gold medals.


Basketball made its second appearance as a medal sport, appearing as an indoor competition for the first time after poor weather disrupted the matches at the 1936 Berlin Games. The event, for men only, was contested by 23 nations split into four pools for the preliminary round; the top two in each pool advanced to the quarterfinals with the other teams entering playoffs for the minor placings. The United States and France reached the final which was won by the Americans 65–21 to claim the gold medal. This was the second of the United States seven consecutive gold medals in Olympic men's and women's basketball.[24] Brazil defeated Mexico 52–47 to claim bronze.[25]


The decathlon was won by 17-year old Bob Mathias of the United States. He became the youngest ever Olympic gold medallist in athletics and when asked how he would celebrate he replied: "I'll start shaving, I guess."[22][23]

The marathon saw a dramatic finish with the first man to enter the stadium, Etienne Gailly of Belgium, exhausted and nearly unable to run. While he was struggling, Argentinian athlete Delfo Cabrera and Tom Richards of Great Britain passed him, with Cabrera winning the gold. Gailly managed to recover enough to cross the line for the bronze.[21]

Wembley stadium was the venue for 33 athletics events at the Games; 24 for men and nine for women. Of these, four were making their Olympic debut – the men's 10 km walk, and the women's 200 metres, long jump and shot put. A total of 754 athletes from 53 countries participated in athletics.[16] Fanny Blankers-Koen of the Netherlands, a 30-year old mother of three children nicknamed "The Flying Housewife", won four gold medals, in the 100 metres, 200 metres, 80 metre high hurdles, and 4 x 100 metre relay. As world record holder in the long jump and high jump Blankers-Koen may have been able to win further medals but, at this time, female athletes were limited to three individual events.[17] Duncan White won the first medal of any kind for Sri Lanka, (then Ceylon), when he finished second in the 400 metre hurdles, and Arthur Wint became the first Jamaican to win an Olympic gold medal, in the men's 400 metres he also won silver in the men's 800 metres.[18][19] Alice Coachman became the first woman of color in the world and the first African American woman to win a gold medal in track and field in the history of the modern Olympics with a jump of 1.68 m (5' 614"). She also was the only American woman to win an athletics gold medal during the 1948 Olympics.[20]

Delfo Cabrera crossing the finish line to take gold in the marathon
Start of the 50 km walk


These Games also included Lacrosse as a demonstration sport.

A Boy Scout who fainted in the intense heat was the first 'casualty' of the 1948 Olympic Games. The temperature was in the nineties (32°C) as the sun blazed down mercilessly.

The 1948 Summer Olympic programme featured 136 events in the following 17 sports:

Sport by sport overview

The opening ceremony, and over 60 hours of other coverage during the Games, was broadcast live on BBC television. The BBC had paid a sum of £1000 for the broadcasting rights.[15]

Thus were launched the Olympic Games of London, under the most happy auspices. The smooth-running Ceremony, which profoundly moved not only all who saw it but also the millions who were listening-in on the radio throughout the world, and the glorious weather in which it took place, combined to give birth to a spirit which was to permeate the whole of the following two weeks of thrilling and intensive sport.[14]

The 580-page official report concluded:

At 4 pm, the time shown on Big Ben on the London Games symbol, the King declared the Games open, 2,500 pigeons were set free and the Olympic Flag raised to its 35 ft (11 m) flagpole at the end of the stadium. The Royal Horse Artillery sounded a 21-gun salute and the last runner in the Torch Relay ran a lap of the track – created with cinders from the domestic coal fires of Leicester – and climbed the steps to the Olympic cauldron. After saluting the crowd, he turned and lit the flame. After more speeches, Donald Finlay of the British team (given his RAF rank of Wing Commander) took the Olympic Oath on behalf of all competitors. The National Anthem was sung and the massed athletes turned and marched out of the stadium, led by Greece, tailed by Britain.

After welcoming the athletes to two weeks of "keen but friendly rivalry", he said London represented a "warm flame of hope for a better understanding in the world which has burned so low."[13]

Your Majesty: The hour has struck. A visionary dream has today become a glorious reality. At the end of the worldwide struggle in 1945, many institutions and associations were found to have withered and only the strongest had survived. How, many wondered, had the great Olympic Movement prospered?

The Games opened on 29 July, a brilliantly sunny day. Army bands began playing at 2 pm for the 85,000 spectators in Queen Elizabeth, with Queen Mary and other members of the Royal Family, at 2.45 pm. Fifteen minutes later the competitors entered the stadium in a procession that took 50 minutes. The last team was that of the United Kingdom. When it had passed the saluting base, Lord Burghley began his welcome:

The XIV Olympic Games opens in London, 1948

Opening ceremony

These were the first games to be held following the death of Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the International Olympic Committee, in 1937. They were also the last to feature an arts competition, which took place at the Victoria and Albert Museum.[12]

At the time of the Games food, petrol and building rationing was still in place in Britain; because of this the 1948 Olympics came to be known as the "Austerity Games".[10] Athletes were given increased rations, the same as those received by dockers and miners, which meant 5,467 calories a day, instead of the normal 2,600. Building an Olympic Village was deemed too expensive; athletes were therefore housed in existing accommodation. Male competitors stayed at RAF camps in Uxbridge and West Drayton, and an Army camp in Richmond; female competitors in London colleges.[11]

Olympic pictograms were introduced for the first time. There were twenty of them—one for each Olympic sport and three separate pictograms for the arts competition, the opening ceremony and the closing ceremony. They were called "Olympic symbols" and intended for the use on tickets. The background of each pictogram resembled an escutcheon.[8][9] Olympic pictograms would appear again 16 years later and be featured at each Summer Olympics thereafter.

[7].Jack Beresford; and The Football Association, Secretary of S.F. Rous, a member of the IOC for New Zealand who resided in London; A.E. Porritt, the other British member of the IOC; Sir Noel Curtis-Bennett; Alderman H.E. Fern; E.J. Holt; J. Emrys Lloyd, who became the committee's legal advisor; C.B. Cowley of the London Press and Advertising; R.B. Studdert, Managing Director of the Army & Navy Stores; Lord Aberdare for Great Britain; Chef de mission, and British Olympic Association The other members of the committees were: Colonel Evan Hunter, General Secretary of the [6]

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