London Olympics 1908 and 1948

Daniel Cossins enjoys an illustrated survey of the two past London Olympics


Reviewed by: Daniel Cossins
Author: Janie Hampton
Publisher: Shire Books
Price (RRP): £6.99


Now that preparations for London 2012 are entering the home straight, this book offers an entertaining dash through the last two Olympics hosted by our capital.

The contrasts between then and now are striking, and often amusing. But it’s the dramatic events that played out on the track and field that really capture the imagination.

In 1908 Dorando Pietri, an Italian marathon runner, stole the show – and the hearts of many – as he collapsed several times before being helped across the line to victory, only to be disqualified after American complaints.

Forty years later, in the aftermath of the Second World War, organisers of the ‘austerity Olympics’ asked athletes to bring their own food, towels and soap. And yet the games provided a wealth of sporting feats, not least that of Fanny Blankers-Koen, the ‘Flying Housewife’, who romped to four gold medals.

This is by no means a comprehensive history. It’s a brief and lively account that brings London’s previous Olympic moments to life with great images and revealing quotes from newspapers, spectators and the athletes themselves.

Daniel Cossins, freelance journalist

See also…


Michael Scott discusses the ancient Greek Olympics