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London 1908 - Overview

The Olympic ideal is given a new dimension

The image of the Games was restored from April 27 to Oct. 31 within the stadium of White City (about 70,000 standing places) in London, on the fringes of the Anglo-French exhibition commemorating the Entente Cordial. These Olympics permitted a new dimension to be added to the Games.

Some 2,000 athletes representing 22 countries took part in the official procession in front of the royal family. Yet the Games were not initially destined for London, but for Rome. In 1906, the Italian capital, given the task of organizing the event -- much to the delight of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, president of the International Olympic Committee -- pulled out without giving any explanation. Great Britain subsequently stepped in and was able to organize the competition within two years.

Britain plunders

On the subject of results, the Americans, led by middle-distance king Mel Sheppard, demonstrated their supremacy in the track and field events. But at home, the British managed to win the most important medals among those distributed throughout the 22 sports: 145 (56 gold), against the Americans' total of 47.

If the London Games turned out to be a success, despite an almost constant downpour of rain, then the absence of fair play among certain English stewards and referees did further dampen the Olympic spirit. Once again, the marathon attracted scandal: The winner, Italian Dorando Pietri, was disqualified by judges who, a few minutes earlier, had helped him cross the finish line.

This at once made headlines in the national media. But thanks to the marathon (whose course went through Windsor Castle and White City, and which was disputed over a distance of 42.195 kilometers), and thanks to some good organization and a veritable sporting interest (numerous events and plenty of athletes), the Games ended with the result that the Olympic ideal became more recognized and appreciated.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.

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