Olympics and History of the Modern Games London 1908 Part 1

About the Olympics and the modern games, account of the games in London, England in 1908.


The 1908 Olympics were originally awarded to Rome, but because the Italian Government was not financially able to stage them, they were transferred to London. The track and stadium were well prepared and, despite steady rain, huge crowds came to see what was by now a world event. From the beginning there was friction between participants and British officials. In the opening parade, the British neglected to provide American and Swedish flags; and the Finns, under Russian rule, refused to carry the Russian flag. Some top Irish athletes quit, refusing to represent Great Britain. British officials and judges seemed to take a chauvinistic interest in their athletes and a hard line against U.S. athletes, some of whom were of Irish descent.

British-American antagonism came to a head in the 400-m. run. Three Americans and one Briton, Wyndham Halswelle, were the finalists. In the last 100 yards of a close race, U.S. runner J. C. Carpenter took a wide turn into Halswelle's lane and opened up, leaving Halswelle behind. British judges called a foul, disqualified Carpenter, and ruled a rerun among the other 3. Feelings ran so high that the American team almost quit and the 2 U.S. runners refused to run again. Halswelle won in Olympic history's only walkover.

The climax event was the traditional marathon race, which provided another controversy. There were 28 runners who were to run from Windsor Castle 26 mi. to the Olympic stadium, then, before King Edward VII, the Royal Family, and frenzied thousands, to circle the last 385 yards inside the stadium. (The 26 mi., 385 yards standardized the distance for all future Olympics.) The betting favorite was Tom Longboat, an Indian from Canada. The sentimental favorite was Dorando Petri, a wispy middle-aged moustached Italian candy-maker. The U.S. entries included Johnny Hayes, an Irishman who worked for Bloomingdale's Department Store when he wasn't running, Louis Tewanima, who had been a roommate of Jim Thorpe's at Carlisle, and a youngster named Forshaw.

Two hours and 50 minutes after the race began, the leading runner appeared in the stadium. He was the frail, dark-haired Italian, Dorando. The audience greeted him with a mighty roar. But it is doubtful if Dorando heard. He had punished himself terribly. He was out on his feet. He started on the last 385 yards amid a great demonstration. Two-thirds of the way around he staggered, collapsed. Four British officials lifted him. He plodded forward. Fifteen yards from the finish he fainted. The officials again lifted him, dragged him across the line. The spectators cheered him as the Olympic victor. Minutes later Johnny Hayes of Bloomingdale's bounced briskly into the stadium, circled it, and finished firmly on his feet. The Americans cheered him as the victor. Then came the official announcement. Dorando 1st. Hayes 2nd.

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