Olympics and History of the Modern Games Switzerland and England 1948

About the olympics and the modern games, account of the games in Switzerland and England in 1948


Germany, Italy, and Japan, the defeated nations in W.W. II, were not invited. These games were marred by fighting, especially between 2 hockey teams vying to represent the U.S. and among the Ligue Internationale Sur Glace, the U.S. Olympic Committee, and the IOC. At 1st, both hockey teams were ruled ineligible, then the American Hockey Association team was permitted to play, but the IOC said it could not receive medals. That proved academic: As expected, Canada won again.

Gretchen Fraser won the slalom and the 1st-ever U.S. medal in skiing. Dick Button, at 18, won men's figure skating.


England was still on postwar rationing, and the nation did not put on a great spectacle such as last seen in Berlin in 1936. The IOC ruled the new state of Israel could not compete because it was not yet a member of the IOC; this decision averted an Arab walkout. Despite low-key advance publicity, opening ceremonies were impressive with Household Cavalry, Grenadiers, and Highlands Scots likened to a DeMille Technicolor opus. Spectators were treated to 3 "superstars."

Czechoslovakia's Emil Zatopek, who trained wearing boots in bad weather and "ran like a man who had been stabbed in the heart," captivated track fans by dueling the favored Viljo Hcino, Finland's record-holder, in the 10,000-m. Hcino could not keep it up, and quit. Zatopek put on a show of speed to become the 1st Czech gold winner in the Olympics.

Robert Mathias, youngest American trackman at 17, bested the world's strongmen to win the decathlon, finishing the last events--the javelin and 1,500-m.--in a rainy, fog-darkened, muddy Wembley stadium. All of his main rivals had finished before sunset, but as he capped 12 hours of competition, spectators and athletes were lighting matches to find their way around. Asked what he would do to celebrate, Mathias said, "Start shaving, I guess."

Also amazing was Fanny Blankers-Koen of The Netherlands, the "Flying Housewife" or "Marvelous Mama." She became the 1st woman to win 4 gold medals in the dashes, hurdles, and a relay. Rules limited women to 4 events; at the time, she held world records in the broad and high jumps.

At Torbay, where yachting events were held, Dane Paul Elvestrom began a string of victories in 4 consecutive Olympics.

After disqualifying the U.S. relay team for an incorrect baton pass, officials reversed themselves when they viewed the official films of the event.

The U.S. swept all the men's swimming events.

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