Saturday, June 16, 2012

Olympics: Brief history of the Modern Games: 1908, London

These games were originally scheduled for Italy but after Mount Vesuvius erupted in 1906 the venue was changed to London. The event took 187 days to complete with more than 2,000 competitors in over 100 events. Countries competing for the first time included Iceland, New Zealand, and Turkey. The 1908 London Olympics saw the introduction of the first opening ceremony procession. The procession of athletes was led by the Greek team, followed by all the other teams in alphabetical order (in the language of the hosting country), except for the last team which is always the team of the hosting country. The 1908 London Olympics was not without political intrigue when objections were made in regard the Irish and Finish teams wanting to display their national flags. These requests were refused but when the British Royal family made a request to extend the marathon start to Windsor Castle so that the royal children could witness the start and finish, it was granted. The distance from the Windsor Castle to the Olympic Stadium was 42,195 meters (or 26 miles and 385 yards). There was controversy in this event and Italian Dorando Pietri needed to be helped across the finish line of the marathon. He was initially declared the winner before later disqualified in favor of Johnny Hayes of the USA.

Complaints by the British concerning qualified US athletes had cheated in the 400-meter final heat. As four runners came into the final stretch, W.C. Robbins (U.S.) was first, followed by J.C. Carpenter (U.S.), with British Wyndham Halswelle coming in third, and followed by a fourth runner from the U.S. As Carpenter and Halswelle (second and third runners) swung out to pass Robbins, someone shouted "Foul!" Though Carpenter (the U.S. runner who had been in second) finished first, with Robbins (U.S.) in second, and Halswelle (U.K.) in third, the British officials accused Carpenter of blocking and elbowing Halswelle and voided the whole race. The race was ordered to be rerun, but since the American runners refused to redo the race, Halswelle ran the race all by himself to win the gold after he ran a solo 50.0. Motor Boating was an official sport at the 1908 Olympics.

Discus thrower, Martin Sheridan maintained sartorial eloquence throughout competition by wearing sock garters. Britain's recent refusal to give Ireland its independence caused Irish athletes to boycott the Games and caused contestants from the U.S to not dip the American flag to the British royalty during the opening ceremony (a tradition the U.S. continues to this day).

Joshua Milner (UK) won gold in the free rifle shooting competition. He had a most unorthodox shooting style and lay on his back with his knees drawn up and the rifle supported by his feet.

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