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LONDON. 27 Apr – 31 Oct 2008. Britain, host of 2012 Olympic Games, marks two Olympics anniversaries in 2008

London, host of the 2012 Olympic Games, celebrates in 2008 the centenary of its first Games

July 27, 2012 - NULL

LONDON. 27 Apr - 31 Oct 2008. Britain, host of 2012 Olympic Games, marks two Olympics anniversaries in 2008

London, host of the 2012 Olympic Games, celebrates in 2008 the centenary of its first Games and the 60th anniversary of its second. The government plans to mint a special coin to mark the centenary of an Olympics that was first awarded

LONDON. 27 Apr - 31 Oct 2008. Britain, host of 2012 Olympic Games, marks two Olympics anniversaries in 2008

London, host of the 2012 Olympic Games, celebrates in 2008 the centenary of its first Games and the 60th anniversary of its second. The government plans to mint a special coin to mark the centenary of an Olympics that was first awarded to Rome but reassigned to Britain after the 1906 eruption of Mt. Vesuvius caused Italy to pull out.

Both 1908 and 1948 Games saw firsts. The 1908 Games was the first to stage an opening ceremony, qualifying rounds and limits to the number of competitors any one country could field. Only 36 women took part. And in 1908 the distance for all future marathons was set at 26.2 miles, instead of 24.85 miles, so the course would cover the ground from Windsor Castle to White City Stadium.

The event that caught the most headlines around the world was the dramatic ending of the marathon. After 26 miles of running, the first man to enter the stadium was Dorando Pietri of Italy, but he collapsed on the track five times and was disqualified when officials carried him across the finish line. The second-placed American runner John Hayes was later awarded the Gold after the United States lodged a complaint. After the London Olympics the International Olympics Committee decided to draw judges from an international pool rather then just the host country.

The anniversary of the 1948 Games, known as the "Austerity Games" because six years of war had left Britain with rationing of food and clothing and little available housing, is 29 Jul - 14 Aug 1948. London had been awarded the 1944 Olympics in June 1939 but they were cancelled when war broke out just months later. The event saw approximately double the number of athletes and competing nations -- 4099, of which 390 were women, competing in 136 events and representing 59 nations. Defeated powers Germany and Japan were not invited.

London was still rebuilding so athletes were housed in schools, government buildings and military barracks instead of the usual purpose built Olympic village. Wembley Stadium had survived the Blitz and after it had been fitted with a temporary running track it was used as the Games' main stadia. Food was also being rationed so the IOC asked all the competitors to bring their meals with them - with left over food being donated to hospitals.

Starting blocks were used for the first time in the sprint races, and the 1948 Games was the first shown on home television. NOV/2007

RELATED READING:

1908 Olympics (IOC)

1948 Olympics (IOC)

Date written/update: 2012-07-27