1948 Summer Olympics

Facts

Competition type Olympic Games
Host city London, Great Britain (Venues)
Opening ceremony 29 July
Closing ceremony 14 August
Competition dates 26 July – 14 August
OCOG Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad
Participants 4416 from 59 countries
Medal events 154 in 24 disciplines
Other events 3 in 2 disciplines

Overview

As in 1920, the IOC decided that it was necessary to resurrect the Olympic Movement at the earliest scheduled time. Although England had been ravaged by Hitler’s raids, the Games of the XIVth Olympiad were awarded to London in 1948. In spite of years of difficulties caused by rationing of food, clothes and other essential materials, the British Organizing Committee did an outstanding job.

No great innovations accompanied the Games themselves, as most of the protocols of the Opening, Closing and Victory Ceremonies were by now established. However, these Games were significant as they were televised for the first time, although only to small local audiences. Television sets were still quite rare.

One country which was dearly missed was the Soviet Union. The USSR had competed in 1946 at the European Championships in track & field athletics and it was thought that perhaps they would return to the Olympics in 1948. It was not to be and the reasons for their failure to compete have never been well known. Two countries which were not invited were Germany and Japan, as aggressor nations in World War II.

As a very popular sport in England, track & field was truly the focus of these Olympics, as it is often is. Three athletes stood out in the athletics stadium. Fanny Blankers-Koen (NED) was a 30-year-old mother of three children in 1948. She had competed in the 1936 Olympics, although without distinction. By 1948, however, she was undoubtedly the greatest female athlete in the world. She won the 100 metres, 200 metres, 80 metre high hurdles, and helped win gold in the 4×100 metre relay. Had she been allowed to compete in more events (women were still limited to three individual events), she would likely have won more, as she was the world record holder in the high jump and long jump. She was also the world record holder in the pentathlon, as might be imagined, although that event was not yet on the Olympic Program.

The men did have a multi-event, though, the decathlon. The favorite in this event would have been Heino Lipp of Estonia, had the Soviet Union (or Estonia) entered a team. Failing that there was no clear favorite. American Floyd “Chunk” Simmons was a possibility but had lost the Olympic trials to 17-year-old schoolboy Bob Mathias, who was not thought to be old enough to win such a demanding test, but in the end, Mathias prevailed. He was third after the first day, but through 12 hours of competition on the second day, much of it in a downpour, only he was able to maintain a high level of performance. In the next few years he would prove it not to be a fluke. He would win again in 1952 at Helsinki and was never defeated in his decathlon career.

Emil Zátopek (TCH) was far from an unknown at the 1948 Olympics. He had finished 5th in the 5,000 metres in the 1946 European Championships and shortly before the London Games, he came within two seconds of the world record in the 10,000 metres. He won the 10K early in the Olympics, forcing such a fast pace that world record holder, Viljo Heino (FIN) retired. Zátopek won by over 45 seconds, and came back to take a silver in the 5,000 metres several days later. It was only a prelude to his heroics of 1952.

Bid process

Because of time constraints, and the difficulty getting IOC members to travel to a central location for voting on the 1948 Olympic Games, London (Great Britain) was confirmed as the host city by a postal vote. The vote was confirmed at the 40th IOC Session in Lausanne on 4 September 1946. The other candidates were: Baltimore, Maryland, Los Angeles, California, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (all United States) and Lausanne (Switzerland).

Ceremonies

Officially opened by George VI, King of the United Kingdom (King)
Torchbearer(s) John Mark (Lit flame)
Taker of the Athlete's Oath Don Finlay
Flagbearers Full list

Medal Disciplines

Art Competitions Cycling Track Modern Pentathlon
Artistic Gymnastics Diving Rowing
Athletics Equestrian Dressage Sailing
Basketball Equestrian Eventing Shooting
Boxing Equestrian Jumping Swimming
Canoe Marathon Fencing Water Polo
Canoe Sprint Football Weightlifting
Cycling Road Hockey Wrestling

Other Disciplines

Artistic Gymnastics Lacrosse

Medal table

NOC Gold Silver Bronze Total
United States USA 38 27 19 84
Sweden SWE 17 11 18 46
France FRA 11 6 15 32
Finland FIN 10 8 6 24
Hungary HUN 10 5 13 28
Italy ITA 9 12 10 31
Turkey TUR 6 4 2 12
Czechoslovakia TCH 6 2 3 11
Switzerland SUI 5 12 6 23
Denmark DEN 5 8 9 22
Netherlands NED 5 2 9 16
Great Britain GBR 4 16 7 27
Argentina ARG 3 3 1 7
Australia AUS 2 6 5 13
Austria AUT 2 2 4 8
Belgium BEL 2 2 3 7
South Africa RSA 2 2 2 6
Egypt EGY 2 2 1 5
Mexico MEX 2 1 2 5
Norway NOR 1 3 3 7
Jamaica JAM 1 2 0 3
Poland POL 1 0 1 2
India IND 1 0 0 1
Peru PER 1 0 0 1
Canada CAN 0 2 2 4
Yugoslavia YUG 0 2 0 2
Portugal POR 0 1 1 2
Uruguay URU 0 1 1 2
Cuba CUB 0 1 0 1
Spain ESP 0 1 0 1
Sri Lanka SRI 0 1 0 1
Trinidad and Tobago TTO 0 1 0 1
Panama PAN 0 0 2 2
Republic of Korea KOR 0 0 2 2
Brazil BRA 0 0 1 1
Ireland IRL 0 0 1 1
Islamic Republic of Iran IRI 0 0 1 1
Puerto Rico PUR 0 0 1 1

Most successful competitors

Athlete Nat Gold Silver Bronze Total
Fanny Blankers-Koen NED 4 0 0 4
Veikko Huhtanen FIN 3 1 1 5
Paavo Aaltonen FIN 3 0 1 4
Ann Curtis USA 2 1 0 3
Jimmy McLane USA 2 1 0 3
Humberto Mariles MEX 2 0 1 3
Micheline Ostermeyer FRA 2 0 1 3
Mal Whitfield USA 2 0 1 3
Gert Fredriksson SWE 2 0 0 2
Jéhan de Buhan FRA 2 0 0 2
Aladár Gerevich HUN 2 0 0 2
Heikki Savolainen FIN 2 0 0 2
Vicki Draves USA 2 0 0 2
Wally Ris USA 2 0 0 2
Bill Smith USA 2 0 0 2
Roy Cochran USA 2 0 0 2
Harrison Dillard USA 2 0 0 2
Mel Patton USA 2 0 0 2

All medalists at these Games