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 Londoners memories of the 1948 Olympic Games

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Join date : 2011-03-24

PostSubject: Londoners memories of the 1948 Olympic Games   Sat Jun 25, 2011 11:35 am

Londoners memories of the 1948 Olympic Games
By Catherine Donohoe & Laura Foster
BBC London

Sixty-two years ago, 82,000 people gathered at Wembley Stadium for the start of the 1948 London Olympic Games. Here, four Londoners share their memories.
London Olympic Games
The 1948 London Olympic Games Opening Ceremony led by flagbearer John Emrys Lloyd

As the first Olympic Games to be staged following World War II, London's challenge was unlike that of any previous host city.

A large portion of the city had been damaged by the bombing, food and petrol rations were still in force, unemployment was high and morale was low.

Despite having only two years of preparation time and with the odds stacked against them, London succeeded in hosting what has now become known as the 'Austerity Olympics.'

Alfred recalls: "After the war, everyone was trying to get back to being civilians. People were far more nationalistic back then. A lot of people came and spent a lot of money."

The Games cost just over £732,268 to put on and even managed to produce a profit of £29,420 - approximately £700,000 in today's money.

Irene remembers: "When you sit in a crowd like that, you're absolutely overwhelmed by the amount of people there.

I kept everything from that day - the programme, my ticket. I kept it all.
Irene Graham

"It was really something to see - crowds of tiers of people. It was a fantastic thing to sit in the middle of.

"You could see a panorama of people - it was breathtaking, that in itself.

"It was very impressive. You're looking around - it's exciting to see that amount of people."

Ron, from north Wembley, was only 13 years old when he went to watch the Olympic Games. He remembers that Londoners were feeling proud that the Games were being staged in the capital.

"I'll always remember the 1948 Olympics because it was the first event we'd had after the war. It was really very memorable. I will always remember that one more than any other.

"Half a dozen of us boys used to wait outside the turnstiles and ask if anyone had any spare tickets. We got in every day. Sometimes one of us would go out of the stadium and bring back another four boys as there were no seat numbers - you just sat where you could."

It took just over two months to convert Wembley Stadium into an international sporting arena. The greyhound track was replaced with a cinder running track just two weeks before the opening ceremony.

Ron considers himself lucky to have been able to attend the Olympics as he was nearly killed during the war by a Doodlebug (V-1 flying bomb).

After the war, it was such a release to have something like the Olympic Games.

"It was so unique because of all the troubles we'd had. It was a pleasure to be able to go and do something that you couldn't do for a few years prior to the war.

"I think it was a lift for everybody because we'd been through such a terrible time. It really did lift the nation. It was a great event, it really was."

Tom, 79, remembers the crowds that came to watch the Olympics; "it certainly must have brought in a lot of people to the infrastructure of Wembley."

Aged 17, Tom travelled to Wembley with his cousins to watch the track and field events.

"It was a pouring wet day, parts of the stadium had no cover so lots of people got very wet.

"The crowds were fairly calm - probably something to do with the weather."

The roof was not added to Wembley Stadium until 1963.

It was something that drew tourists in; it drew local people in; it was really something
Tom Heinneman

"England was the only country which offered to do it after the war andthe organisers did a good job.

"Today's Games however, have grown out of all proportions, gotten too big," says Tom.
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