Sunday, 19 February 2012

London 1948.

The Olympic Community took 12 years out from sport and spent it waging war with itself across Europe.

When they reconvened the mood was one of sobriety. The 1948 Games became known as the Austerity Games, no new venues were built and there was no Olympic village. Germany and Japan were not invited and Russia chose not to send any competitors and the athletes that did attend (a record number) had to cope with rations, even if they were given the same bulked up allocation as dockers and miners.

Here are some austerely trivial facts.

Victoria Manalo Draves and Sammy Lee became the first Asian Americans to win gold medals at an Olympic Games and Alice Coachman, in the high jump, became the first coloured woman and the first African American woman to win a gold medal.

Emil Zatopek (pictured) won the 10,000m. His explanation for his odd facial expression was that he was "not talented enough to run and smile at the same time."

In the 50km walk John Ljunggren, the 1946 European Champion, led from start to finish, having opened up 40 seconds after only five kilometers. He completely dominated the event and won by almost seven minutes.

In shooting Karoly Takacs had been a member of the Hungary's world champion pistol shooting team in 1938 when a grenade shattered his right hand – his pistol hand. Takacs taught himself to shoot with his left hand and, 10 years after his injury, won a gold medal.

Starting blocks were introduced for sprint races.

Harold Toshiyuki Sakata from Hawaii won a silver medal in weightlifting and later went on to appear as Odd Job in the James Bond film Goldfinger.

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