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1908 Summer Olympics

The Games of the IV Olympiad, originally scheduled to be held in Rome, were instead held in 1908 in London, England.

Games of the IV Olympiad
Nations participating 22
Athletes participating 2,035 (1,999 men, 36 women)
Events 110 in 22 sports
Opening ceremonies April 27, 1908
Closing ceremonies October 31, 1908
Officially opened by Edward VII
Athlete's Oath. not applicable
Judge's Oath: not applicable
Olympic Torch not applicable

Italian authorities were preparing infrastructure for the games when Mount Vesuvius erupted on April 7, 1906, devastating the nearby city of Naples. Funds that were to have gone to the Olympics were diverted to the reconstruction of Naples, so a new venue was required. London was selected, and the games were held in White City alongside the Franco-British Exhibition, which at the time was the more noteworthy event.

The White City Stadium, built in very short time especially for the games, held 68,000 people and was considered by some to be a technological marvel for the time. The distance from the start of the Marathon to the finish at the stadium was established at this games; 42km, 195 m. (26 miles, 385 yards). The starting line was moved to allow the Royal Family a good view.

The games were surrounded by controversy. On opening day, it was the second time the various countries marched around an Olympic stadium behind their national flags. (Those not counting Atherns 1906 consider it the first time.) However, the arrangement caused several complications:

  • The Finnish team were expected to march under the Russian flag rather than the Finnish flag, so chose to march without a flag at all.
  • Irish athletes were compelled to compete for the British team, so many of them withdrew.
  • The Swedish flag had not been displayed above the stadium, so the members of the Swedish team decided not to take part in the ceremony.
  • The United States flag had also not been displayed above the stadium before the opening so the United States' flag bearer refused to dip the flag to the royal box. Though the flag was later dipped in the collective greating of the royal family, one of his teammates later gave the explanation that "This flag dips to no earthly king." As a result of that claim, for as long as dipping the flag was common practice, the US-bearers found their entire nation expected them to insult the head of state of the host country by not dipping the flag.

The 1908 Olympics also prompted the establishment of standard rules for sports, and the selection of judges from different countries, rather than just the host. One of the reasons for this was the 400 metre run in which the US winner was accused of interfering with the British runner. Part of the problem was the different definition of interference under British and US rules. The race was re-run, but the Americans refused to participate. The British runner, Wyndham Halswelle, won by running around the track on his own because three of the four original runners had been American.

The most famous incident of the games came at the end of the marathon. It occurred when the first runner to re-enter the stadium, Dorando Pietri of Italy, collapsed several times and ran the wrong way. Not far from the finish-line, two of the officials took him by the arms, and brought him to the line. As a consequence, after crossing the line he was disqualified. The medal went to American John Hayes who was second over the line, but the glory went to Pietri. Since he himself had not been responsible for his disqualification Queen Alexandra the next day awarded him a gold cup in recognision of his achievement.

These Games were the first to include Winter events, such as had originally been proposed for the Games. There were four figure skating events contested. However, the on-ice events occurred months separated from most of the other events.


Disciplines contested

Medal count

Top medal-collecting nations:
(for the full table, see 1908 Summer Olympics medal count)

1908 Summer Olympics medal count
Pos Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 20px Great Britain 56 51 38 145
2 United States 23 12 12 47
3 20px Sweden 8 6 11 25
4 20px France 5 5 9 19
5 20px Germany 3 5 6 14
6 20px Hungary 3 4 2 9
7 20px Canada 3 3 10 16
8 20px Norway 2 3 3 8
9 20px Italy 2 2 0 4
10 20px Belgium 1 5 2 8

See also

External links

Olympic Games
Summer Olympic Games
1896 | 1900 | 1904 | 1906* | 1908 | 1912 | 1916 | 1920 | 1924 | 1928 | 1932 | 1936 | 1940 | 1944 | 1948 | 1952 | 1956 | 1960 | 1964 | 1968 | 1972 | 1976 | 1980 | 1984 | 1988 | 1992 | 1996 | 2000 | 2004 | 2008 | 2012 | 2016
Winter Olympic Games
1924 | 1928 | 1932 | 1936 | 1948 | 1952 | 1956 | 1960 | 1964 | 1968 | 1972 | 1976 | 1980 | 1984 | 1988 | 1992 | 1994 | 1998 | 2002 | 2006 | 2010 | 2014 | 2018
* The 1906 Olympic were organised by the IOC, but are currently not officially recognised by the IOC, although most Olympic historians disagree.

Last updated: 11-05-2004 17:37:08