22 July 2012

Posted by DMC on 24 July 2012 in Diary |

When I woke up this morning the nausea had passed, thank heavens, and I was able to resume eating normally. Dear Chloe was of enormous help in assisting me to print up to date the hardcopy of this blog before she left mid-afternoon.

There was a certainly a surfeit of sport on the television, apart from the Grand Prix, there was a test match against the West Indies and The Open golf tournament at Royal Lytham St. Annes, near Blackpool, an incredible golf course sandwiched between intensive urban development, but certainly one of the finest links courses in the world.

So far as the test match against the West Indies is concerned, the least said, the better, from the English point of view. At the end of play today the West Indies having scored 600 odd before England. lost this first of the series of five test match by an innings and 12 runs. A miserable performance by the world champions.

The Open golf tournament was another thing. Absolutely compulsive viewing. The home Australian, Scott Adams, led the field with a handsome cushion of four shots right up to the last four holes, which he managed to bogey (last shot on each hole) which allowed the old master Ernie Ells to snatch the title by virtue of Scott missing a 20 foot putt on the last hole.

Over the last three or four days I have quoted verbatim from the special supplement brought out by The Times for the 1948 Olympics. So soon after the end of the Second World War it was a miracle of organisation, but what a contrast to today’s highly organised and immensely expensive events. To complete the comparison with today’s Olympics. I shall, in keeping with my earlier efforts, quote freely from the editorial of that 1948 Times supplement.

The editorial, in this instance was written by Bob Stanley. The supplement, in keeping with all of the others, was mainly photographs, which spoke for themselves, but the journalist decided to draw attention to what was known as the Austerity Games, which used any existing building that was capable of hosting an event.

For example the 1924 British Empire Exhibition, which is only still standing because it was (at the time) the world’s largest reinforced concrete building, which would have cost a fortune to demolish. The swimming events took place in the Empire Pool Built for the 1934 Games which had its name changed to Wembley Arena in 1978. It was used for all aquatic events in 1948, as well as boxing. In those days this was the the largest pool in the world. The architect brief for it was to design a flexible building which could be used for ice skating, ice hockey, and music events too. Darts and snooker have been regulars at the Arena in recent years, though it is mostly used as a music venue The 2012 basketball events will be in a temporary stadium. There was a plan to ship it to Rio for the 2016 games, although this is currently on hold. In 1948 basketball was based at the Harringay Arena, adjacent to the Harringay Stadium dog track and had its own railway station. The 1948 venue wasn’t that much more permanent than the 2012 version-built in1936, it closed in 1958.

In 1948 this multipurpose venue also hosted boxing, the Moscow State Circus, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. The Arena and the Greyhound Stadium have both gone, replaced by the Arena shopping centre. The photographs in this supplement showed that football was as unpopular an Olympic event in 1948, as it has proved to be this year.

Still, surviving is the Herne Hill velodrome which was founded…. In 1891. Until the new Velopark opened last year, it was London’s only velodrome.


Bomb damage had caused Herne Hill to close in 1942 and by 1948 it was heavily overgrown. Cleaned up, in time for the Olympics, it wasn’t given much of a fanfare. “What a strange nation, we British are! The greatest cycling festival of this century might well have been an ordinary track promotion.” moaned Cyclist magazine. It’s good to know that Britain was already the Olympic champion at tutting and complaining 64 years ago.


Well there you. A fascinating insight into the Austerity Games. I think Bob Stanley, the author of most of the italicised comments about is a little hard to focus on those few people who, in common with the rest of the population, had just emerged from the nightmare of the second world war. For every one tut all complain. there were probably happen and recorded comments of support.


These Games
, which were miraculously mounted three years after the end of the Second World War at a cost, I suspect, of no more than 1% or 2% of the cost of coming Games, the last estimate, of which I saw, was £9.3 billion. These Games, were, in respect, a make do and mend affair. Even the participants themselves had to sew on their own badges and, no doubt, another 101 things to which today’s athletes would certainly object. Having said that, although I was almost 14 at the time, and have no recollection of the event, but I suspect that the true spirit of these Olympic Games was as strong then-if not stronger-than it is today.




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