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London 1908 - Overview

The Olympic ideal is given a new dimension

The image of the Games was restored within the 70,000 capacity White City stadium in London on the fringes of the Anglo-French exhibition commemorating the Entente Cordial. These Olympics permitted a new dimension to be added to the Games.

Some 2000 athletes representing 22 countries took part in the official procession in front of the Royal family. Yet the Games were not initially destined for the city of London, but for Rome. In 1906 the Italian capital, given the task of organising the event - much to the delight of Baron Pierre de Coubertin - pulled out without giving any explanation. Great Britain subsequently stepped in and was able to organise the competition within two years.

Britain plunders

On the subject of results, the Americans, led by the middle distance king Mel Sheppard, demonstrated their supremacy in the athletics events. But at home, the British managed to win the most important medals among those distributed throughout the 20 sports: 143 (55 gold), against an American total of 47.

If the London Games turned out to be a success, despite an almost constant downpour of rain, then the absence of fair-play among certain English stewards and referees did enough to further dampen the Olympic spirit.

Once again the marathon attracted scandal: the winner, Italian Dorando Pietri, was disqualified by judges who, a few minutes previously, had helped him cross the finish line.

This at once made headlines in the national press. But thanks to the marathon - whose course went through Windsor Castle and the stadium of White City - and thanks to some good organisation and a veritable sporting interest, the Games met the Olympic ideal and thereby became more recognised and appreciated.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.

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