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London 1908 - Quick hits


In the heart of White City in London on July 13, 70,000 spectators gave their support to the first Olympic procession of the 22 competing nations. The Irish and the Finns had no flag. Russia and England, both respectively against the autonomy of Finland and Ireland, did not allow the flying of both countries' flags.

The metre reigns

After seemingly endless procrastinations, the English ceded the use of yards and adopted the metric system. The English viewed this decision as a disadvantage for their athletes since it would no longer be a question of running 100 yards, but 109.3 yards (100m)....

A lone victory

In the athletics 400m event, American John Carpenter was disqualified after it was ruled that he prevented Britain's Wyndham Halswelle from passing him on the track. The judges decided to re-run the race two days later, after disqualifying Carpenter. Carpenter's two fellow countrymen in the race stood by him on principle and refused to run - leaving Halswelle to compete alone - and win.

Crowd capacity

Two million spectators followed the marathon, run for the first time under a definitive distance (42.195km) between Windsor Castle and White City.

Like father, like son

The Swede Oscar Swahn and his son Alfred won the gold medal together in the team shooting event. Aged 60 in London, Oscar went on to win another 3 gold medals, 1 silver, and 2 bronze before finishing his career...12 years later in 1920.

Two in one

New Zealand and Australia appeared under the same banner: Australasia. The same arrangement remained for the Stockholm Games in 1912.

Ice in summertime

Figure skating was included in the official programme of the Games. It also made an appearance at the Games in Antwerp in 1920 before becoming an integral part of the Winter Games, the first of which took place in 1924 in Chamonix.


The Queen, so touched by the plight of Italian Dorando Pietri - disqualified for accepting help from judges to finish the marathon 100m from the finish line - awarded him a golden cup at the close of the Games.

Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes author Conan Doyle, was one of the judges who helped the unfortunate Dorando Pietri to finish the marathon - precipitating his later disqualification. The inquest into his disqualification was quickly convened....elementary.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.

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