The London Olympics In 1908 And 2012
Author: Chris Tomkins
When London first hosted the Olympics back in 1908, tug-of-war was an official sport, the budget was just 80,000 pounds, and African and Asian nations weren\'t even invited. As London prepares to welcome the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, we discover what\'s changed over 104 years.
1908: The 1908 Olympics were originally awarded to Rome but the Italians pulled out, citing the cost of reconstruction following an eruption of Mount Vesuvius. London stepped in as host city and, despite the rushed preparations, pulled together one of the best organised of the first Games.
2012: London beat favourites Paris to host the 2012 Games by 54 votes to 50. The result was received in London with huge cheers by flag-waving supporters who had gathered in Trafalgar Square to hear the news.
The Olympic Stadium
1908: For the first time, a dedicated Olympic Stadium was built. Known as White City, the new arena had space for 68,000 spectators and took just 10 months to build at a cost of 60,000 pounds.
2012: The 2012 stadium is currently being built on an \'island\' in the Olympic Park, Stratford. Construction on the 80,000-capacity stadium began in 2008 and is expected to be completed next year.
Diversity at the Games
1908: There was little diversity to be found at the 1908 Olympics. The first Paralympic Games wasn\'t held until 1960 so there were no disabled athletes, and out of the 2,008 competing athletes, just 37 were women.
2012: There are now 205 National Olympic Committees, each representing a different country from Uzbekistan to Uganda. 10,500 athletes are expected to take part in the 2012 Olympic Games, and 4,200 in the Paralympics.
1908: For the first time, the competitors paraded behind their countries\' flags. However the flags of Sweden and the United States were not displayed in the main stadium, provoking furious protests. The Swedes boycotted the ceremony, while Team American refused to dip their flag to the Royal Box.
2012: Opening ceremonies have become a huge part of the Olympics, watched by one in three people around the world. Something that didn\'t exist in 1908 but is a key element of the festivities today is the Olympic Flame, which was first lit at the 1928 Amsterdam Games.
Duration of the Games
1908: The 4th Olympic games began on 27 April 1908 and ended on 21 October 1908 an incredible stretch of nearly 6 months!
2012: The 2012 Olympics is due to kick off on 27 July and will end on 12 August. The Paralympic Games will follow, taking place from 29 August to 9 September.
1908: Bicycle polo, tug-of-war and motor-boating were some of the more unusual (and since dropped) Olympic sports in 1908.
2012: The 26 sports that make up the Olympics today include beach volleyball, basketball and taekwondo. Who knows what the 1908 athletes would have made of them!
Courage under fire
1908: Dorando Pietri won the marathon to huge roars from the stadium audience. In the scorching July heat, he collapsed 5 times en route and even ran the wrong way in the final stages. The Italian athlete was later stripped of his gold medal for having been helped over the finishing line by officials but his near-death experience made him a worldwide hero.
2012: Oscar Pistorius was banned from competing as an able-bodied athlete in the Beijing Olympics after the IAAF decided his artificial running legs gave him an unfair advantage. The determined South African sprinter fought and overturned the ruling and has now set his sights on the 2012 Games.
1908: Great Britain topped the Olympic table with an incredible 56 gold medals, more than double the second-ranked United States team who won 23 gold.
2012: How many medals will Team GB win this year? Place your bets now!
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