THE London Olympics of 1908 ran from 27 April to 31 October and featured 22 countries. Rome was meant to host the Fourth Olympiad but Italy did not have the money to pay for it. So, the Games were moved. Great Britain did well, winning 56 gold medals at the White City stadium in west London. Henry Taylor was the hero, winning three swimming golds.
But glory was tempered by cheating.
GB won 146 medals in total. Seven players entered the rackets contest: all British.
All officials came from the host nation. This led to lots of complaints of bias from the Americans. There was, for instance, the time test cricketer Johnny Douglas won gold in the middleweight boxing division. The fight against an American had split the judges. The ref’s decision would be decisive. The ref was Douglas’s dad. Douglas wins!
British athlete Wyndham Halswelle won gold in the 400m when the American who crossed the line first was disqualified for blocking. The race was re-run. The Americans refused to take part. Halswelle was the only runner. Halswelle wins!
But the biggest scandal at George Wimpey’s stadium (cost: £60,000; capacity: 130,000) was in the marathon.
This race ended in controversy when Dorando Pietri of Italy collapsed after entering the stadium ahead of the pack. Pietri was then revived by doctors, helped to his feet, and assisted to the finish line by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, among others. John Hayes was the second finisher. A protest against Pietri was eventually upheld, and Hayes was awarded the race.
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