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Games of the XIV Olympiad
Olympic logo 1948.png
Host city London, England
Nations participating 59
Athletes participating 4,104
(3,714 men, 390 women)
Events 136 in 17 sports
Opening ceremony July 29
Closing ceremony August 14
Officially opened by King George VI
Athlete's Oath Donald Finlay
Olympic Torch John Mark
Stadium Wembley Stadium

The 1948 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XIV Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event which was held in London, United Kingdom. After a 12 year hiatus because of World War II, these were the first Summer Olympics since the 1936 Games in Berlin. The 1940 Games had been scheduled for Tokyo, and then Helsinki; the 1944 Games had been provisionally planned for London. The event came to be known as the Austerity Games due to the economic climate and post-war rationing.[1]


Election as host city

In June 1939, the IOC gave the 1944 Games to London, ahead of Budapest, Lausanne, Helsinki and Athens. War stopped the plans and London again stood for 1948. Britain almost handed the 1948 games to the USA due to rationing and the country's financial problems, but King George said this could be the chance to restore Britain from World War II. The official report of the London Olympics makes it plain that there was no case of London being pressed to run the Games against its will.[2] It says:

The Games of 1944 had been allocated to London and so it was that in October, 1945, the chairman of the British Olympic Council, Lord Burghley, went to Stockholm and saw the president of the International Olympic Committee to discuss the question of London being chosen for this great event. As a result, an investigating committee was set up by the British Olympic Council to work out in some detail the possibility of holding the Games. After several meetings they recommended to the council that the Lord Mayor of London should be invited to apply for the allocation of the Games in 1948.

In early March 1946 the IOC, through a postal vote, gave the summer Games to London and the winter competition to St Moritz. London was selected ahead of Baltimore, Lausanne, Los Angeles and Philadelphia.[3]

London, which had previously hosted the 1908 Summer Olympics, became the second city to host the Olympics twice; Paris hosted the event in 1900 and 1924. It will be the first city to host the the Olympics for the record third time when London hosts the 2012 Summer Olympics.


Lord Burghley had been Olympic captain in 1932 and 1936 and after the war he became president of the Amateur Athletics Association and of the IAAF, its international equivalent. He was named chairman of the organising and executive committees. Colonel Evan Hunter O.B.E., General Secretary of the British Olympic Association, and Chef de Mission for Great Britain, had a central role. The other members of the Organising Committee were : Lord Aberdare, Sir Noel Curtis-Bennett, K.C.V.O., Alderman H.E. Fern, O.B.E., J.P., Mr. E.J. Holt, Mr. J. Emrys Lloyd O.B.E., Mr. C.B. Cowley, Mr. R.B. Stud- dert, Mr. A.E. Porritt, C.B.E., F.R.C.S., Mr. S.F. Rous C.B.E. and Mr. Jack Beresford.

Olympic pictograms were introduced for the first time. There were twenty of them — one for each Olympic sport and three separate pictograms for the arts competition, the opening ceremony and the closing ceremony. They were called "Olympic symbols" and intended for the use on tickets. The background of each pictogram resembled escutcheon.[4][5] Olympic pictograms would appear again 16 years later and be featured at each Summer Olympics thereafter.

Opening ceremony

The Games opened on 29 July, a brilliantly sunny day. Army bands began playing at 2pm for the 85,000 spectators in Wembley Stadium. The international and national organisers arrived at 2.35pm and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, with Queen Mary and other members of the Royal Family, at 2.45pm. Fifteen minutes later the competitors entered the stadium in a procession that took 50 minutes. The last team was that of the United Kingdom. When it had passed the saluting base, Lord Burghley began his welcome:

Your Majesty: The hour has struck. A visionary dream has today become a glorious reality. At the end of the worldwide struggle in 1945, many institutions and associations were found to have withered and only the strongest had survived. How, many wondered, had the great Olympic Movement prospered?

After welcoming the athletes to two weeks of "keen but friendly rivalry", he said London represented a "warm flame of hope for a better understanding in the world which has burned so low."[2]

At 4pm, the time shown on Big Ben on the London Games symbol, the King declared the Games open, 2,500 pigeons were set free and the Olympic Flag raised to its 35ft flagpole at the end of the stadium. The Royal Horse Artillery sounded a 21-gun salute and the last runner in the Torch Relay ran a lap of the track - created with cinders from the domestic coal fires of Leicester - and climbed the steps to the Olympic cauldron. After saluting the crowd, he turned and lit the flame. After more speeches, Donald Finlay of the British team (given his RAF rank of wing-commander) took the Olympic Oath on behalf of all competitors. The National Anthem was sung and the massed athletes turned and marched out of the stadium, led by Greece, tailed by Britain.

The 580-page official report concluded:

Thus were launched the Olympic Games of London, under the most happy auspices. The smooth-running Ceremony, which profoundly moved not only all who saw it but also the millions who were listening-in on the radio throughout the world, and the glorious weather in which it took place, combined to give birth to a spirit which was to permeate the whole of the following two weeks of thrilling and intensive sport.

The opening and games were also broadcast live on BBC television, see 1948 in British television.

Sport by sport overview


Start of the 50 km walk

33 athletics events were contested; 24 for men and 9 for women. Of these, four were making their Olympic debut - the men's 10 km walk, and the women's 200 meters, long jump and shot put. 751 athletes from 53 countries participated in the athletics, including Fanny Blankers-Koen of the Netherlands, who captured four gold medals, and Micheline Ostermeyer of France who won two. Duncan White won the first medal of any kind for Sri Lanka, (then Ceylon), when he finished second in the 400 meter hurdles, and Arthur Wint became the first Jamaican to win an Olympic medal, capturing gold in the men's 400 meters and silver in the men's 800 meters. Alice Coachman became the first woman of color in the world and the first African American woman to win a gold medal in track and field in the history of the modern Olympics with a jump of 5' 6 1/4". She also was the only American woman to win a gold medal during the 1948 Olympics.

The marathon saw a dramatic finish with echoes of the previous Olympic marathon to have been held in London. As in 1908 with Dorando Pietri, the first man to enter the stadium was a totally spent Etienne Gailly (Belgium), who fell twice during his final lap. While he was struggling, Delfo Cabrera (Argentina) and Thomas Richards (Britain) passed him, with Cabrera winning the gold. Gailly managed to recover enough to cross the line for the bronze.


Basketball made its second appearance as a sanctioned sport, returning to indoor competition after inclement weather disrupted the final at the 1936 Berlin games. 23 nations entered the competition, with the United States defeating France 65-21 in the final to claim the gold medal. Brazil defeated Mexico 52-47 to claim bronze.


Eight different classifications were contested, with South Africa, Argentina and Hungary each winning two gold medals.


Nine events were contested, eight for men and one for women. This marked the first time that a women's canoeing event had been contested in the Olympics. Sweden won four gold medals (two by Gert Fredriksson) and Czechoslovakia three.


Six events were contested - two road cycling events and four track cycling events. No women's cycling events were contested. France won three gold medals and Italy two, while Great Britain captured five medals overall, but none were gold.


Four diving events were contested, two for men, and two for women. All four gold medals, and 10 out of 12 awarded in total, were won by the United States. Both women's events were won by Victoria Manalo Draves.


Six gold medals were awarded in equestrian, individual and team dressage, individual and team eventing and individual and team show jumping. Harry Llewellyn and Foxhunter, who would claim a gold medal in Helsinki, won bronze in the team jumping event.


Seven events were contested, six for men and one for women. Ilona Elek, who had won the women's foil competition in Berlin was one of only two competitors to successfully defend an Olympic title in London, and is still the only woman to win two gold medals in the individual foil competition.


Eighteen teams entered the football competition at these Olympics, including first-time Olympic participants Korea, who progressed to the quarter-finals before losing to Sweden. The gold medal was claimed by Sweden, who defeated Yugoslavia 3-1 in the final. Denmark defeated Great Britain 5-3 to win the bronze medal. It was the first Olympics for the Indian football team.


Nine events were contested, eight for men, and one for women. In the men's pommel horse, a tie was declared between three competitors, all Finns, and no medals other than gold were awarded in this event. Finland won six gold medals overall, and Switzerland three.


Thirteen nations participated in the field hockey competition. The tournament was ultimately won by India, who defeated Great Britain to claim the country's first gold medal as an independent nation.

Modern pentathlon

Only one modern pentathlon event was contested, won by William Grut of Sweden.


Seven rowing events were contested, all open to men only. Great Britain and the United States each claimed two gold medals. The events were held on the same course as the Henley Royal Regatta.


Five events were contested, with the United States winning four total medals. Great Britain won 1 Medal that was a gold in the Swallow class from Stewart Morris and David Bond.


Four events were contested, all open to both men and women, although all medals were won by men. In the 50 meter rifle, prone position, only two points separated the top three competitors.


Eleven events were contested, six for men and five for women. The United States won eight gold medals, including all six men's events, and 15 medals in total.

Water polo

Eighteen nations fielded a team in these games, which were ultimately won by Italy, who were undefeated throughout. The tournament was conducted in a mult-tier bracket, with the best four teams from the group stages participating in a final round-robin bracket. Silver was claimed by Hungary, and bronze by the Netherlands.


Six events were contested, all for men only. These games marked the addition of the bantamweight class to the Olympic programme, the first change to the programme since 1920. The United States won four gold medals, and eight overall; the remaining two gold medals were claimed by Egypt. Rodney Wilkes won the first ever medal for Trinidad and Tobago in an Olympic games, winning silver in the Featherweight category.


Sixteen wrestling events were held, eight Greco-Roman and eight freestyle. All were open to men only. Six gold medals were won by Turkey and five by Sweden. Between them, these teams claimed 24 total medals.

Political defection

London was the first Olympics to have a political defection. Marie Provaznikova won a gold medal with the Czechoslovakian gymnastics team and then refused to return home, citing "lack of freedom" there after the country's inclusion in the Soviet bloc.


Poster promoting the 1948 Olympics
  • Wembley Empire Exhibition Grounds
    • Empire Stadium - opening and closing ceremonies, athletics, football finals, hockey finals
    • Empire Pool - swimming, boxing
    • Palace of Engineering - fencing

Participating nations


A total of 59 nations sent athletes. Fourteen made their first official appearance: British Guiana (now Guyana), Burma (now Myanmar), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Korea, Lebanon, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela. First time that India and Pakistan competed as independent nationes at the Olympic Games. Germany and Japan, both under Allied military occupations, were not allowed to send athletes to the games. Italy, although originally an Axis power, defected to the Allies in 1943 following Benito Mussolini being deposed, and was allowed to send athletes.

Medal table

These are the ten nations that won most medals. The host nation was 12th, with 23 medals, including three golds.

 Rank  Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 United States 38 27 19 84
2 Sweden 16 11 17 44
3 France 10 6 13 29
4 Hungary 10 5 12 27
5 Italy 8 11 8 27
6 Finland 8 7 5 20
7 Turkey 6 4 2 12
8 Czechoslovakia 6 2 3 11
9 Switzerland 5 10 5 20
10 Denmark 5 7 8 20

See Also


  1. ^ British Olympic Association - British Olympic Movement
  2. ^ a b The Official Report of the Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad, organising committee, London, 1951
  3. ^ "London 1948". International Olympic Committee. 
  4. ^ Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad London 1948 (1951) (pdf). The Official Report of the Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad London 1948. Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad London 1948. pp. 131, 135. Retrieved 2008-04-03. 
  5. ^ Two sample tickets from 1948 Summer Olympics at the Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games


External links

Preceded by
London (1944)
Summer Olympic Games

XIV Olympiad (1948)
Succeeded by

Simple English

The 1948 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XIV Olympiad, were held in 1948 at Wembley Stadium in London, England. These were the first Summer Olympics to be held since the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin because no Games were held during World War II.

Participating nations

A total of 59 nations sent athletes to compete at the London Games. Fourteen nations made their first official Olympic appearance at these Games: British Guiana (now Guyana), Burma (now Myanmar), Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Korea, Lebanon, Pakistan, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.


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Olympic Games
Summer Games: 1896, 1900, 1904, 1906, 1908, 1912, (1916), 1920, 1924, 1928, 1932, 1936, (1940), (1944), 1948, 1952, 1956, 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020, 2024, 2028
Winter Games: 1924, 1928, 1932, 1936, (1940), (1944), 1948, 1952, 1956, 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014, 2018, 2022
Athens 2004Turin 2006Beijing 2008Vancouver 2010London 2012Sochi 2014Rio 2016

Games in italics will be held in the future, and those in (brackets) were cancelled because of war. See also: Ancient Olympic Games

Youth Olympic Games
Summer Games:2010, 2014, 2018
Winter Games:2012, 2016
Singapore 2010Innsbruck 2012Nanjing 2014

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