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The 1948 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XIV Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event which was held in Londonmarker, United Kingdommarker. After a hiatus of 12 years caused by World War II, these were the first Summer Olympics since the 1936 Games in Berlinmarker. The 1940 Games had been scheduled for Tokyomarker, and then Helsinkimarker; the 1944 Games had been provisionally planned for London.

Election as host city

In June 1939, the IOC gave the 1944 Games to London, ahead of Budapestmarker, Lausannemarker, Helsinkimarker and Athensmarker. War stopped the plans and London again stood for 1948. 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. 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 Stockholmmarker 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 Moritzmarker. London was selected ahead of Baltimoremarker, Lausannemarker, Los Angelesmarker and Philadelphiamarker.

London, which has previously hosted the 1908 Summer Olympicsmarker, became the second city to host the Olympics twice; Parismarker hosted the event in 1900 and 1924. The third London Olympics will take place during 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.

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. 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 Stadiummarker. 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."

At 4pm, the time shown on Big Benmarker 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 Leicestermarker - 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 Greecemarker, 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 One 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 Netherlandsmarker, who captured four gold medals, and Micheline Ostermeyer of Francemarker who won two. Duncan White won the first medal of any kind for Sri Lankamarker, (then Ceylonmarker), when he finished second in the 400 meter hurdles, and Arthur Wint became the first Jamaicanmarker to win an Olympic medal, capturing gold in the men's 400 meters and silver in the men's 800 meters.

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 (Belgiummarker), who fell twice during his final lap. While he was struggling, Delfo Cabrera (Argentinamarker) 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. Brazilmarker defeated Mexicomarker 52-47 to claim bronze.


Eight different classifications were contested, with South Africa, Argentinamarker and Hungarymarker 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. Swedenmarker won four gold medals (two by Gert Fredriksson) and Czechoslovakiamarker 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 Britainmarker 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 Koreamarker, who progressed to the quarter-finals before losing to Swedenmarker. The gold medal was claimed by Sweden, who defeated Yugoslavia 3-1 in the final. Denmarkmarker 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. Finlandmarker won six gold medals overall, and Switzerlandmarker three.


Thirteen nations participated in the field hockey competition. The tournament was ultimately won by Indiamarker, 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.


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 Egyptmarker. 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 Turkeymarker 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 Czechoslovakianmarker 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 Stadiummarker - opening and closing ceremonies, athletics, football finals, hockey finals
    • Empire Poolmarker - swimming, boxing
    • Palace of Engineering - fencing

Participating nations

A total of 59 nations sent athletes. Fourteen made their first official appearance: British Guiana (now Guyanamarker), Burmamarker (now Myanmarmarker), Ceylonmarker (now Sri Lankamarker), Iranmarker, Iraqmarker, Jamaicamarker, Koreamarker, Lebanonmarker, Pakistanmarker, Puerto Rico, Singaporemarker, Syriamarker, Trinidad and Tobagomarker, and Venezuelamarker. Germanymarker and Japanmarker, both under Allied military occupations, were not allowed to send athletes to the games. Italymarker, 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.
1 38 27 19 84
2 16 11 17 44
3 10 6 13 29
4 10 5 12 27
5 8 11 8 27
6 8 7 5 20
7 6 4 2 12
8 6 2 3 11
9 5 10 5 20
10 5 7 8 20


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