30 July 2012

The London Olympics 1908: Full of rope and lots of material

On Friday the 27th of July the Second Hand Rose family including a very relaxed snoring Jasper sat down along with over 27 million people in the UK to watch the Olympics opening ceremony. It was watched worldwide by over a billion people and was an amazing spectacular extravaganza. It ranged from an Industrial Revolution theme to a music and dance theme, it had everything and I mean everything.

The legend Queen Lizzie made a cameo with the hunky Daniel Craig as James Bond. If he walked in the royal box with her in his blue speedos showing his impressive torso, I would have happily donated my whole shoe collection to charity, now that's saying something! The show also contained the amazing Mr Bean, sadly minus his seriously cute teddy and the as fabulous as ever Paul McCartney.

This is the third time that our green and pleasant land has hosted the Olympic games. Don't know much about the other two times? Well it's not surprising since they were in 1908 and 1948, which meant you didn't have the lovely Claire Balding to nod in agreement to and Ryan Lochte's muscles to drool over.

In 1908 the Games were originally meant to take place in Rome, but due to Mount Vesuvius erupting in April 1906, London was then selected to host the Games. A stadium was quickly built called 'The White City Stadium' which was seen at the time as technological marvel. The stadium included a pool for swimming and diving, spaces for wrestling and gymnastics in the middle with tracks around the outside. The games consisted of 22 countries with Finland, Turkey and New Zealand making their Olympic debut. Just think how quick the walking around of the countries waving their flag must have been, compared to how long it takes with 204 countries. Now it takes as about as long as it does for me to get my butt off Asos.

Shockingly we actually came top of the medals table winning a total 146 medals, with 56 Gold, 51 Silver and 39 Bronze. Oh how times have changed. We did have a bit of a home advantage though, because some of the 24 games were ones we were particurlarly good at and only knew the rules to. Rackets which was an obscure squash-like game played primarily by public school boys, made its first and only Olympic appearance. Only seven players entered, all of them British, so it was no surprise when the podium was all red-white-and-blue. If only we could do that now, particularly in swimming what with Michael Phelps on constant turbo speed.

The games also included water motorsports, where Britain claimed two out of three golds. Conditions in Southampton Water were so choppy that in each race only one boat made it to the finishing line. The Tug of War was also part of the games, which we won all three medals in. The City of London Police won Gold against two other police forces. Tug of War made its last appearance in 1920 at the games. I can't really imagine Usain Bolt tugging a bit of rope nowadays, can you?
Unlike now the games contained amateurs including Police forces and even a Duke and a Duchess. The games were seen as a sucess due to only costing £20,000, however a third of that was blown on Olympic banquets, I bet Henry VIII is kicking himself that he wasn't around then. It was the first time an Olympic swimming pool was built, in 1900 competitors had to wade through sewage in the River Seine, no wonder there weren't many countries taking part.

The Games were far from perfect though, there were no third world countries included and hardly any women with a total of 36 out of 2000 compettitors being female. The opening ceremony was started by King Edward VII consisted of the countries walking around with flags and a gym display by women from the London Polytechnic. There wasn't an Olympic Torch Relay, so Billy Mitchell didn't get a chance to carry it around Walford.

The events that women did compete in included gymnastics, figure skating, archery, tennis and athletics. There were no rock hard abs on show or sparkly leotards. Women wore the most ridiculous long costumes with gymnasts having to wear long skirts and archery contestants wearing skirts down to the ground, with jackets up to their necks complete with formal hats.
So the 1908 Olympics went pretty well really with Great Britian winning lots of medals and the Games were as seen as a triumph. Although I doubt you'll see these outfits making a comeback. Well let's hope not for the men anyway, you can't beat a nice hunk in a tight Lycra can you ladies.

Second Hand Rose XxxX


  1. Gosh how times have changed. No drug testing, security out the wazoo, political potshot scoring either. We gain and lose on all fronts :)

  2. this is really, really cool! it's so amazing to see how much things have changed over the years. :)

    <3, Mimi
    Twisted Orchid Giveaway -- Win any bag of your choice! :)

  3. My Grandma was one of the ladies in the gymnastics display team I would love to find out more about it can anyone out there help?
    Thanks Caroline

  4. I bet it was hard to do gymnastics in outfits like that! I mean being able to somersault and land on 10cm of beam (Assuming they did that then..) is hard enough let alone some outfit flapping about beneath you. Dear me.
    I always feel like you teach me things! I'm a lot more knowledgeable since reading your blog! :)

    Love, Elizabeth xx



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