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Inside the Games

The war - no match for the Olympic effort

Following a 12-year gap and a conflict which cost millions of lives and left the whole of Europe in disarray, new life was injected into the Olympic movement by certain ever-enthusiastic members of the IOC - proving that Pierre de Coubertin's legacy had attained its intended state of maturity.

However since the Berlin Games in 1936, the movement was affected by a double blow - the death of its founder, de Coubertin, in 1937, and also the passing away of his successor, Henri Baillet-Latour in 1942.

The capitulation of Germany preceded the reunion of the IOC's ruling executive by the stand-in president, Sigfrid Edstrom from Sweden.

London was designated by a postal vote in February 1946 ahead of Lausanne in Switzerland and four American cities - Baltimore, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Philadelphia.

London builds for the Games

The organisation committee was presided over by Lord Burghley, Olympic champion in the 400m hurdles in 1924, and siver medallist in 1928.

Burghley was all too aware that the proposed project would not be an easy affair in a city under reconstruction following the rigours of the war, and in a country still prey to the conditions of rationing.

However, despite these initial setbacks, Lord Burghley declared his confidence a year before the event: "After such a war, it is not strange that we have difficulties to face. But we will overcome these obstacles with the same spirit and determination to which we have used for a number of years."

Bags of food

Yet, despite this promise, certain politicians and members of the press questioned the logic of attempting to host the Olympic Games in Great Britain in times of moral and physical reconstruction.

To alleviate the problems of food provision, certain teams arrived in London with their own supplies. The United States topped the food table - bringing 24 tons of beef, six tons of veal, six tons of pork and lamb, 36 tons of cheese, 12 tons of sugar and 25,000 bars of chocolate.

But despite all prevailing difficulties, the London Games were a resounding financial success. Austerity meant that only 400,000 pounds was spent on their organisation, while gate receipts amounted to 500,000 pounds.

Approximately 4,100 participants arrived in London from 59 countries, a little more than were present in Berlin.

Living proof that the tragedy of war, and of history, was no match for the Olympic ideal and the desire of countries from all round the globe to compete in a friendly and sporting atmosphere.


Copyright 2012 Agence France-Presse.