- Participating nations: 22
- Number of athletes: 2,035 (1,999 men - 36 women)
- Time of year: April 27 - October 31
- Number of events: 107
Already at the meeting in Paris in 1901, it was suggested that Berlin host the Games in 1908. But to make that decision seven years in advance, as we do now, was considered to be much too soon. In 1903, the Italian Gymnastics Association suggested Rome as a suitable candidate for the Olympic Games. Coubertin liked this suggestion since Rome had a natural connection to the ancient Olympics. Besides, the city supported the plans, that wasn´t the case in Berlin.
In 1905, Coubertin went to Rome, full of expectations, to make sure that preparations were made. There were two committees in Rome who were both working on planning the Games. Well, they weren´t exactly getting much work done, busy as they were competing over which committee was the most prestigious. Coubertin took control of the project and even worked out a budget for it. But he didn´t get any feedback at all on the suggestions he made, and, in 1906, it was clear that the Rome organization was completely paralyzed. During the extra Games in Athens, the IOC simply relieved Rome of the rights to host the Olympics due to the chaotic situation. Instead the IOC asked Great Britain if they were willing to take over.
The British king, Edward VII, was present at the 1906 Games in Athens, and he gave his full support for the idea of having the Games in London. There were two Olympic organizations in Great Britain at the time, the British Olympic Association (BOA) and the British Olympic Council (BOC), who had to get along, but it was unlikely that they would go against the king´s wishes.
At the end of November 1906, the formal decision was made to let London host the 1908 Olympic Games.
The Influence of the IOCThe BOC worked out the rules and the Olympic program and presented these to the IOC. This was the first time the IOC had any real influence over the Games.
The IOC desperately tried to get equestrian events on the program, but was unsuccessful. Car races, on the other hand, were considered unacceptable by the IOC. Surprisingly, no one objected to races with motorboats!
This time the rules were much stricter. This change affected both the rules and the application process. It was no longer possible to simply show up and sign up for the events when you got there.
All applications had to come from the national Olympic Committees, and it was decided that only a limited number of people from the same country could enter the same event. But even if the rules got stricter, they were still the source of much controversy, especially between the British and the Americans.
The Games in London were decided in two two-week periods, one in July and one in October. The Games in October were called Olympic Winter Games.
In London, the organizers really tried to aim for compact Summer Games. The Goal was to hold the competitions in an Olympic Stadium. Now, all they had to do was to build such a stadium.
Exhibits and fairs seemed to be very popular during this period, and a French-British exhibit was planned in London for the summer of 1908. The people responsible for the exhibit promised to build a stadium if they were given 75% of the profits from the Olympics.
What an Arena!What came out of this deal was a stadium capable of hosting most of the events. It was built in Shepard´s Bush and got the name White City Stadium.
It was a gigantic arena, equipped with a 660-yard bicycle track surrounding a running track, 536 meters in circumference. On the inner field was a pool that measured 100x15 meters, it had a diving tower that could be lowered so that it wouldn´t block the spectators´ view!
We mentioned earlier the disputes between the British and the Americans. Many of the Americans, both leaders and athletes, were of Irish descent and very anti-British. The American team voiced protests against almost everything, and soon became very unpopular with the British audience.
The Games soon got the name “the battle at Shepard´s Bush" among the locals.
The Americans weren´t too happy at the opening ceremony when they noticed that the American flag was missing. When they finally got their flag, the American flag bearer protested by not lowering the flag when marching in front of King Edward VII. Of course, the royalist British considered this an almost obscene gesture.
There wasn´t a Swedish flag either, but the Swedes didn´t make a big deal out of it.
There were many more incidents during the competitions, as was noted by an American bishop who was visiting the Games in London.
The Olympic Motto!In a guest sermon in St Paul´s Cathedral the bishop, Ethelbert Talbot, said, clearly addressing his countrymen:
“The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to participate".
Pierre de Coubertin heard the bishop´s words and made these the Olympic motto.
Another interesting thing about these Olympics was the marathon. The runners ran from Windsor Castle to the Olympic Stadium, a distance of 26 miles and 365 yards, or 42,195 meters, and this distance became norm for all marathons.
The American-British dominance, including the British Empire, in athletics was enormous. Only two medals went to athletes from outside this sphere of influence. Those two medals went to Eric Lemming in the javelin throw, free grip and middle grip.
So what about the Winter Games in October? Well, in the figure skating competition Sweden made a grand slam through Ulrich Salchow, Richard Johansson, and Per Thorén.
Sweden didn´t do very well in the soccer tournament, in the first game they were defeated by England who won by 12-1. In the “pity tournament", The Netherlands beat Sweden by 2-0.