The 1908 London Olympics

With Beijing 2008 finished and the countdown to London 2012 underway, we look back at the first time London hosted an Olympic Games, in 1908.

The White City Stadium (originally The Great Stadium) was built for the event. It housed a running track, a swimming and diving pool, plus platforms for wrestling and gymnastics.

In this, the fifth modern Olympic Games, there were just 24 sporting disciplines pertaining to 22 sports, and only 22 countries competing. Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales were entered as one team, the United Kingdom, but following protests from a number of Irish competitors and with fears of an Irish boycott, the team was renamed ‘Great Britain/Ireland’.

Rule, Britannia!

Showing its best ever Olympic form, the British team dominated the Games, finishing the overall winner with 56 gold, 51 silver, and 39 bronze medals – dwarfing the second place United States’ tally of 23 gold, 12 silver, and 12 bronze.   

Olympians on the findmypast.com Passenger Lists

Many 1908 Olympians can be found on the ancestorsonboard.com Passenger Lists leaving Britain after the Games.

Here is American George Mehnert, who won a gold in freestyle wrestling in the bantamweight class, aboard a ship aptly named the New York:

George Mehnert on the Passenger Lists

George Mehnert on the Passenger Lists

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Also aboard the New York is Mehnert’s teammate Sam Bellah. He competed in the pole vault, long jump, and triple jump, but failed to win a medal:

Sam Bellah on the Passenger Lists

Sam Bellah on the Passenger Lists

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Charles Edward Swain, an Australian 1500 metre runner, was part of the Australasia team, which comprised athletes from Australia and New Zealand. Here he is aboard the Orient, returning to Australia:

Charles Swain on the Passenger Lists

Charles Swain on the Passenger Lists

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