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The Austerity Olympics: When the Games Came to London in 1948 [Hardcover]

Janie Hampton
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 May 2008
London 2012 Olympics is fast approaching, with new developments and plans causing huge excitement the world over. Yet, this multi-million pound corporate extravaganza could not be further from the realities of the 1948 'Ration Book Olympics' which took place with London a bombed out ruin and Britain in deep economic crisis. The resulting games were not only an amazing achievement in terms of organisation, thrift and invention - being the most successful, inexpensive and unpretentious games of the 20th century - but also something for the world to celebrate following the long years of war and strain. After the cynical 1936 Berlin Games, 1948 was a triumph of the Olympic spirit and fair play, when the countries' finest athletes joined together to compete and entertain despite the burgeoning cold war and niggling old disputes. In the vein of Simon Garfield's Our Hidden Lives, The People's Olympics is a fascinating look at an extraordinary event which was for and by the people. Entertaining, revelatory and hugely readable, the book is full of first hand interviews, hilarious anecdotes, and great spirited feats. Here we meet not only the famous names (Fanny Blankers-Koen and Emil Zapotek) but also hear the experiences of all who were involved from tea ladies, through postmen, to locals and spectators. It is a vivid snapshot of a games which will offer food for thought in the run up to London 2012. Janie Hampton has written more than 15 books, from biography to fiction. She is the author of the critically acclaimed biography of Joyce Grenfell. She lives in Oxford.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd; First Edition edition (1 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 184513334X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845133344
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 622,710 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Janie Hampton was born in London in 1952. After her mother, the writer Verily Anderson, was widowed, she supported her five children by writing fiction & non-fiction; books for children & adult; plays and articles. Janie woke every morning to the sound of a typewriter, and learned that the only way to get anything published is to get on and write! She also learned that you have to write a lot of unpublished books and articles too. She sent her first book to a publisher when she was ten. It was not published, but the publisher sent an encouraging letter.
Janie's first published book was a child care manual for schools in sub-Saharan Africa, called 'Happy Healthy Children', in 1985. She wrote it because she needed a book like that while working in Zimbabwe - and there wasn't one available.
Since then she has written over a dozen books - long and short; fiction & non-fiction; for adults and children. She finds writing hard work, but enjoys the results, especially when readers write nice letters to her.
Her latest book 'Rationing and Revelry - the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, 1953' is her first e-book. She liked the fact that within days of finishing the book, it was published and available to readers.
When she is not writing, Janie enjoys playing with her grandchildren, walking in woods with her husband, and raising funds for the Chauncy Maples Malawi Trust, a charity she founded in 2009 to renovate Africa's oldest ship into a clinic for Lake Malawi.www.chauncymaples.com
see www.janiehampton.co.uk

Product Description

Review

Full of surprising facts and curious anecdotes --Evening Standard, 12th May 2008

An enthralling account of an Olympic Games that had one foot in the past, the other in the future --The Independent, 22nd May 2008

Hampton s excellent book should be compulsory reading for everyone organisers and competitors involved in the 2012 Olympics --Daily Mail, 30th May 2008

Review

`...an exemplary piece of historical research...'

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glorious Games 16 May 2008
By Julie
Format:Hardcover
I read this book from cover to cover including the appendices and I just loved it. Janie Hampton has managed to capture the essence and quintessence of all the different sports. When she was writing about athletics I found myself convinced that she was an athletics correspondent, on the rowing - well she was up there with Dan Topolski and on the riding, wrestling and sailing I just knew I was reading things written by an expert. I fell in love with Fanny Blankers Koehn, I envied the US diving girls their glorious silky bathing suits, I was entranced by the art of fencing and I wished I'd been in Torbay. The facts, figures and details are so cleverly woven in to the tale that it works really well.

This is a lovely book. It is not often that I can say that unreservedly but it is certainly the case with Janie Hampton's story of the 1948 Olympics. And a story it is, for the extraordinary thing we learn about those Olympic Games is that they really were as homespun as the title of the book suggests. After the Second World War there was on the one hand a tremendous weariness in Britain but on the other there was still a good dose of the make-do and mend culture which contained an innate degree of optimism which pervaded the lead up to the Olympics and went on throughout the Games themselves. The great delight of this book is that it makes you feel as if Janie Hampton was there herself.

First hand accounts from spectators as well as athletes give a worm's eye view of events while Janie Hampton's excellent research and understanding of the time provides the balancing bird's eye view of the historian.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When Olympians were not so spoiled 13 May 2008
Format:Hardcover
I would highly recommend this book. It is really well written, a fascinating topic and will have you laughing all the way round the athletics track. The author has clearly researched her subject well and found some stories which will amuse and entertain even those, like me, who loathe sport in action. In the light of the preparations for the impending Chinese Olympics and all the brouhaha surrounding them, it is a delight to be reminded of how we dull stodgy Brits knew how to put on a good show despite all kinds of deprivation.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading 23 Sep 2008
Format:Hardcover
Being a bit of a sport nut and having experienced both Athens and recently Beijing as an excited visitor it was enlightening to read about the trials and tribulations of the olympics in 1948. The book accurately recreates the era and whilst clearly a world away from the modern corporate games and it's 24 hour coverage the lessons highlighted by the author are very much relevant for 2012.

The real stories of the individuals are described wonderfully with a real attention to detail that is easy to picture.

The tone of the book is anecdotal and an easy read even when covering the politics of the olympic organisers.

If there is one criticism, some of the sports are given scant coverage and the book concentrates on the human stories of boy scouts and helpers rather than than the athletes themselves and their remarkable achievements.

It is accepted that the book is perhaps a more entertaining read because of this but for those who like statistics and records above all else this is not the book for you.

'The austerity Olympics' will certainly appeal to sports fans and non sports fans alike and credit must be given to the author for evoking the real spirit of the games and the people involved in putting them on.

For those whose sporting memories don't go back any further than the 80's the book is a must.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best sports books 6 Mar 2009
Format:Hardcover
I bought this book in post-Beijing euphoria, intrigued by what venues London had come up with in 1948 to play the roles of the Bird's Nest, swimming cube, velodrome and so on. I was expecting sports journalism, and perhaps a slightly dry account of the Games.

When I read the book nothing could have been further from the truth, but I was very pleasantly surprised. The author is not a sports journalist but has tracked down many personal memories of the Games and woven them together, backed up by some careful research. The result is a story told very much through the eyes of the people involved - mainly these are the competitors themselves but people involved in running the Games, people who attended and local people are all included. The emphasis is on what they saw and felt, what they ate and did, as much as on the actual competition.

The book itself is arranged chronologically to start with and explains the background to London being awarded the Games and describes some of the personalities involved. All this is with a light touch: there is no stodgy detail. The author does not duck the issue that there was significant domestic opposition to the 1948 Games because with the state of the economy some people thought we could not afford it.

When the Games begin the format changes to chapters for individual sports and I was struck by the consistency of the work across them all. It must have been a daunting task to try and find out about so many different events but the book achieves a very readable and informative standard throughout. A criticism would be that the chapters do become a little formulaic as the same approach is used for each sport, but it is hard to see how this could be avoided.
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