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The Austerity Olympics: When the Games Came to London in 1948 Paperback – 25 May 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd (25 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845134230
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845134235
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 507,218 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

‘An enthralling account’

(Independent)

‘A fascinating book… researched with an awesome thoroughness’

(Daily Telegraph)

‘Hampton’s excellent book should be compulsory reading for everyone involved in the 2012 London Olympics’ Critic's Choice

(Daily Mail)

Review

'The tale of the Games is told here with spirit and touching humour.'

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Crossy1 on 31 May 2011
Format: Paperback
What an excellent read.To discover how England overcame the hardship of rebuilding a war torn country and the financial problems we were going through,yet still stage a major sporting event,is incredible.I fully recommend everyone who has an interest in sport,especially the 2012 Olympics,to read this book.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By S. Cryer on 13 Nov. 2011
Format: Paperback
Absolutely superb telling of the story of the 1948 Games, perfectly balancing historical records of events and decisions with first-hand accounts of those who experienced them. There are plenty of amusing and jaw-dropping moments at the determination and naivety of those involved, from track cycling in the dark to building a boxing ring on top of the swimming pool, to the vast amount of wine the French team brought over with them!

Excellently researched and written, this is one of the most enjoyable non-fiction books I've picked up.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Quiverbow TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 19 Aug. 2012
Format: Paperback
Many might bemoan the rampant commercialism of sport, particularly the brand led Olympics, but don't be fooled into thinking this onslaught of sponsorship is relatively new. When London offered to host the XIV Olympiad in 1948 - though only the twelfth to be staged, the '40 and '44 cancelled events are still listed in the numbers - a variety of companies such as Nescafe, Guinness, Ovaltine and the perennial Coca Cola were all eager to participate (and for £250, anyone could use the five-ringed logo). Then, as now, an event as big as the Olympics needed corporate money. The difference, as Janie Hampton's splendid history of the event shows, is that everything was more open and available. Unlike the financially driven sports of today, the outside caterers were given a 25s (£1.25) a day budget per athlete to supply them with three meals; some managed to do it for 17s (65p) and saved everyone money. Morals were obviously different then.

The `austerity games' had their share of volunteers, many of them on holiday from school. (One offered to work the night shift in the hospitality lounge knowing the phone wouldn't ring in the night so spent his time asleep, picking up a couple of hours extra pay, a free breakfast and bus pass for his trouble.) The athletes themselves also had a hard time of it, having to bring their own towels, but they were given a packed lunch for the day consisting of a cheese sandwich, an apple and an egg, and Hampton manages to convey how much certain current sports people are pampered and cosseted (and I don't mean athletes, cyclists, swimmers, etc. who are still very much approachable).

Reading this does make you wonder what it was like and whether the openness of everything was better.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER on 9 Aug. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating account of the Olympic games held in London in 1948. Each of the events is covered, focusing on the personal stories of the competitors. The tales of those who did not win medals are often at least as interesting as those who triumphed. This is as much a work of social history as it an account of sport, and is clear reminder of how far we have come from 1948 until now. Many of the British competitors, all amateurs of course, still subject to strict rationing, had not eaten steak for nearly 10 years, and many of the younger ones had never seen an orange.

The competitors had to provide their own shorts and equipment was in short supply - the French football team did not have a football to train with and a British high jumper used to train by jumping washing lines.

Social class, racism and sexism still pervaded many aspects of society, and of course the games reflected that to some extent.

Women could not compete in races of over 200m, as it was deemed too dangerous. The equestrian competitors all had to be commissioned officers ( one competitors was stripped of his medal when it was discovered he was a sergeant) , and the South African olympic team was all white. However, as the author makes clear, this was the world in 1948 - only 3 years after the end the world war when much of the world was still reeling from its effects. The joy of sport, the friendships, rivalries and human kindness which developed, and the sense of optimism that Britain could still put on a show shine through this charming , informative and highly readable book.

Highly recommended - for readers with, or without, a passion for sport.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bob Sherunkle VINE VOICE on 1 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback
Cards on the table: I was a 2012 sceptic, apart from pleasure at the achievements of Team GB and admiration of the Paralympians. I was therefore intrigued to find out how the 1948 Olympics succeeded on a shoestring budget, with the memories of world war still fresh.

This book gives an absorbing and highly informative account of the 1948 Games. (We learn that the whole event cost less than £1 million, and made a profit!) The main themes are as follows:
-Political issues were rampant. Understandably, Germany and Japan weren't invited. The USSR thought the Games were a capitalist plot (Russia hadn't taken part since the Tsarist days). However, the countries who were there got on remarkably well. This may have been the last major sporting event in which Korea had one national team, as partition occurred shortly after.
-The privations of war were everywhere, in terms of both general facilities (e.g. swimmers having to train at municipal pools full of families) and in the critical issue of food. One of the volunteers said of Fanny Blankers-Koen, "It was amazing that she did so well, considering how under-nourished most Europeans still were. They only had a small chance against the well-fed athletes from the United States." However, the book quotes several cases where the well-supplied generously shared with those who were worse off.
-Due, probably, to the post-war lack of money, the level of organisation often fell short. Two examples:
As host nation, we were nearly without a flag in the opening parade. We were saved only because a young volunteer had had the foresight to bring a very tatty spare with him. (This was Roger Bannister, then aged 19.
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