3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
One of the best sports books,
This review is from: The Austerity Olympics: When the Games Came to London in 1948 (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. There is also a vast amount to cover and some races are only covered in one paragraph, although any other approach would have made the book far too long.
The most interesting aspects to me were the insights into social history, the living conditions of the time.