A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 2, General; Ashford, East Bedfont With Hatton, Feltham, Hampton With Hampton Wick, Hanworth, Laleham, Littleton. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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THE OLYMPIC GAMES OF LONDON, 1908
The year 1908 is memorable in the annals both of Middlesex and of British sport, for the celebration of the Olympic Games of London—the fourth of a series of similar celebrations, which was initiated by the Games of Athens (fn. 1) in 1896, and followed by those of Paris (fn. 2) in 1900, and of St. Louis in the United States in 1904. (fn. 3) Owing to the large number of entries from twenty-one foreign countries, as well as those of British competitors, amounting in all to some 3,000, the London celebration was by far the largest athletic gathering of which there is any record; (fn. 4) and as the programme comprised over 100 events in connexion with no less than twenty different forms of sport, it also supplied the most comprehensive test of international athletic proficiency which has, probably, ever yet been provided. (fn. 5) In addition to this, the historical interest of the Games as the revival in modern form, after an interval of over 1,500 years, of the famous Greek athletic festival was enhanced by the fact that, as the next eighteen celebrations will take place, at intervals of four years, in other countries, nearly three-quarters of a century must elapse before they can again be held in these islands. (fn. 6)
The Games were held under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee—a body instituted at the Athletic International Congress held in Paris in June 1893. It comprises the representatives of the principal European countries and of the United States, under the presidency of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the chief originator of the revival of the Olympic Festival. (fn. 7) The functions of this committee are, however, mainly limited to the selection of the country in which the games are to be held, and the control of and arrangements for those of London was entrusted entirely to the British Olympic Council, as the sub-committee appointed for the purpose in the country thus selected. (fn. 8) Both the chairman and the hon. secretary of the Council—Lord Desborough and the Rev. R. S. de Courcy Laffan—are members of the International Olympic Committee; (fn. 9) and its thirtyeight members were respectively appointed by the English governing authority of every sport forming part of the programme, and by such similar authorities in other parts of the United Kingdom as chose and were able to be represented. (fn. 10) Captain F. W. Jones acted as assistant secretary, and Mr. W. Henry, hon. secretary Royal Life Saving Society, as Director of the Stadium. The bulk of the extensive and varied work of the Council was distributed amongst four Standing Committees —the Art Committee, responsible for prize and the commemorative medals designed by Mr. Bestwick McKerral; the Finance Committee; the Housing and Entertainment Committee; and the Programme (virtually the Executive) Committee, dealing with all the details of the athletic side of the Games. (fn. 11) The management of each branch of the Games was placed entirely in the hands of the association governing that sport in this country, which provided all officials, &c., and was responsible for the proper conduct of the competitions; but, though the representatives of foreign countries took no part in the management unless especially requested to do so in any particular instance, each nation or country competing had the right to appoint three members of a 'comité d'honneur,' (fn. 12) through which any protests or objections made by competitors from that nation or country were conveyed to the proper authority. (fn. 13)
In a letter of 20 June Lord Desborough made an appeal through the newspapers for funds to enable the British Olympic Committee to maintain the British reputation for hospitality by arranging a series of social functions, to which all competitors and officials should in turn be invited; and this was so well supported by the Daily Mail and the sporting and general press, that over £10,000 was subscribed for the purpose within a week. (fn. 14) On 11 July the athletes were officially welcomed at the Grafton Galleries by Lord Desborough and the Rev. R. S. de Courcy Laffan. (fn. 15) A series of banquets, presided over by the former, was given at the Holborn Restaurant to the athletes of different nationalities engaged in the Games, (fn. 16) and on 24 July a ball took place at the same place at which 700 ladies and gentlemen from eighteen different countries were present. (fn. 17) In addition to these entertainments, the Lord Mayor, on behalf of the City, gave a reception at the Mansion House, which was attended by the members of the International Olympic Committee, the Comité d'Honneur, and the British Olympic Council, and representative athletes from each of the competing countries; (fn. 18) and dinners in honour of the same guests were given by the Government at the Grafton Galleries, (fn. 19) by the Fishmongers' Company, (fn. 20) and by the Lyceum Club (fn. 21) during the same month. The Amateur Swimming Association, Amateur Athletic Association, National Cycling Association, and other kindred bodies also materially aided in furthering the extension of hospitality to the foreign competitors; (fn. 22) and at the close of July a series of entertainments, in which Lord and Lady Desborough, Lord and Lady Michelham, Sir F. Crisp, and the Hon. W. F. D. Smith played a prominent part, were organized in connexion with the Olympic Regatta at Henley. (fn. 23)
A British team to compete in the contests for field and track athletics and other kindred sports was, after various trials (beginning on 12 June), finally selected on 12 July, and for this four Middlesex clubs—the Finchley, the Polytechnic, the Highgate Harriers and the London Athletic Club—supplied twenty members. (fn. 24) For this portion—the most popular if not the most important—of the Olympic Games, a Stadium, with sitting accommodation for 70,000, and additional standing room for 20,000 spectators, designed by Mr. Imre Kiralfy, was erected, at a cost of between £60,000 and £70,000, in the grounds of the Franco-British Exhibition at Shepherd's Bush. (fn. 25) The centre of the arena was an ellipse of turf, 700 ft. in length and 300 ft. in breadth, encircled by a running track, laid under the superintendence of the Amateur Athletic Association, which was itself encircled by a cycling track; and a swimming pond, 100 metres long, with a deep space in the middle for high diving and water polo, was also constructed along one side of the arena. (fn. 26) On Monday, 13 July, this Stadium was formally opened by his Majesty King Edward, (fn. 27) and the Stadium events were continued day by day until 25 July, when the competitions in the following sports were concluded:— athletics, archery, bicycling, fencing, gymnastics, swimming, wrestling, and the Marathon Race (26 miles, 385 yards), the course of which began on the East Lawn of Windsor Castle and ended in the arena of the Stadium. At the close of the contests the prizes were given to the successful competitors by Queen Alexandra.
The Comité d'Honneur was twice called upon to exercise its functions during the progress of these competitions. In the 400-metres flat race between W. Halswelle (Great Britain), and J. C. Carpenter, W. C. Robbins, and J. B. Taylor (United States), Carpenter was disqualified for fouling Halswelle, and the race was declared void and ordered to be run again, when the two Americans, Robbins and Taylor, having failed to appear, Halswelle was given a run over and completed the distance in 50 sec. (fn. 28) In the Marathon race J. J. Hayes (United States), who finished in 2 hrs. 55 min. 182/5 sec., was declared the winner. Dorando Pietri (Italy), who completed the course in 2 hrs. 54 min. 462/5 sec., and passed the tape about 100 yds. ahead of him, was disqualified on account of assistance given by sympathetic spectators when he fell on the track. (fn. 29) On learning of Dorando Pietri's disqualification the queen expressed her intention of presenting him with a cup, which he received at the prize-giving on the following day. (fn. 30)
In athletics Great Britain won seven out of twenty-seven events, the prize for the tug-ofwar going to a Middlesex team, the City of London Police, (fn. 31) and three Middlesex men— Webb of Hackney, 2nd both in the 3,500 metres and in the 10-mile walk, (fn. 32) Press of Hammersmith, 2nd in catch-as-catch-can wrestling, (fn. 33) and Slein of Hammersmith, 2nd in featherweight wrestling— (fn. 34) securing four 2nd prizes between them. In cycling Great Britain won five out of seven events, in swimming four out of nine, in archery two out of three, and in wrestling three out of nine; and in the whole Stadium events she secured twenty-three 1st, twenty 2nd, and twelve 3rd prizes as against eighteen 1st, ten 2nd, and eleven 3rd, won by the United States; and five 1st, two 2nd, and six 3rd prizes won by Sweden. (fn. 35) With the exception of the 200-metres flat race, all previous Olympic records in track events, and also in the 110 metres hurdles, the hammer and discus throwing, broad, high, and pole jumps, and 'triple' jump were beaten at the London Games. (fn. 36)
The competitions in the Stadium had been preceded by those in racquets, in April, (fn. 37) at the Queen's Club, West Kensington; in tennis and in lawn tennis (covered courts) at the same place in May; in polo at Hurlingham in June; in lawn tennis (grass courts) at Wimbledon, and in shooting at Bisley, and (in clay-bird shooting) at Uxendon in July. They were followed during the last week of that month by the rowing competitions at Henley, and by the 6, 7, and 8-metres boat events in yachting at Ryde; and in August the 12-metres boatraces, which closed the yachting competitions, were held on the Clyde and motor boat racing on Southampton Water. In October the Games were brought to a conclusion by the competitions in Association football, hockey, and lacrosse, at the Stadium, boxing at the Northampton Institute, Clerkenwell, and skating at Prince's Rink, Knightsbridge. (fn. 38)
On the 31st of that month a final official banquet, presided over by Lord Desborough, was given at the Holborn Restaurant to some 400 guests, comprising representatives from France, Germany, Sweden, the United States, Australia, and South Africa. (fn. 39)
In the above sports Great Britain won all the events in racquets, lawn tennis, polo, rowing, and yachting, and also six out of fifteen in shooting; and in all the competitions of the Games she won fifty-four 1st, thirty-six 2nd, and twenty-three 3rd prizes, as against twelve 1st, eleven 2nd, and thirteen 3rd, won by the United States; two 1st, five 2nd, and ten 3rd, won by Sweden; and four 1st, six 2nd, and six 3rd won by France; the position of the other nations being as follows:— (fn. 40)
The American team, which is described by the writer in Baily's Magazine, already cited, as 'the finest team of athletes that has ever visited this country,' some of whom 'proved themselves the finest in the world,' (fn. 41) gained five prizes in track and nine in field athletics, and furnished the winner and the third and fourth in the Marathon Race, for which there were seventy-five competitors. (fn. 42) Sweden won both the javelin competitions, the high diving, and three of the shooting competitions, and divided the prizes for gymnastics with Italy; while France won first prizes for the tandem cycling 2,000-metres race, continental archery, and the individual and team competitions for the Epée, the other two fencing events for the sabre being won by Hungary. (fn. 43) The following is a list of the 1st Prize Winners (Gold Medallist) in the Games:— (fn. 44)