A brief history of the London Olympics

For those who represent Team GB in 2012, the London Olympics will be the time of their lives. Only twice before has a British team competed on home soil: in 1908 and 1948.

As in 1908, the 1948 Olympics – the first for 12 years due to the second world war – were staged with less than two years to prepare. With rationing of food and petrol still in force, they were known as the “austerity games”, and many athletes were housed in former military barracks.

The expectations of the team in 1948 were far lower than today. There were three British gold medals: two in rowing and the other for sailing. Britain performed well in cycling but you would have looked in vain for anyone to emulate Victoria Pendleton, Rebecca Romero or Nicole Cooke. Cycling was for men only – and increasing the quota of women’s races is a battle still being fought for 2012.

The pressure will be intense at the London games. A British team that could be up to twice the size of the one in 1948 will aspire to fourth place in the medal table. A total of 4,099 athletes from 59 nations took part in 1948; more than double that will participate in 2012.

At least when Team GB marches in for the London opening ceremony, they will definitely have a flag! It was forgotten in 1948: at the last moment, Roger Bannister raced off in an army jeep to find a spare flag in the boot of his car. He returned with seconds to go before the team were to enter the stadium, and no one was any the wiser …

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