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London 1908 - Quick hits


In the heart of White City in London on July 13, 70,000 spectators gave their support to the first Olympic procession of the 22 competing nations. The Irish and the Finns did not have flags. Russia and England, against the autonomy of Finland and Ireland, did not allow the flying of the countries' flags.

The meter reigns

After seemingly endless procrastinations, the English ceded the use of yards and adopted the metric system. The English viewed this decision as a disadvantage for their athletes, since it would no longer be a question of running 100 yards, but 109.3 yards (100 meters).

A lone victory

In the 400-meter dash, American John Carpenter was disqualified after it was ruled that he prevented Britain's Wyndham Halswelle from passing him on the track. The judges decided to rerun the race two days later, without Carpenter. Carpenter's two fellow countrymen in the race stood by him on principle and refused to run, leaving Halswelle to compete alone and win.

Crowd capacity

Two million spectators followed the marathon, run for the first time under a definitive distance (42.195 kilometers) between Windsor Castle and White City.

Like father, like son

Swede Oscar Swahn and his son Alfred won the gold medal in the team shooting event. Already 60 years old in London, Oscar went on to win another three gold medals, one silver and two bronze before finishing his career in 1920.

Two in one

New Zealand and Australia appeared under the same banner: Australasia. The same arrangement remained for the Stockholm Games in 1912.

Ice in summertime

Figure skating was included in the program of the Games. It also made an appearance at the 1920 Games in Antwerp before becoming an integral part of the Winter Games, which first took place in 1924 in Chamonix.


The queen was so touched by the plight of Italian Dorando Pietri (who was disqualified for accepting help from judges to finish the marathon 100 meters from the finish line) that she awarded him a golden cup at the close of the Games.

Conan Doyle

Sherlock Holmes author Conan Doyle was one of the judges who helped Pietri finish the marathon. The inquest into Pietri's disqualification was quickly convened ... elementary.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.

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