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The 1948 Olympic Games were the first to be held after the Berlin games of 1936. During the Second World War, the two scheduled games were cancelled (Tokyo 1940, and London 1944). After the war, the Olympic Committee decided to offer the Olympics to London for a second time.
The 1948 games, or XIV Olympiad, was a relatively Spartan one for participants and spectators. The main athletics events were held in Wembley Stadium, where a temporary running track had been laid. No Olympic village was built: the foreign athletes were accommodated in old wartime barracks and schools, the London-based British athletes lived at home. Food was still subject to ration restrictions.
Despite the frugal conditions, 4,099 contestants from 59 nations took part. The countries held responsible for the Second World War, Germany and Japan, were excluded from the games and the Soviet Union decided to abstain. The games began on 29 July 1948 with King George VI presiding over the opening ceremony in the presence of more than 80,000 spectators. Seven thousand doves were released, sending a message of culture and peace across the globe.
America came top of the medals table, winning 84 medals. Britain won 23, including three gold medals. The Jamaican athlete Arthur Wint won a gold medal for the 400-metre race and a silver medal for the 800 metres. The unquestionable star was a 30-year-old mother, Fanny Blankers-Koen, from the Netherlands. She remains the only woman to win four gold medals in athletics and break six Olympic records.
Despite the conditions, the 1948 games saw some technological innovations, including the photo finish and starting blocks for runners. The games also proved popular with Londoners. Many people welcomed the chance to focus on an event that restored a spirit of international harmony and human endeavour.
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