1948 - London

Last Updated: 20/06/12 2:03pm

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After a 12-year absence due to World War II the Olympics returned, and although London was called upon at short notice they produced a stunning effort given the circumstances.

In this year...

  • Laurence Olivier wins an Oscar for his performance in Hamlet.
  • The UK government nationalises the railway system to create British Railways.
  • Jockey Lester Piggott wins his first race, Haydock Park, aged just 12.
  • British National Health Service Act is introduced and the NHS is created.
  • Henry Cotton wins his third and final Open Championship at Muirfield.
  • The then-Princess Elizabeth gives birth to her first child Prince Charles.

Known as the Austerity Games due to the economic climate and post-war rationing, it was the first to be shown on home television, although very few people actually owned sets, and London also saw the first participation of Communist countries.

Seventeen-year-old American Bob Mathias won the decathlon only four months after taking up the sport and is still the youngest man to win an Olympic athletics event.

Holland's Fanny Blankers-Koen was the world-record holder in six disciplines but the rules stated she was allowed to enter only three individual track and field events. She won the 100m, 80m hurdles, 200m and 4x100m relay.

Karoly Takacs, a member of the Hungarian world champion pistol shooting team in 1938 when a grenade shattered the right hand he used to shoot, taught himself to shoot with his left and won a gold medal in the rapid-fire pistol event.

Denmark's Karen Hoff won the first women's canoeing event, while French concert pianist Micheline Ostermeyer won the shot put and the discus.

The Empire Pool near Wembley was the first Olympic pool to have a roof, and as it was longer than the regular 50m a wooden platform was inserted to shorten it and house the judges and officials.

Another innovation at London was the introduction of starting blocks on the track for sprint races from 100m to 400m.Olympic Stars:

Dutch sprinter Fanny Blankers-Koen was nicknamed "The Flying Housewife" as the 30-year-old mother of three children won four gold medals in athletics, and it could have been more.

As world record holder in the long jump and high jump Blankers-Koen may have been able to win further medals but, at this time, female athletes were limited to three individual events.

Veikko Huhtanen of Finland won the most individual medals in London as he came home with five medals - three golds, a silver and a bronze in men's gymnastics.

Huhtanen actually shared one of his gold medals, but remarkably it was with two fellow Finns as he and both Heikki Savolainen and Paavo Aaltonen had the same score on the pommel horse.

Hungarian Karoly Takacs showed plenty of Olympic spirit as he refused to accept his promising shooting career was over despite a faulty grenade shattering his shooting hand whilst he was in the Hungarian army.

Takacs taught himself to shoot left-handed and duly popped up and won gold in London, at the age of 38, but he was far from finished and he retained his title in Helsinki four years later. He is the first known physically disabled athlete to have competed in the Olympic Games.

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