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The 1908 London Olympics

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Published on Jul 13, 2012

A specially compiled selection of extracts from surviving footage of Track & Field and Marathon events during London's first ever stint as host city.

The 1908 Olympics had been awarded to Rome, but due to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in April 1906 London was selected as an alternative. Twenty-two nations competed in 110 events, opening on 27th April and closing on 31st October.

Track & Field events, held at the specially built White City stadium, were captured in the first part of this film, which illustrates the multitude of sports taking place simultaneously: archery, shot putt, high jump and discus alongside tug-of-war, gymnastics, swimming and water polo, with the cyclists sweeping past on the track in the background.

The 1908 Olympic marathon took place in sweltering heat, leading to one of the most dramatic race finishes in the history of the Games. Race leader Dorando Pietri, struggling to stay on his feet as he neared the finish line, was famously disqualified for the assistance he received. This marathon would prove significant for another reason, as the distance from Windsor Castle to White City - 26 miles and 385 yards - would be adopted as the standard race length from 1924. (Kathleen Luckey)

All titles on the BFI Films channel are preserved in the vast collections of the BFI National Archive. To find out more about the Archive visit http://www.bfi.org.uk/archive-collect...

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