Olympic Marathon: A Centennial History of the Games' Most Storied Race

By Charlie Lovett | Go to book overview

5
The Games of the IV Olympiad: London, 1908

The 1908 Olympic Games had originally been awarded to Rome, but the Italians had difficulty in preparing for the event, so it was decided to move the Games to London. The British Olympic Organizing Committee, under the leadership of Lord Desborough, made splendid preparations, constructing a stadium with a capacity of nearly 70,000. From the opening of the Games, however, there was antagonism between the British and the Americans-- antagonism that would carry on to the track at the finish of the marathon.

To begin with, the British had failed to fly the American flag at the Opening Ceremonies. From then on, a steady stream of American protests of British rules and officiating marred the track-and-field competition. The battle culminated with the final of the 400 meters, which featured an Englishman and three Americans. One of the Americans ran wide on the final stretch to avoid being passed by the British runner. The British officials broke the tape before the race could finish and announced that another final would have to be run. Two days later, with the Americans boycotting the race in protest, Wyndham Halswelle of Great Britain ran the second final all alone to win the gold medal. Years later, those present would claim that neither the British nor the Americans had exhibited fine sportsmanship. Jn any case, by the start of the marathon, conflicts had been raging for several days.

The British organizers had elected to begin the marathon on the grounds of Windsor Castle, twenty-six miles from White City Stadium, where the race would end. The starting point was chosen so that the children of King

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