South London’s Olympics

Is it really four years since London hosted the Olympic Games? I’m sure we all have vivid memories of London 2012 and the excitement we experienced as Team GB put on their best performance. Our athletes will shortly be off to Rio de Janeiro for the Games of the XXXI Olympiad; we wish them every success and hope they can emulate, or even better, the success of four years ago.  2012 was the third time the games have been held here, London being the only city to have hosted three Olympiads, the others being in 1908 and 1948. Here, we look at the part south London played in the Olympics.

The Olympic Torch Relay in Coldharbour Lane, Camberwell

The 2012 Olympic Torch Relay in Coldharbour Lane, Camberwell

1908 – IV Olympiad
The only event held in south London was the outdoor tennis tournament (strangely, there was also an indoor one, at Queen’s Club). This took place at the original All England Club ground at Worple Road, Wimbledon from 6-11th July. There were three events, men’s and women’s singles, and men’s doubles. Apart from the men’s singles silver medal, GB won all the others with Josiah Ritchie winning gold in the men’s, Dorothea Lambert Chambers the women’s and George Hillyard and Reginald Doherty the doubles.

1948 – XIV Olympiad
Tennis had dropped out of the Olympics after 1924 and did not re-appear until 1988, but football and cycling took place at south London venues in the 1948 Games. Herne Hill Velodrome hosted the cycling from 7-11th August when there were six men’s events: sprint, team pursuit, tandem, and individual, team and 1000m time trial. Team GB won three silvers and two bronze medals, with Reg Harris getting silver in the sprint and again in the tandem with Alan Bannister. The other silver was in the team time trial, with bronzes in the 1000m time trial for Tommy Godwin and in the team pursuit.

The 1948 Olympic Flag

The 1948 Olympic Flag – Displayed at Wembley Stadium

In the football, Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park hosted two matches: in a 1st Round match, Denmark beat Egypt 3-1 with 12,000 in attendance, while the eventual gold medallists, Sweden, thumped South Korea 12-0 in a quarter final match on 5th August. Dulwich Hamlet’s Champion Hill ground saw a 1st Round match with South Korea beating Mexico 5-3.

2012 – XXX Olympiad
With tennis back on the menu, the All England Club’s ‘new’ ground at Church Road, Wimbledon took centre stage and provided one of the highlights of the Games, from a British perspective, with Andy Murray defeating Roger Federer to take gold on Saturday 5th August – a day when Team GB won several medals. Murray also won silver in the mixed doubles with Laura Robson.

Olympic Makeover at Wimbledon

Olympic Makeover at Wimbledon

The O2 Arena was renamed the ‘North Greenwich Arena’ for the Olympics due to sponsorship issues, and it hosted the artistic gymnastics and trampoline competitions and later stages of the basketball tournaments. Britain did well in the gymnastics, Louis Smith and Max Whitlock winning silver and bronze in the pommel horse, with Beth Tweddle gaining bronze in the uneven bars. The men’s team took bronze in the all-round competition

Despite some local opposition, Greenwich Park became the site for the equestrian events, and there were many successes for Team GB. Charlotte Dujardin won gold and Laura Bechtolsheimer bronze in the individual dressage, with GB winning the team dressage and team jumping golds, and silver in the team eventing.


Photo: Charlotte Dujardin 2012 Olympic Dressage

Greenwich Park also hosted two of the Modern Pentathlon events, the horse riding and combined running and shooting. Samantha Murray won silver in the women’s event.

The Shooting competitions took place at The Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, with Peter Wilson winning gold for GB in the Men’s Double Trap.

Finally, the Road Race Cycling events passed through parts of south London, including Putney and Wimbledon, on their way out to Box Hill in Surrey and back to the finish on the Mall.

Total GB Olympic Medals won in south London:

1908 Gold – 3 Silver – 2 Bronze – 3

1948 Gold – 0 Silver – 3 Bronze – 2

2012 Gold – 5 Silver – 4 Bronze – 4

Totals:  Gold – 8  Silver – 9  Bronze – 9

Paralympic events also took place in south London and we’ll look at these in another article nearer the Rio Paralympics in September. In the meantime enjoy the Games!


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