I have been reading a really interesting report from the Guardian “London’s 1948 Olympics: the real austerity Games”.
This report showed how the last time that the Olympics came to London the city was trying to recover from the near destruction of many parts of it by the German Luftwaffe. There was deep austerity in the country and the games could only be put on with a very restricted budget. There was no new Olympic Stadium built and the athletes had to be content with lodging in RAF accommodation.
The 2012 Games are happening at a time of austerity here in Britain. But the stark differences between the 1948 games and the lavish spectacle that we can expect at the brand new stadium in the brand new Olympic Park at Stratford (East side of London) starting this Friday (27th July) are remarkable. To quote the article: ”
This month the Commons public accounts committee expressed concern that once the cost of the security lockdown of London was taken into account, the final bill for the 2012 Games would be a little shy of £11bn, a fourfold increase since London put in its bid seven years ago, and almost equivalent to Britain’s gross domestic product in 1948.
By contrast, the cash-strapped Attlee government, which at one stage considered ceding the right to hold the Games to the United States, earmarked just under £750,000 for the Olympics. Even when inflation and more than six decades of growth are taken into account, the disparity in spending between the 1948 and the 2012 Games is marked: about 0.7% of GDP in 2012; less than 0.01% of GDP in 1948″.
The amazing thing is that the games in 1948 turned in a profit!: “Spending came in at £732,268, below the budget of £743,000, while receipts (mostly from ticket sales) were £761,688. The taxpayer will be footing the bill for London 2012, but that was not the case 64 years ago. The austerity Games made a profit of almost £30,000 – of which the taxman received £9,000”.
Money was not the main thing in this Olympics. The people of war-torn Britain had been starved of sport for the war years. There was a need to cheer everyone up and to give some hope of a brighter future amid the deprivations of a nation that was living on rations (and would continue to do so until July 1954).
The 1948 Olympics were not dominated by Professional sportsmen and women winning greater commercial credence by winning medals. It was about the achievement of the modern Olympic ideals that were stated by the founder of the modern movement Pierre De Coubertin, thus: “The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well”.
I wonder how much of these original ideals will be witnessed in the next few weeks at the modern version of London’s Olympic Games? I suspect very little….. we now live in age where winning is everything and second place means failure. The effort is not enough… the agents are hot on the trail of signing up the victors for numerous commercial sponsorships and T.V. adverts!
- The Way We Were: 1948 London Olympians Look Back (lightbox.time.com)
- Olympics return to a London thats worlds different from 1948 (mcclatchydc.com)