LONDON (AP) — EDITORS — With the Tokyo Olympics postponed for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, The Associated Press is looking back at the history of Summer Games. Here is a recap of the 1908 London Olympics.
Through the summer heat, Dorando Pietri had completed 26 miles from Windsor Castle still leading the marathon.
But there were still another 365 yards to go. A lap of the track at the White City Stadium was required so the Italian would finish in front of Queen Alexandra at the 1908 London Olympics.
Dazed, perhaps by the roar of tens of thousands of spectators, and certainly weary, Pietri staggered into the stadium and collapsed several times. Doctors and race officials rushed to his side and helped him across the line.
Even though he finished seconds ahead of American rival Johnny Hayes, Pietri was denied gold because of the act of altruism. Hayes protested against the assistance received and Pietri was disqualified.
The British public was outraged. Even Queen Alexandra expressed sympathy and later ensured Pietri still left London with gold — in the form of a cup.
The first marathon over what became the official distance of 26 miles, 365 yards was one of the most dramatic seen at an Olympics. It produced a defining moment, captured on film, in the early days of the modern Olympics that had begun 12 years earlier.
The 1908 Games weren’t even meant to be in London. They ended up being the longest-ever.
An eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 1906 led to London staging the first of its three Olympics. With funds diverted from Olympic preparations in Rome to rebuild areas at the foot of the volcano near the southern city of Naples, Italy relinquished its hosting rights.
London still found time to built the White City Stadium in west London in only ten months. It was the scene of the first parade by athletes during the opening ceremony attended by King Edward VII on July 13, 1908 — almost three months after the first events in the Olympics. Competition did not finish until Oct. 31. By then, across 110 events in 22 different sports, 1,971 men and 37 men had competed for medals.
Hayes wasn’t the only American athlete embroiled in disputed a gold medal moment. Compatriot John Carpenter crossed the 400-meter final in first. But judges ruled he illegally obstructed Wyndham Halswelle while passing his British rival in a race run without race lines. The maneuver was allowed in under American rules but not British regulations that these games were subject to. The race was declared void and re-run two days later. Taylor did not turn up. Never did fellow American Robbins. Carpenter was the only competitor, winning in a walkover.
The United States took a Black athlete to an Olympics for the first time, and John Taylor was part of the gold-medal winning 4×400-meter team. It was the first time relays had featured in track and field at the Olympics.
The first Winter Games were not held until 1924 but London saw the introduction of the first winter sport at an Olympics. There were four events in figure skating, with men and women competing separately and as mixed pairs.
It took the arrival of American swimmer a century later for Ray Ewry’s record of winning eight gold medals in an individual event to be surpassed. The American won both the standing long jump and standing high jump for the third time at the 1908 Games.
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