Cautionary tale of the Olympics in London - 100 years ago

PUBLISHED: 11:45 19 June 2008 | UPDATED: 15:09 07 September 2010

IT only seems like yesterday that I was letting you know about The Austerity Olympics – a fine new book about the games which took place in London in 1948. Well now here s an even newer book about an even older London games – those which took place in 190

IT only seems like yesterday that I was letting you know about The Austerity Olympics - a fine new book about the games which took place in London in 1948.

Well now here's an even newer book about an even older London games - those which took place in 1908.

Olympic Follies by Graeme Kent (JR Books, £14.99) is subtitled The Madness and Mayhem of the 1908 London Games - A Cautionary Tale (phew!) and that word 'cautionary' is one which isn't used lightly.

The 1908 Games was supposed to display the British Empire at its most wonderful. But before the Games were over, just about everything which could go wrong, had gone wrong - and we only got the event at all because Rome and Milan spent so long squabbling over who should host it, that it was taken away from Italy altogether.

The games opened in the pouring rain which continued for the whole fortnight. But that wasn't the half of it. One country refused to dip its banner to King Edward, causing uproar. Decisions were questioned. One athlete dropped the 'shot' of the shot-put on the foot of a competitor.

It sounds more like a Hollywood fiction than fact and yet here are the details in all their glory.

It's a hugely entertaining tale packed with historical facts on what must be the most bizarre Games ever.

o Mere Anarchy by Woody Allen (Ebury, £7.99) is not about the Olympics. Instead, it's a surreal, absurd and just plain daft collection of stories by the man the Irish Times described as "one of the world's funniest writers".

It's the film director's first such collection in more than 25 years and includes tales of a body double kidnapped by outlaws, crooks selling bespoke prayers on eBay, a pretentious writer forced to work on the novelisation of a Three Stooges film and many more besides.

David Crozier


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