Books: The Austerity Olympics

The Austerity Olympics by Janie Hampton (Image / Aurum Press)

In following these London Olympics, I’ve heard frequent mention of the 1948 London games, the first Olympics held following World War II. In referencing those games, the spare, post-war backdrop of their staging landed the Olympiad the nickname of the Austerity Olympics.

London was originally awarded the 1944 Olympics but due to the war there were no games held, nor had there been in 1940.

Compelled by the topic, I headed to and placed an order for The Austerity Olympics by Janie Hampton and thought I’d read it during the current games. Sometime shortly after clicking ‘purchase’ I read the (not so) fine print that the book ships in 1-3 months, so it looks like I’ll be reading it instead during the college football season.

So rather than a book review of a book I’ve not yet read, here are a few facts about the ’48 games.

  • Despite the bombing of the city during the war, its athletic facilities escaped relatively intact and Wembley Stadium hosted the opening ceremonies.
  • In helping it earn its Austerity Olympics moniker, there was no Olympic Village. The male athletes roomed at an army base in Uxbridge. The women athletes stayed in dorms at Southlands College.
  • Due to poor weather that bogged down the track and field events,the fewest Olympic records were set in the history of the games.
  • Rationing dating back to the war was still in effect in 1948, and many in London were still displaced or homeless in the wake of the German bombing.
  • 17-year old American Bob Mathias won the decathlon, despite having taken up the sport just four months earlier.

– TF

Sources: BBC Archive, Encyclopedia Brittanica