Athletics at the 1948 Winter Olympics in London

1948 Sorry, your browser does not support inline SVG .
The list of athletes for whom the peak period of their careers fell in the 12 years between Berlin 1936 and London 1948 is long: German Rudolf Harbig who on July 15 1939 set one of the strongest records in athletics history with his 1.46,6 on the 800 m. The Swedish runners Gunder Hägg and Arne Andersson who in the years 1941-45 together set a total of 21 world records on distances between 1500 m and 5000 m. The Brit Sydney Wooderson, who in 1937 lowered the world record on the mile to 4.01,4 and thereby closed the gap towards the "dream mile" under 4 minutes. The Swede Erik Elmsäter, who became the first to run 3000 m steeplechase under 9 minutes. The Finn Taisto Mäki, who in 1939 became the first to run the 10.000 m under 30 minutes. And the two Americans, Lester Steers and Cornelius Warmerdam, whose impressive series of records elevated the world records in high jump and pole vault to respectively 2,11 m and 4,77 m.

None of these athletes ever got the possibility to show their skills at the olympics. That however, was something another of the big athletic stars of the world war years accomplished, namely Fanny Blankers-Koen from the Netherlands.

In 1948 it was only 20 years since women had access to the athletics competitions in the olympics. At the London games the women's programme was extended with 3 new events to a total of 9 events. The women's events were a big success and the most spectacular happening on the stadium was Fanny Blankers-Koen's quadruple gold medal achievement.

Fanny Blankers-Koen entered the olympics as a world record holder on the 100 yards distance, 80 m hurdles, high jump and long jump. In addition she was a co-record holder on the 100 m and as part of the Dutch team she held two world records in relay events. In London 1948 the now 30 year old housewife became the superstar of the competitions.

740 athletes from 53 nations participated in the 33 athletics events at Wembley Stadium from Friday the 30th of July till Saturday the 7th of August.

The quality of the competitions at Wembley was higher than at any previous olympics. Even though there were more new records set 12 years earlier in Berlin 1936 the general level necessary for reaching finals were more demanding in London.

In the men's events new Olympic records were set on the 800 m, 5000 m, 10.000 m, 10 km road walk, both hurdle events, shot put and the discus. On the 400 m the record was evened. In the women's events the Olympic record was bettered in 80 m hurdles, high jump and javelin throw.

As usual USA was the best athletics nation winning 12 out of the 33 events. Sweden was second with 5 and the Netherlands came third with 4. In the men's events Belgium, Czechoslovakia and Jamaica won their first athletics gold medal.

Apart from Fanny Blankers-Koen's astonishing achievements the London athletics competitions are often remembered for the Olympic debut of Czechoslovakian long distance runner Emil Zatopec; the dominance of Jamaican runners in the 200-800 m events and the victory of 17 year old American Bob Mathias in the decathlon.

This story about Athletics at the 1948 Winter Olympics in London is based on the official Olympic reports and the Olympian Database
English flagDanish flag

Facts & Information

All-time Medal Table All-time Medal Table Olympic Games

Olympic Sports Database Olympic Sports

Nations in the Olympics
Nations in the Olympics

Future Olympics Future Olympics
Copyright & Disclaimer    Sportsencyclo    Privacy policy