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1948 Olympic Games

athlete with hammer, nailing starting blocks into the ground

1948 saw the first use of starting blocks in athletics
© Picture Post, Getty Images

Playing it safe

The 1948 Games marked a new beginning, following years of world war.

War damaged London offered to host the Games with a 'make do and mend' approach. No new venues or Olympic 'village' were constructed. 59 nations took part, bringing 4,071 competitors to the event. Some were housed in army Nissan huts and travelled to events on the London Underground.

Customs and Immigration controls were relaxed for those attending the Games. Special instructions were prepared for officers on duty at the border controls.

An Olympic Identity Card was issued by Customs officers to all those attending the Games. Following the destruction of war, a visitor unable to show a passport could produce a 'Document of Identity'. At the request of the Olympic Committee, 6,000 visas were issued by the Foreign Office, free of charge. This allowed overseas competitors and officials to enter the country. Most arrived by sea through the port of Dover.

runner with Olympic torch
Chosen for his good looks, British athlete John Mark carries the torch into Wembley Stadium for the 1948 opening ceremony © Keystone, Getty Images

Welcome to Britain

In 1948 essential products were in short supply and strict food rationing was in place. Athletes and officials were allowed to bring in food and wine for personal use without paying duty. This measure also applied to the athletes' sports equipment on production of their Olympic Identity Card.

Countries contributed food and water for those taking part. 100 tons of fruit and vegetables were supplied by the Netherlands. Denmark sent 160,000 eggs, and bottled mineral water arrived from Czechoslovakia.

Olympiad depots were established at key sporting venues in southern Britain to ease Customs procedures. This allowed boats involved in the Olympic sailing regatta to land at Torquay, Devon. Horses for the equestrian event were stabled at Aldershot.

For the Olympic shooting competition in Surrey, Customs required a police permit to cover the import of arms and ammunition.

In today's money, the 1948 Games were staged for £80 million and even returned a small profit. The London 2012 Games cost an estimated £9 billion.

chef with huge bowls full of eggs

A chef prepares eggs for the Indian team in the 1948 Olympic kitchen © Paul Popper, Popperfoto, Getty Images