Posted in Activity, Event, Exhibition, History, Museum, TV Programme, World War Two

The Olympic Games in London 1908, 1948 & Southampton Olympic Torch Relay 2012

Emblem worn by 1908 British Olympian Clarence Brickwood Kingsbury. Clarence won two gold medals in cycling. The emblem was sewn onto the front of his jersey. From a recent display about Clarence at Portsmouth City Museum.

The Opening Ceremony of London 2012 Olympics takes place this Friday, 27th July at 8.12pm (or symbolically 20:12).  London previously hosted the Games in 1908 and again in 1948.  In 1948, competitors had to bring their own food with them as rationing was still in place after the end of World War Two. The 1908 Games of the IV Olympiad should have originally taken place in Rome.  However, on April 7th 1906, Mount Vesuvius erupted and the city of Naples extensively damaged.  Money allocated by the Italian government for the upcoming Games was diverted toward rebuilding the stricken city.  A new venue was needed and London chosen. The 1908 Games took place at several locations in Britain, the main one being White City Stadium in Shepherds Bush, London. 

The Hampshire Record Office, Winchester, is hosting ‘The Olympics in Hampshire’, an exhibition: ‘..highlighting Olympians and Paralympians with Hampshire connections, venues and locations in Hampshire used for the 1908 and 1948 London Games and the Olympic torch route through Hampshire in 1948.’  The exhibition is free and runs until the 1st September. For more information, CLICK HERE.

Clarence’s number badge he wore at the 1908 London Olympics. Portsmouth City Museum.

In 1908, Portsmouth track cyclist, Clarence Brickwood Kingsbury (1882-1949) won two of Great Britain’s fifty-six gold medals.  He won the twenty kilometre bicycle and the Team Pursuit races. Clarence was a draper, confectioner and cycle maker who had begun racing aged just twelve years old, winning his first open event prize at the age of sixteen.  In 1910, he had won thirty-three first class scratch races.  He belonged to two cycling clubs, Paddington and The Portsmouth North End Cycling Club (founded in 1900).  Immediately after Clarence won his two gold medals in 1908, he had to leave London for Leipzig to attend the World Championships.  His family collected his medals for him from the royal box.

Embroidered N.C.U. (National Cyclists Union) badge worn by Clarence at the 1908 Olympics. Portsmouth City Museum.

Clarence earned himself a 1948 citation in The Golden Book of Cycling, a publication created by British magazine, Cycling.  Here is an extract from that citation:

..he [Clarence] qualified for the final [1908 Olympics] with three other Englishmen, as the tactics of foreign riders had proved puzzling.  Kingsbury liked a straight-forward race, but despite the visitors riding all over the track, sprinting one lap and crawling the next, he kept going in a determined manner with B. Jones, and the other two Englishmen having punctured.  Kingsbury raced into the lead over the last half-lap, winning by inches from Jones.

British Team cycling cap worn by Clarence at the 1908 London Olympics. Portsmouth City Museum.

I, like a large number of other people in Britain, have not been lucky enough to secure tickets for this year’s Games. I desperately wanted to see the synchronised swimming; dressage and gymnastics but will now have to be content with the television coverage. The only opportunity left for many of the non-ticket holders to witness any part of the spectacle, firsthand, has been the Torch Relay. This goes part of the way to explaining why the Relay has drawn such large crowds at each section en-route, despite some pretty dreadful weather conditions.

Historical sketch of Bugle Street, Southampton looking toward Town Quay. The sketch depicts what the Street may have looked like in the 1840s. The sketch is on display at the Museum and was located right next to the second floor window of Tudor House and Garden where I watched the Torch Relay from on 14th July 2012.

On Saturday the 14th July, day 57 of the Relay, I watched the cavalcade and torch pass through the historic Old Town of Southampton The Tudor House and Garden in Bugle Street stayed open until 6.30pm to mark the occasion.

Same view as above historic sketch. I took this image just before the crowds started to gather for the Southampton Torch Relay on the 14th.

I had a superb vantage point on the second floor of the Museum, looking-out of a tiny latticed window directly down Bugle Street toward Town Quay.

View from street level of the window where I watched the Southampton Torch Relay.

The procession passed by at 5.41pm precisely, the weather just about held-off and Bugle Street was buzzing with excitement.

Crowds gather in Bugle Street to watch the Torch Relay, 14th July 2012.

I think the Olympic Torch is an object of beauty, exquisitely designed by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby.  It stands at 80cm high and weighs 800g.  The Torchbearer was Hilary Corrick (68).  For more information on Hilary’s story, please CLICK HERE.

If you are attending the Olympics, I hope that have you a wonderful experience. Don’t forget to make the most of your time in Britain and visit some of our historic landmarks.  I wish all participating athletes, particularly those from Team GB, a great Games and high medal tally.  If Bradley Wiggins’ Tour de France win is anything to go by, it looks like he is in with a strong chance of medal success in the cycling, following in the footsteps of Clarence Kingsbury from one hundred and four years ago.

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