The fourth modern Olympic Games of 1908 was the largest ever attempted at the time with 22 nations competing in 109 events and over 2000 competitors taking part. The main area used for the Olympics was White City but the Clay Pigeon Shooting took place near Wembley at Uxendon Farm and the Marathon ran through Brent.
The Marathon at this time had no fixed length but the British organisers planned out a course of 26 miles between the start, Windor Castle, and the finish in White City. Roughly five miles of the route passed through what is now Brent. We have in our collection this images of Pietro Dorando from Italy who collapsed before the finish line and was assisted to the finish. The American John Hayes finished second and was eventually declared the winner due to the assistance given to Dorando.
Wembley hosted the Olympic Games in 1948. These Olympics are often described as The Austerity Games’ as the country was still recovering from the Second World War. RAF camps, colleges and schools around London were used as accommodation for the 4,100 competitors from 59 nations as there was no money to build accommodation for the athletes. These games were the first to be shown on home television, although few actually watched it as a television at the time would have been an expensive luxury.
The Empire Pool (now the Wembley Arena) was the first covered Olympic pool to be used in the games and could hold 8,000 spectators. It was unfortunately longer than the Olympic regulation 50m and so a platform was constructed to shorten it.
Wembley Stadium was of course used for the athletics competition and was the first time starting blocks had been used in the sprint races in the Olympics. Fanny Blankers-Koen of the Netherlands entered four of the sprint events and won gold in all of them.
The Olympics returned to London in 2012 with Wembley hosting many events. The Stadium hosted football including both women’s and men’s finals. Wembley Arena hosted the badminton and rhythmic gymnastics.