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The 1948 London Olympics and the Cold War

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by Digital Transformation Unit on 15 August 2013

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Transcript of The 1948 London Olympics and the Cold War

Olympic Torch
A torch made for the 1948 London Olympic relay, and thought to have been used on the Belgium leg of the journey between Olympia and London. Architect Ralph Lavers was chosen to design the holder, which was made from aluminium and perforated steel, to showcase British craftsmanship.
Credit: Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Berlin obstacle race cartoon by Leslie Illingworth published in the Daily Mail on 27 July 1948. The US and Britain are represented by the symbolic figures of Uncle Sam and John Bull. In the background is Paul G. Hoffman, who administered the European Recovery Programme (Marshall Plan) from 1948-50.
Berlin cartoon
Credit: Solo Syndication
Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations and the minister responsible for organising the London Games. Noel-Baker was a former athlete having won silver in the 1500m in Antwerp in 1920.
Philip Noel-Baker
Credit: National Portrait Gallery
The official Olympic poster for the 1948 Games designed by Walter Herz. The design brings together classical and modern symbols of the Games with one of London’s best-known landmarks. The time shown by Big Ben is 4pm, the time the Games were officially opened.
Official Poster
Credit: Getty Images
Olympic Torch
The last of the runners bringing the Olympic flame from Greece, arriving at Wembley Stadium during the opening ceremony on 29 July 1948. For part of the journey the torch had to be carried by Greek and British warships. It then passed through Italy, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg and Belgium before reaching England – a journey of 3,160km across war-ravaged Europe.
Credit: Victoria & Albert Museum, London
Credit: Transport for London from the London Transport Museum
Credit: Transport for London from the London Transport Museum
London Games
London Transport also supplied the official transport for the Games. Here competitors are arriving by bus.
Ernest Bevin, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, 1945-51. Bevin was unable to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games as he was making a statement on the Berlin crisis in the House of Commons. In his speech he reaffirmed that he would ‘not submit to compulsion, either to yield up our position or to negotiate under duress’.
Ernest Bevin
Credit: National Portrait Gallery
Credit: Sokol Prerov
Athlete defections
Marie Provaznikova (centre)
The first Cold War athlete to defect at an Olympic Games was Czechoslovakian Marie Provaznikova, captain of the gold medal-winning women’s gymnastics team. She refused to return to her homeland, now under Soviet control.
Air Commodore Reginald (Rex) N. Waite CB, CBE; Director of the Air Branch of the British Control Commission in Germany. Waite was the first person to suggest that not only the Western garrison but the entire civilian population of the Western sectors could be supplied solely by air.
Rex Waite
Credit: Allied Museum, Berlin
Citizens of Berlin stand amid rubble near the edge of Tempelhof Airfield to watch an American C-47 cargo plane arrive with food and supplies, July 1948.
Berlin Airlift
Credit: Getty Images
Berlin Airlift
An American booklet of Airlift cartoons by Jake Schuffert
Credit: Allied Museum, Berlin
Air corridors
Map showing air corridors to Berlin from Western zones and airbases used during the airlift.
Credit: Crown Copyright
Berlin Airlift
A warehouse of food waiting shipment to Berlin
Credit: Air Historical Branch of the Royal Air Force
Avro York aircraft from the 242 Squadron at Gatow Airfield. Yorks flew 58,124 of the 131,800 sorties conducted by the RAF.
Berlin Airlift
Olympic Boycott
Credit: Air Historical Branch of the Royal Air Force
The Cold War continued to be played out at the Olympics. The Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 provoked a US-led boycott of the 1980 Games in Moscow, for which the USSR retaliated when the Olympics were held in Los Angeles in 1984.
Credit: Getty Images
Just as the Berlin Blockade symbolised the beginning of the Cold War, so the fall of the Berlin Wall on the night of 9 November 1989 marked its end.
Berlin Wall
The 1948 London Olympics and the Cold War
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