Wednesday, 31 July 2013

The London Reading List No.8 – And An Olympic Walk Announcement!


Judy writes… This Thursday (Aug 1st) I am doing the Olympic walk and it is the first time we will actually be going INTO part of the Olympic Park.

Be one of the first to experience it. Come along and here the story of the Games in 2012 and what is happening there now & in the future. August 1st Olympic Walk, 2.15p.m West Ham tube (Jubilee & District line)





The Great London Reading List! Essential London books that Londoners take away on holiday to remind them of home… books visitors should read before arriving in London… fact, fiction, poetry, all genres welcome. If you’re in the mood to recommend a great London bookshop, too, we’d love to hear it!  All suggestions to the usual address, please, or leave a comment below or get in touch via Twitter @londonwalks.



No 8. The Austerity Olympics: When the Games Came to London in 1948

By Janie Hampton


Adam writes… Janie Hampton’s wonderful book on the 1948 Olympics tells the tale of London’s second hosting of the Games.

For those of you stifling a yawn at this point, perhaps anticipating lists and times and heights and team sheets and medal tables, well think again. Hampton’s narrative is just that: a narrative, a tale well told, mercifully free from dry match facts and mere sports reporting.

Instead, Hampton treats us to the stories of the people who made the Games: the posh rower who thought his official Olympic blazer to be of such poor quality that it must have been “cut with a spoon”; then the athlete who found her blazer so smart that she wore it to her sister’s wedding. There are tales of the American and Canadian teams sharing their ample rations with the deprived European teams – and of the French captain complaining strenuously about the British food!

Every corner was cut, every penny pinched. Teams were put up not in a swish Olympic Village, but in schools and army barracks. One official even expected the cycling competitors to be able to ride their own bikes to Herne Hill for the races!

The Dutchwoman Fanny Blankers-Koen remains the heroine of the ‘48 Games, winning four gold medals on the track. Despite the fact that she beat British girls into silver position to take three of those golds, the London crowds took her to their hearts. And her journey is here too – from Nazi occupied Holland to the Hunger Winter of ’44 to the winners’ podium at Wembley.

But it is the unsung heroes who make the story such a delight. The overall tale that emerges is humane and moving, nuanced and rich, truly Olympian. Left to a sports reporter, there’s every chance this book would have garnered as many gold medals as the British track and field competitors in 1948 – none at all. In the hands of Janie Hampton, it’s a story as garlanded as the great Fanny Blankers-Koen herself.




A London Walk costs £9 – £7 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at www.walks.com.

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