Search

Olympic fever in Islington a long way from apathy of previous Games in London

17:09 10 August 2012

An historic photo of Ironmonger Row Baths, where training for Olympic diving in the 1948 London Games took place. The diving boards are visible in the middle at the back.

An historic photo of Ironmonger Row Baths, where training for Olympic diving in the 1948 London Games took place. The diving boards are visible in the middle at the back.

Archant

You might think the Olympics fever that has swept across London is natural. The biggest sporting event in the world coming to the capital seems an obvious cause for celebration.

But not in 1948 or 1908 – according to researcher Ben Smith from the Islington History Centre, who has found that there appeared to be little excitement for the event in and around the borough.

Mr Smith, who has trawled through the Islington newspaper archives, said: “While people were interested in the games, they didn’t see them as something life changing.”

While Islington Council has pulled out the stops this year with a huge range of free events and celebrations, in 1948 the Olympics didn’t even make council minutes.

As for Finsbury Council, then separate from Islington, the only way they marked the Games was by agreeing to assist in the distribution of the poster, and hanging “the usual display of flags” from the town hall.

“From the council’s perspective, it was the austerity games. It wasn’t a lack of interest, so much as a lack of money,” says Mr Smith, who has built up a picture of the atmosphere at the previous home Olympics.

“It was so soon post-war you might have thought people would be clamouring for any piece of hope and happiness they could, but there seems to have been some apathy surrounding it.”

This was despite Highbury hosting Olympic football, and training for diving taking place at Ironmonger Row Baths in 1948.

As for the athletes themselves, Islington boasts a good history of medal winners, but their lives would have been miles apart from the celebrity and intensive training of modern stars.

“They were very much amateurs. People would see their heroes in the streets.

“Even up to the 1968 Olympics they were just students, or working class people who were very good at sport. There were no million pound sponsorship deals.”

Among the borough’s Olympians is George Mackenzie, of Calabria Road, Highbury, a wrestler at five Olympics who carried the GB flag in 1952.

Islington has a rich history in Olympic wrestling, sending eight wrestlers to the Paris Games in 1924 and two, plumber Ron Grinstead, of Essex Road, and clerk Roger Till, of Finsbury Park, to Mexico in 1968.

The 1968 Games was the borough’s best, with fencer Peter Jacobs, of Prebend Street, and swimmer Roddy Jones, of Highbury Hill, also taking part.

0 comments

Latest Islington News Stories

Yesterday, 17:41
The planned facade of the development, the former North London mail sorting office

The firm behind the £400m Islington Square development has announced plans to build a luxury cinema where film fans can have three-course meals delivered directly to their seats.

Yesterday, 14:53
Bunhill Fields graveyard in Islington looking towards Featherstone Street

Islington Council is “disappointed” after Mayor of London Boris Johnson approved controversial plans to build two tower blocks by a historic Islington graveyard.

Yesterday, 12:49
Scene of the crash on the A107. Credit: @999London

Classmates of an Islington teenager who died in a high-speed police chase were today “in shock” at his death.

Yesterday, 10:37
Copenhagen Primary School children examine the artwork in Islington Museum

Primary school pupils have commemorated the Gallipoli Campaign in Islington Museum.

Tue, 21:57
The fomer People's Social Club premises in Holloway Road. Picture: Ken Mears

A popular former nightclub hoping to rebrand itself as a coffee shop was tonight refused a new licence after neighbours protested against debauchery on their doorsteps.

Tue, 15:13
An artist's impression of the north-south Cycle Superhighway on Farringdon Road, looking southbound from Farringdon Station. Picture: TfL

Plans for a cycle “superhighway” that would pass through the west side of Islington have been revealed.

Tue, 13:59
Sgt Chris Walsh, of Angel Police Team, and Jackie Ambrosini, of Angel Business Improvement District, demonstrate the Whatsapp alert system using a generic mugshot

Business owners have been asked to take a lead fighting terrorism in the heart of Islington.

The vigil for Sarah Reed (Picture: Zita Holbourne/BARAC UK)

Hundreds gathered outside Holloway Prison last night to hold a candlelit vigil for Sarah Reed, a prisoner who died in her cell last month.

Most read news

Competitions

Sony Smart Ultra HD 55'' LED TV

Enjoy the ultimate entertainment experience in your living room with the Sony Smart Ultra 55’’ LED TV. Be the envy of all your friends with this huge TV- you can change your living room into your own cinema! Get the boys around to watch the football or get the girls around to watch the DVD of 50 Shades.. this is a prize that everyone would enjoy! Stand a chance to upgrade your current entertainment system by wining this fantastic prize.

Surface Pro 4

Technology is ever evolving. We are constantly being shown new technology that is innovative, revolutionary and designed to make life easier for us all. Gone are the days of dial up modems and computers so large you needed half a room to store it. We are in the age of smooth, small and sleek. Companies are all trying their best to create technology that is easy to transport and guaranteed to be user friendly.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Islington Gazette
e-edition today

Subscribe