The London Olympics and the White City

This day in London’s history: on 19 November 1906, London was selected to host the 1908 Olympics. The games had originally been awarded to Rome, but Mount Vesuvius erupted on 7 April 1906, devastating the city of Naples. The Olympic funds had to be diverted to the rebuilding of Naples, and the Games were reassigned to London.

The Games, held for the first time in London, were the first to feature a stadium specially fitted out for the occasion. In 1908 the site was also the venue for an event considered more noteworthy – the Franco-British Exhibition. The area became known as the Great White City due to the white marble cladding used on the exhibition pavilions, and the Great Stadium became White City Stadium.

Other firsts of the London Games included a specially built pool for swimming,with a special folding tower for diving. Previously swimming events had taken place in open water. Also, for the first time, the competitors paraded behind their country’s flag in sportswear.

In 1909 the exhibition site also hosted the Imperial International Exhibition and in 1910, the Japan-British Exhibition. The final two exhibitions to be held there were the Latin-British (1912) and the Anglo-American (1914).

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