London 2012 Olympics is fast approaching, with new developments and plans causing huge excitement the world over. Yet, this multi-million pound corporate extravaganza could not be further from the realities of the 1948 'Ration Book Olympics' which took place with London a bombed out ruin and Britain in deep economic crisis. The resulting games were not only an amazing achievement in terms of organisation, thrift and invention - being the most successful, inexpensive and unpretentious games of the 20th century - but also something for the world to celebrate following the long years of war and strain. After the cynical 1936 Berlin Games, 1948 was a triumph of the Olympic spirit and fair play, when the countries' finest athletes joined together to compete and entertain despite the burgeoning cold war and niggling old disputes. In the vein of Simon Garfield's Our Hidden Lives, The People's Olympics is a fascinating look at an extraordinary event which was for and by the people. Entertaining, revelatory and hugely readable, the book is full of first hand interviews, hilarious anecdotes, and great spirited feats.
Here we meet not only the famous names (Fanny Blankers-Koen and Emil Zapotek) but also hear the experiences of all who were involved from tea ladies, through postmen, to locals and spectators. It is a vivid snapshot of a games which will offer food for thought in the run up to London 2012. Janie Hampton has written more than 15 books, from biography to fiction. She is the author of the critically acclaimed biography of Joyce Grenfell. She lives in Oxford.
Shortlisted for William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2008.