In the summer that saw the first successful flight of the Zeppelin, a 140 acre site of scrubland in West London was transformed into the White City, which housed the 1908 Franco British Exhibition - and a state-of-the-art stadium built to house the first London Olympics. The Olympics were organised by volunteers in just 18 months and at a fraction of the cost of the modern Olympics and yet, just as today, the sport was overshadowed by doping scandals and caused international uproar. The ferocious competitiveness of a US team dominated by New York Irish Americans led to a succession of 'scandals' culminating in the historic marathon when Italian confectioner baker Dorando Pietri's heroic efforts at the limits of exhaustion so entranced on-lookers that track officials helped him across the finish line. Coinciding with the 100th Anniversary of the first London Olympics, this delightful social and sporting history - illustrated with over 70 contemporary images - provides a thought-provoking contrast to the forthcoming 2012 Olympic Games.
Rebecca Jenkins, the daughter of the late Bishop of Durham, has worked with the athlete Brendan Foster for Sport England. She is also the author of a biography of Fanny Kemble, the nineteenth-century actress and celebrity. Rebecca lives in Durham.