London 2012 Day After One: Party like it’s 1948

The Olympic Games are over. Now let’s take some deep breaths, and take some time to get the euphoria out of our systems before reflecting on what it all means.

The closing ceremony has so little to do with sport, so arguably so little to do with entertainment as we know it, that I feel better for having ignored it. Allow me to link to (part) of the Huffington Post coverage of the evening.

What I’ll do instead is look at the last London Olympic Closing Ceremony, sixty-four years ago today: Saturday, August 14, 1948. With no live-blogging, Instagram or even Sunday editions of some newspapers, let’s go to the Monday August 16 issue of the Manchester Guardian (long before its move south to London). Page 5, tucked away on the far right-hand column alongside various Cold War stories, the headline:

“End Of Olympic Games
Closing Ceremony
Fine Display of Horsemanship”

Yes, the closing ceremony actually included a sporting contest. The show-jumping was the first act of the Olympic closure, Mexico taking the team gold and individual gold and silver. After that, the Boy Scouts filed in single file, one each with a flag of a competing nation. Lots of marching music, the usual speeches, the lowering of the flag, the playing of the Finnish anthem for Helsinki 1952 (but no handover of said flag), the words of closure, the extinguishing of the flame. Home time.

Athletes? Err, why would they be there?

The Monday edition of The Times similarly gave the closing ceremony the one-column treatment on Page 4, but with a separate story for the Prix des Nations (as the show jumping competition was called) on Page 2, the sports page as was custom at the time. But on that page is also reported a sporting event in London that past Saturday that many of us will be more familiar with:

“The Final Test Match
England’s Strange Collapse
Great Bowling By Lindwall”

While the Games of the XIV Olympiad were winding down in north London, the final Test of the 1948 cricket series between England and Australia was beginning in the south, at The Oval. England won the toss, chose to bat, and were all out for 52.

Australia’s express bowler Ray Lindwall took 6 for 20, and in reply the visitors’ opening batsmen more than doubled England’s score for an opening partnership of 117. The next man in was playing his last Test for Australia at the age of 39, and needed to score just four runs in this innings (with his team unlikely to need to bat a second time) to retire with a batting average of 100. But even on the day, The Times’ “Cricket Correspondent” reported Don Bradman’s historic final innings in just one sentence:

“So with the Pavilion standing to their feet and the English team standing in mid-field ready to acclaim him with three cheers in came Bradman, to be out to the second ball he received, beaten and bowled by a googly.”

Extinguishing of an unforgettable flame indeed.

(Authors note 13 Aug 2018: Updated to amend broken links and to add Movietone video. This post was originally published as part of my London 2012 blog. The complete closing ceremony of London 2012 can now be seen on the Olympic Channel’s Youtube site here)

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