British people showed class, sportsmanship during '48 Olympics

August 6, 2012 

While watching the Olympics on TV this week, I was reminded that I was at the Olympics in London in 1948. I was an American studying in England at the time, so I rented a room in a private home near Wembley Stadium. Each morning, my British host family served me two eggs for breakfast. Two eggs each morning during my 10-day stay. I later learned that because of rationing a British citizen was entitled to only two eggs a week. I got two every day. My British family was making certain that their American guest got what they thought every American expected.

During the game's track and field events, I was seated in the British section of the stadium. Immediately after the American 440 track team had soundly beaten the British team by a wide margin, the loudspeaker suddenly blared: "The U.S. team has been disqualified" -- something about a faulty baton exchange. The British team had won!

As the American four athletes -- Harrison Dillard, winner of the 100 meters, was one -- stood together in the center of the field and began slowly walking out of the stadium, the British audience rose -- it seemed to me as one -- and thunderously cheered and applauded the Americans as they exited the stadium. Next day's newspapers reported that the baton exchange ruling had been reversed, and the Americans had won. I thought then how nice it was to be the winner, but now, 64 years later, what I most remember is that showing of spontaneous sportsmanship by the English.

-- Jack Roderick

Anchorage

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