Olympic Almanac By Stan Greenberg
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Stan Greenberg, who has produced his eighth comprehensive record of Olympic reference, was originally captivated by the 1948 London Games, an experience that led to his lifelong love of data and statistics.
He became a founder member of the International Society of Olympic Historians, sports editor of the Guinness Book of Records and a statistician for the BBC athletics team between 1968-94. His Olympic Almanac is a fascinating collection of Olympic facts, records and particularly snappy anecdotes which leave readers wanting more.
For example, he tells us that the 1908 Games were originally awarded to Rome, but following the eruption on Mount Vesuvius, the Italians faced financial difficulties, allowing London to step in as a late host.
Elsewhere, we learn that up until 1924, when the first Winter Olympics were held in Chamonix, skating and ice hockey had actually been a feature of the summer Games. We’re also told that after the Dutch had applied three times to host the Games, they were finally awarded the 1928 event when Johan Anker won an Olympic gold at the age of 57 years and 44 days.
Greenberg’s brisk writing style enables him to provide a brief summary of every Olympics from 1896 to 2010 inside the opening 64 pages before he gets into the statistical nitty-gritty.
It’s also interesting to see women’s growing involvement in sport - reflected in the number of female participants at each Olympics. Whereas the 1896 Games had 246 competitors, all of whom were men, by 2008, no fewer than 4,611 of the 10,906 competitors were female.
Any sporting event which has been in existence for more than a century is bound to have produced anomalies, controversy and great stories. One in particular stands out. Greenberg tells us that the youngest male medallist (he won gold) was a last-minute participant in the 1900 coxed pairs rowing final, though he is referred to only as “Unknown French boy”. There is, writes Greenberg, “an unsubstantiated report that his name was Marcel Depaille,” aged no more than ten.
We can prepare to be inundated with tons of Olympic tat and rubbish before London’s Games open on 27 July. Sensible folk will, however, have bought a copy of Stan Greenberg’s Olympic Almanac well beforehand because they’ll need little else to enjoy this year’s event.
We’ve teamed up with Sports Book of the Month & have a signed copy of Stan Greenberg’s Olympic Almanac to give away.
To win this week’s sports book, go to their website (www.sportsbookofthemonth.com) and answer the following question:
At which Olympic Games did women first compete?