Written by CaptainSausage

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image for London's 1908 Olympics Victoria - best fags in early 20th century Britain

London 2012 has filled the media with tales of winning and coming second and third, and has boosted the nation's happiness rather like an Olympic penis being repeatedly rammed down one's throat.

But how does London 2012 compare with the first time London held the Olympics in 1908? Things have certainly changed a lot since then, but in some ways they have not changed much at all.

Great Britain performed rather poorly in 1908, only winning gold in the tiddlywinks and shove ha'penny, and picking up silver in butler racing.

As cycling was becoming a popular hobby, it was included as an Olympic event for the first time. Britain narrowly failed to get a medal in the 5 mile penny farthing race. Brit Wiggy Bradlington blamed the French for his loss, but afterwards gained fame throughout the UK for his spectacularly bushy moustache.

Other sports which were to be discontinued after 1908 were jumping on the spot, and the duelling at 15 yards, which had the unfortunate effect of killing off most of its competitors each year.

There were other sad deaths during the games. The opening ceremony of the Olympics came to a tragic end when the Olympic flame was being delivered to the stadium in a hydrogen-filled airship, with perhaps inevitable results.

Another aspect of the games which was similar to our modern era was commercialism. Victoria Fags was chosen as the official cigarette of the Olympics, while Hector's German Brandy was the official alcoholic beverage. Both brands reported a massive increase in sales, but many athletes complained that they were forced to smoke and drink during races, which they claim affected their performance.

There was concern about sportsmanship as well. When Godfrey Smith-Smythe won the 100 yards dash in a then-world record time of 15 seconds, he was accused of being disrespectful to the other racers. Eventually it was decided that he should be disqualified for "showboating", because he doffed his top hat to the other competitors in the last 2 seconds of the race.

So that was 1908. The end of the Victorian age, and an amazing time for Britain. But we should be grateful not to live during those times, because there would be two sodding great world wars to look forward to. Of course that would never happen now, would it...

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