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1948 London Olympic Torch To Sell At Bonhams

One of the Olympic Torches used in 1948 to carry the Olympic Flame onto British soil for the first time will star in Bonhams’ next sporting memorabilia sale in Chester on 4 June 2008. The torch, which carried the flame for part of the last stretch of its journey from Greece to Wembley for the opening ceremony of the 1948 London Olympics is expected to sell for over £2,000.

The torch was carried by British athlete John Jenkin who ran through Canterbury on the penultimate day of the Olympic Torch Relay, before the start of the games on 29 July 1948. The following inscription is engraved on the side:

“Olympia to London with thanks to the bearer XIVth Olympiad 1948.” It also carries the bearer’s name “John W.I. Jenkin 28th July 1948.”

The Olympic Torch has become the most powerful symbol of the Olympic Games and plays an integral – and sometimes controversial – part in the run-up to the opening ceremony. With the flame alight and causing a stir as it heads towards Beijing for this year’s event, excitement is now building for the 2012 Olympics in London.

The 1948 London Olympics marked the first time that the Olympic Torch Relay had come to open the games in Britain. Britain had agreed to host the 1948 games at short notice, and in the aftermath of the Second World War, a triumph of spirit over adversity was very much a theme. Notable achievements included the gold won by Hungarian sportsman Karoly Takacs, whose right hand had been shattered by a grenade in 1938. A member of the world champion pistol shooting team at the time, he taught himself to shoot with his left hand and went on to win the rapid-fire pistol event in London. Also showing extraordinary versatility was the French concert pianist Micheline Ostermeyer who won both shot put and discus that year.

There were many firsts for London in 1948 – they were the first games to be shown on television and the first event to use blocks for sprint races. They were also the first games to be boycotted as well as the first time that certain countries had taken part – including Burma, Ceylon, Colombia, Guatemala, Lebanon, Panama, Puerto Rico, Syria and Venezuela.

The Olympic Flame – once used in the ancient games in Greece – was reintroduced in 1928 and the Torch Relay began in 1936. The Olympic Torch is ignited several months before the opening celebrations and the flame is carried from Olympus – site of the ancient Olympics in Greece – to the opening ceremony of the host nation.


Another inspirational item for budding Olympic athletes in the ‘Sporting Legends’ sale in Chester is the pair of running shoes that made Linford Christie the fastest man on earth. In the 100m final of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Christie sprinted to victory in 9.96 seconds, a phenomenal achievement that made him – at 32 – the oldest man ever to win the title. In an international career spanning 17 years Christie represented his country over 60 times and won more major championship medals than any other British male sprinter. The shoes he wore to win gold in Barcelona are estimated to sell for £600 – 800.

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