Every now and again, the old Trivia Geek feels the need to
toy with his secret formula for trivial excellence. So this week, instead of
looking back on an obscure anniversary celebrated on this date, we will instead
look forward—to an event that will occur seven years from now. On July 27, 2012,
the opening ceremonies of the 30th Olympiad of the
Modern Era
will begin, officially commencing the London Summer Olympic Games.

Or, should we say, the third
London Olympic Games? When London beat out fellow venue finalists Madrid,
Moscow, New York, and—to most observers’ surprise—Paris to win the 2012 Summer
Olympiad, the city on the Thames became the first three-time Olympic host.
London previously held the Olympic Games in 1908 and 1948.

However, while some have remarked that the July
7, 2005 transit bombings
have marred the euphoria of landing the 2012
games, both the 1908 and 1948 London Olympic Games persevered despite
significant obstacles of their own.

The 1948 Summer Olympic Games resumed the Olympic tradition
after a 12-year hiatus caused by World War II. While Tokyo was to have hosted
the 1940 Summer Olympic Games, the war forced a tentative relocation to
Helsinki, then an outright cancellation. The International Olympic Committee
(IOC) cancelled the 1944 games early on due to the war.

Thus, the second London games were the first Olympics since
1936, when Berlin hosted the Summer Olympics under the shadow of Nazi rule. As
such, the 1948 Olympics had more than its fair share of heavy political
overtones. The IOC banned Germany and Japan from the games yet invited Italy to
compete, despite its membership in the Axis Powers.

Nonetheless, the 1948 London games found its footing,
producing a bona-fide star in Dutch track champion Fanny Blankers-Koen. As a
mother of two, Blankers-Koen earned the nickname of “The Flying Housewife”
after leading the games with four gold medals.

The 1908 London Olympics also started from something of a
deficit, though its circumstances were logistical, rather than political. Originally
scheduled to host the 1908 Summer Olympic Games, Rome had to pass after a tragic
event forced the Italian government to back out, causing London to pick up the
Olympic torch at the last minute—and build a full suite of Olympic venues in a
short amount of time.


What tragic event caused a surprise rescheduling of the 1908
Olympic Games from Rome to London, forcing the British capital to develop its
Olympic venues with very little notice?

On April 7, 1906, Mount Vesuvius—the volcano that famously
wiped out Pompeii—erupted, devastating the modern city of Naples. The 1906
eruption of Vesuvius was one of the most destructive ever recorded for the
volcano—ejecting more lava than ever observed before or since and claiming more
than 100 lives.

In the wake of the 1906 eruption, the Italian government
quickly shifted funds earmarked for the construction of venues for the 1908
Olympics toward the relief and restoration of Naples. This forced Olympic
officials to scramble for a new host city, and they soon selected London.

The centerpiece venue for the 1908 Olympics was the White
City Stadium, which held 68,000 spectators yet was completed in a mere 10
months. Within the walls of the White City Stadium, numerous Olympic firsts
were recorded—some auspicious, some controversial.

For example, the 1908 Olympics established the official
distance of the Olympic marathon with a route length of 26 miles, 385 yards (42
kilometers, 195 meters). That same inaugural marathon ended in controversy when
race officials carried the frontrunner, Italian Dorando Pietri, over the finish
line after he collapsed several times inside the stadium. While this act
disqualified Pietri from the race, Queen Alexandra still awarded him a royal
trophy for his perseverance.

This was but one of several incidences regarding disputes
over official rules that arose due to different guidelines held by different
countries participating in the games. The most egregious example led to the running
of the 400-meter race twice, after a dispute over the official definition of interference caused officials to void the
original result.

Britain’s Wyndham Halswelle ran the second race unopposed
when the American team—which made up the remainder of the race field—refused to
participate as a protest of the rules dispute. Thus, the 1908 Games marked the
inception of official Olympic rules for all sanctioned sports, which in turn
has made for decades of championship-caliber Geek Trivia.

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The Quibble of the Week

If you uncover a questionable fact or debatable aspect of
this week’s Geek Trivia, just post it in the discussion area of the article.
Every week, yours truly will choose the best post from the assembled masses and
discuss it in the next edition of Geek Trivia.

This week’s quibble comes from the July 13 edition of Geek
Trivia, “Built
to (b)last.”
Several TechRepublic members chimed in to point out an
egregious spelling gaffe on my part. In the spirit of fair play, we’ll quote
member Gfisher, who scolded me

“‘. . . the government claimed the Schmidt-McDonald
dwelling as imminent domain for the U.S. war effort in 1942.’ Surely you meant eminent domain; despite that, another
good column. Thanks!”

No, dear readers, thank you.
Your capable quibbling keeps me humble. See you in seven!

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The Trivia Geek, also
known as Jay Garmon, is a former advertising copywriter and Web developer who’s
duped TechRepublic into underwriting his affinity for movies, sci-fi, comic
books, technology, and all things geekish or subcultural.