Sunday 12 August 2012

White City Stadium

As the Olympics draws to a close and London catches its breath before the Paralympics, here's a little look at the 1908 Olympic stadium. By the time of this 1924 film (which also shows Franco-British Exhibition buildings of the same year), it was looking less than vibrant. Our guide in the film refers to it as 'the old stadium' - but it would find new uses a few years later which kept it alive.

The stadium, then the world's largest, had taken just ten months to build - Rome originally won the games but then suffered a volcanic eruption in 1906, so they moved to London. The venue was rather more multi-purpose than today's version as it included a cycling track and a swimming and diving pool. In fact, most Olympic events were held at this one site.

When the Games had gone, it continued to be used for training until it was taken over by the Greyhound Racing Association in 1926. They held not only greyhound races but also speedway here. Other sports also returned from time to time - it even served as QPR's ground for two periods in the 1930s and 1960s. In the 1970s, it added yet another role as a concert venue.

Among the stars of its greyhound track was Mick The Miller, perhaps the most famous greyhound of all. In his three-year career he won nineteen races in a row; won the Greyhound Derby twice; and later became a film star. You can still see him today - stuffed after his death in 1939, he is on display at the Natural History Museum in Tring. He is also preserved on Pathe newsreel, looking spectacularly unimpressed by the silverware he won; in 2011, a statue was unveiled in his birthplace of Killeigh, Ireland.

Despite the stars, canine and human, who had played here, the White City Stadium was demolished in 1984. Following the demolition, BBC Radio built their headquarters on the site.

Image: the stadium during the 1908 Olympics, from the Fourth Olympiad 1908 London Official Report, from Wikipedia.


Malcolm Edwards said...

Before his retirementent to the country Mick the Miller had been a long time resident of South Kensington and as a kid I always used to go and say hello to him on my frequent visits to the NHM.

I also remember seeing stock car racing and a military tattoo at the stadium and was there on the memorable occasion when Ray Davies quit the Kinks.

Interestingly, the entrance arch shown in the film clip survivied until the coming of the dreaded Westfield Shopping Centre.

CarolineLD said...

Oh, lovely - some definite claims to fame!

Anonymous said...

Human athletes might like to consider Mick the Miller's sang froid with a view to emulating him.

CarolineLD said...

Not to mention the more modest salary demands!