Things That Make You Go Hmmm...

  • Print

The following is an excerpt of Grant Williams' free weekly newsletter "Things That Make You Go Hmmm..." Click here to subscribe.

nu·ance (näns, ny-, n-äns, ny-)
n.
1. A subtle or slight degree of difference, as in meaning, feeling, or tone; a gradation.
2. Expression or appreciation of subtle shades of meaning, feeling, or tone
– MERRIAM-WEBSTER

“...the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro. And believe me, it will be enough.” – Mario Draghi

“[Euro-area policy makers] feel committed to do everything we can to maintain the common currency.” – Angela Merkel

olympic torchFor over a century, the modern Olympic Games has captivated the world as the finest athletes on the planet come together to compete against one another in an attempt to prove which of them was the superior competitor and to give their countrymen and women, sat at home, a burst of nationalistic pride that would transcend whatever the economic conditions were at the time.

In 1908, the Games of the V Olympiad had been scheduled to be held in Rome, but due to the rather unfortunate eruption of Mount Vesuvius two years prior on April 6th, 1906, the Italian government asked that the Games be held elsewhere as the money earmarked for the Olympiad would be needed to rebuild the Naples area that had been devastated by the troublesome volcano. The reality, in fact, was rather different as Italy had been suffering from economic hardship since the late 1880s and the volcano had actually provided a rather convenient excuse to relocate the Games and save an awful lot of money that could be used far more productively.

Fortunately for Italy, Great Britain (which at that time was still worthy of the 'Great' as the final medal table, right, demonstrates) happily stepped in and offered to hold the Games. They would be staged at a purpose-built stadium at White City (which would later become home to greyhound racing), alongside the far more prestigious Franco- British Exhibition—a sprawling jamboree held to celebrate the signing of the famous entente cordiale between Britain and France which had been signed in 1904.

The 1908 Games would later be reclassified as the Games of the IV Olympiad after those held in Athens, Greece in 1906 were 'downgraded' by the IOC thus setting a precedent for Moody's, S&P and Fitch a little over a century later.

The London Olympics, which were held over a six month period between April and October, were notable for several reasons, not least of which was the rather interesting story of how the length of the modern marathon came to be established:

(Wikipedia): The original distance of 25 miles was changed to 26 miles so the marathon could start at Windsor Castle and then changed again at the request of Princess Mary so the start would be beneath the windows of the Royal Nursery. To ensure that the race would finish in front of the King, the finish line was moved by British officials who, in response to shot putter and American flag carrier Ralph Rose's refusal to dip the American flag before the Royal Box during the opening ceremony, “felt compelled to restore the importance of the monarchy.” As a result of these changes, the marathon covered a distance of 26 miles 385 yards (42.195 km), which became the standard length starting with the 1924 Summer Olympics.

olympic medals by country

oscar swahn

The additional 1 mile 385 yards played havoc with poor Dorando Pietri of Italy who, having entered the stadium in first place, promptly collapsed several times before getting up and running in the wrong direction. After being aided by two officials who turned him around and pointed him in the right direction, Pietri's lead was substantial enough that he still crossed the line in first place to win the gold medal—only to lose it as the American runner-up, Johnny Hayes, lodged a protest which led to Pietri's disqualification.

Elsewhere at the IV Olympiad, Sweden's Oscar Swahn became the oldest Olympic champion when, at the ripe old age of 60 he won the gold medal in the Running Deer Shooting, British athlete Wyndham Halswelle (left) won the equivalent of the modern-day 400m in the only walkover in Olympic history when the three other competitors—all of whom were American—refused to compete in an argument over the two countries' differing interpretations of the rules, which in turn led to Halswelle jogging around the track on his own before breasting the tape and having the gold medal draped around his neck and there was a clean sweep for Great Britain in the Olympic Tug of War competition as the City of London Police defeated the Liverpool Police in the final with the Metropolitan Police "K" Division cementing third place in a tug-off meaning that, for the first and only time in Olympic history, gold, silver and bronze were all won by coppers. The other notable thing about the 1908 Olympics was the cost of staging it.

(Wikipedia): The budget of the organising committee showed a cost of £15,000; over one-third was labeled "entertainment expense". Donations were the major source of revenue; only 28% of income derived from ticket sales. Total receipts of £21,377 resulted in organisers claiming a profit. In other news, the British government of the day, under the Liberal leadership of Henry Campbell-Bannerman, decided not to include the stadium construction cost of £60,000 in the final accounting. As the cosignatories of the Entente Cordiale would no doubt say; Plus ça change plus c'est la même chose.

Continue Reading

CLICK HERE to subscribe to the free weekly Best of Financial Sense Newsletter .

About Grant Williams

Quantcast