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Olympics centenary

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Mihir Bose | 10:18 UK time, Friday, 7 September 2007

Major celebrations are being planned to commemorate the centenary of the 1908 London Olympics. The Royal Family and could be involved in the celebrations. I am told the Queen has already been approached.

This would be entirely appropriate. The 1908 Olympics saw London stepping in to help the Olympic Movement when Rome, which had been given the Games, could not stage the event.

The Games itself saw the Royal Family play a big part. The House of Windsor, in effect, decided the distance of the modern marathon. Some 385 yards were added to the original distance. This followed the decision to start the marathon not from the centre of Windsor, as had been planned, but from the Royal nurseries at Windsor Castle so that the children of Edward VII could see the start.

The Queen came into the picture after the Marathon was run.

This was when Dorando Pietri, the Italian, was disqualified from the Marathon after he had been helped over the line. He was the first into the stadium and the first across the line having collapsed several times as he approached the finish. The Queen was much taken by his courage and presented him with a Gold Cup. He would become quite a celebrity in later years.

Copyright: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

I understand the family of Dorando has been contacted and his Gold Cup may return to London for the celebrations.

The celebrations could also see a tug of war match between City of London Police and Liverpool police, the contestants for the olympic tug of war back in 1908 which the City of London won.

Plans are also being discussed to have a rugby match to mark the 1908 olympic rugby contest (rugby then was part of the Olympics, as cricket was to be for a brief moment at a subsequent Olympics). In 1908 the match was between Australia and Cornwall, who were representing Great Britain and Ireland. The Australians won. Now the idea being discussed is for the Wallabies to play a British team, which would be the Lions team minus the Irish.

The rugby match idea is not yet cast in stone but I am told the Wallabies may be interested given 2008 will mark the centenary of their first overseas official tour.

The Olympic torch could also play a part in the celebrations. The torch for the Beijing Olympics is due in this country next spring and it might be taken down part of the 1908 Marathon route ending at White City, now, of course, the home of the BBC.

But however colourful the celebrations, and whatever part the Queen plays, one thing is certain, it will not last as long as the 1908 Olympic Games which started on 27 April and did not finish until 31 October.

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