Explore > The Scouts and the 1948 London Olympics




 “The Oil within the Wheels of the Olympic Games Organisation”


This quote relates to the contribution of Scouts to the smooth running of the 1948 Olympics held in Britain following the aftermath of the Second World War known as the ‘Austerity Games’.


Opening Ceremony

Some 60 Scouts carried the name boards in front of the parading athletes of each country within the Wembley Stadium.  Due to the hot weather several Scouts fainted and an efficient system was in operation to relieve and take care of those who succumbed to the high temperatures. 

The highlight of the ceremony was the release of 7,000 messenger pigeons were released by 180 Scouts from Middlesex.  The tradition was based on pigeons carrying messages back to the competing countries calling for a truce in any fighting during the period of the Games.

Click here for more images of the 1948 London Olympics Opening Ceremony.



Track & Field Events

Journalists reporting on the events were supported by 60 Scouts each day acting as liaison messengers so that news of the Games could be circulated around the world.  Scouts also acted as stewards at the Wembley showing the public to their seats.


During the Marathon Race and 50 kilometre walk they marked the route at the mile and kilometre markers and to provide assistance to the athletes.


David Horchover was a Scout with the 18th Wembley Scout Group and recalls the following:


“Much to our great delight the local Scout groups were invited to send boys to act as ushers and I was fortunate enough to be selected.


The opening ceremony was fantastic, the heat terrifying and the atmosphere truly great.  I shall never forget watching many of my athletic heroes performing as I was a bit of an athlete myself and keenly interested in seeing them on the track or with the field events.


After three days the heavens opened and the track and field were both flooded and it took a while for things to dry out!


One interesting fact -apart from the sheer excitement of actually witnessing  these world class  sports people –was that my son’s future father-in-law  was a young  policeman at the other end of the stadium to me—he being a few years older than me.”



Sailing Events

The yachting part of the Games were held at Torbay and were largely run by 200 Senior Sea Scouts. 

The Sea Scouts were involved in all areas of the activity in Torquay, including the special opening ceremony at Torre Abbey.

Other duties included transporting competitors and their equipment between yachts and ferries, launching and rigging 27 sailing dinghies each day, maintaining the mooring of over 100 competing vessels and manning the rescue launches. 


When a competitor couldn’t locate his sails, Scouts were sent to Southampton and Portsmouth to find and return them in time for the Games.  The Herald Express correspondent described this was an example of “determination, energy and the intelligent application of common sense.  And that is on a par with all they have been doing.  Well done, Scouts!”  All of this was achieved without any expense to the public with Scouts paying their own travel and subsistence. 



For more images of the Sea Scouts supporting the sailing events click here.

Closing Ceremony

Some 120 Senior Scouts were involved in the grand final ceremony which allowed the public to recognise Scouting’s significant contribution to making the Games a success.  Commander Peter Scott who oversaw the sailing events described the Sea Scouts as ‘magnificent’ due to their reliability and technical skill.  The Chairman of the Organising Committee, Lord Burghley in a thank you letter to The Scout Association commented “The Games were an undoubted success and this was largely due to the wonderful way in which everybody, who could help, went out their way to do so.  It is encouraging to know – particularly at this time – that the youth of the nations can get along happily and well together in the realms of sport.”




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