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Wednesday, 25 July 2012
Olympics — Oh, how we have changed
WE first hosted the Olympics in 1908. Since then there have been huge improvements in athletic performance.
The winner of the men’s 5,000m in 2008 ran at a pace that would have won the 1,500m in 1908 whilst the victor in the 2008 women’s marathon would have won the men’s 1908 event by half an hour.
This progress reflects better sports science but also greater competition resulting from more countries participating. The 1904 games saw the first two African countries attending, including a runner from South Africa who came twelfth in the marathon, despite the bizarre misfortune of being chased up a country lane by a dog. In today’s track events it is hard to conceive of a world class line-up without African athletes amongst them.
Massive change has also visited society, including advances in medicine, immunisation and sanitation.
In 1908 one in eight babies born alive died before they reached their first year. Today that figure is four deaths per thousand. At the other end of the scale we are getting older. In 1901 5% of the population was over 65. It is 17% today. In 1901 life expectancy at birth was 45 for men and 49 for women. Today these figures are 78 and 82. Extraordinarily, a third of children born today will live beyond a hundred.
There is much additional progress that has occurred since those far off days of 1908 and for all of our current challenges and disappointments it is reasonable to imagine that Britons back then would envy much about modern society.
So as the strains of the opening ceremony strike up, raise a glass, enjoy the greatest show on Earth and take some satisfaction in all that we have achieved over the period of the modern Olympiad.
All content © of Tavistock Times Gazette unless stated otherwise.
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Sir Ray Tindle
Something to sell?