Saturday, 28 July 2012

Wembley, 1948

Apparently, some running and jumping event started in earnest last night, at a brand-new purpose-built stadium in London's Stratford. But the last Olympic Games held in Britain were based around The Empire Stadium, better known as Wembley Stadium, given its name by popular consent from the area in which its twin towers sat, in London's north-western suburbs.

The stadium was already 25 years old - none of yer purpose-build splurge in those years of make-do - and while it was being tarted up ready for the Games, the resident speedway team, the Wembley Lions, were turfed out for the whole summer and had to run home matches at the track of bitter rivals, the Wimbledon Dons, way down south on the other side of the river.

But for the 1948 British Riders' Championship final, speedway was back at Wembley and the September meet drew a crowd of getting on for 100,000 be-capped, Woodbine-fuelled spectators to see Australian Vic Duggan, the moustachioed Harringay Racers rider, take the title. Yep, 100,000 at a speedway event in Britain, and it wasn't uncommon. There's some Pythonesque BBC newsreel footage of the event here. MP

Vic Duggan in action in 1947. Pic: John Chapman/
Olympic opening ceremony, Wembley, 1948. Imagine the same sort of crowd for  a speedway meet. It happened, and often

1 comment:

Steve said...

yeh my dad told me tales of his visits to Belle Vue in the late 50's and early 60's,dragging along his then my ma.Alternated with Ice Skating to keep the piece.