London was host for the first time in 1908. With 1,500 competitors from 19 nations, the Games were by now an institution of world-wide significance. The programme, moreover, was augmented by the inclusion of Association football (which appeared in 1900 but only in a demonstration match), diving, field hockey, and ice hockey, as well as other sports since discontinued.
The most dramatic episode of these Games was in the marathon, run from Windsor to Shepherd’s Bush in London, the site of a new stadium. Pietri (Italy) led into the arena but collapsed and was disqualified for accepting assistance from officials. The gold medal went to the second man home, Hayes (USA), but Queen Alexandra, who was present opposite the finishing line, was so moved by the Italian’s plight that she awarded him special gold cup. The 400 metres provided an opportunity for Halswelle (GB) to become the only man in Olympic history to win by a walk-over. The final was declared void after an American had been disqualified for boring. Two other Americans withdrew from re-run final in protest, leaving Halswelle an unopposed passage. Britain won the polo, and all the boxing, lawn tennis, rackets, rowing, and yachting titles as well as five out of six cycle races.