The official film of the 1948 Summer Games, titled The Glory of Sport, was released just 18 days after the Closing Ceremony of the London Olympics. It was filmed in technicolor. The first 38 minutes are devoted to a brief history of the ancient Olympics (including the false story of the existence of an Olympic truce) and the St. Moritz Winter Games. This version is more straightforward than the Swiss one (see Fight without Hate) and more of the rules are explained. But, despite being in color, it does seem a bit flat without “Gaston” and his wife.
The next 54 minutes cover the Opening Ceremony and athletics. Although there is emphasis on the British athletes, it is mild, and other nations are well-represented. Coverage of all other sports is reduced to just 30 minutes. This is followed by riveting coverage of the marathon and then the Closing Ceremony.
At the Opening Ceremony, the athletes break rank to get a close look at the entry of the Olympic Flame. Echoing a bit of the mood the 1948 Winter film, the narrator describes the American women as “a pretty bunch of cover girls.”
In bright colors and start-to-finish coverage, we see Fanny Blankers-Koen win all four of her gold medals. Also Barney Ewell leaping with joy because he thinks he won the 100 meters, when, in fact, fellow American Harrison Dillard edged him in a photo finish. We are treated to several sequences of trainers and teammates rushing to embrace compatriots as soon as they cross the finish line in first place, most notably Belgian Gaston Reiff upsetting Emil Zátopek in the 5,000 meters.
The only non-athletics sports included in the film are sailing, rowing, equestrian, cycling, swimming and diving. When ”Ran” Laurie and John Wilson win the coxless pairs, the flag raising appears to only include the British flag and not those of the silver and bronze medal winners. Both Sammy Lee and Vicki Draves are shown winning gold medals in diving. In fact, they both swept both the platform and springboard events, and they were the first Asian-American Olympic champions. The first victory by Draves, who was Filipino-American, preceded that of Lee, who was Korean-American, by two days.
Extended coverage of the cycling road race includes an unusual incident in which two unnamed cyclists crash into each other, fall and begin yelling at each other. Just when it looks like they may come to blows, race officials arrive in their enormous Rolls-Royces and separate them.
The final event shown is the marathon. We follow the progress of the race and then the dramatic finish in which Belgian Étienne Gailly, barely able to keep from fainting, is passed in the stadium by Delfo Cabrera of Argentina and Tom Richards of Great Britain. About to slow to a walk, he is urged on by a track official, holds on for third place and is then carried away on a stretcher.
At the Closing Ceremony, this message is displayed on the scoreboard: “The spirit of the Olympic Games which has tarried here a while, sets forth once more. May it prosper throughout the world safe in the keeping of all those who have felt its noble impulse in this great festival of sport.” This may seem overblown to some, but it is worth keeping in mind that the London Olympics were held only three years after a war that left an estimated 70 million people dead.