The book explores how, with typical British resilience, Londoners took on the challenge of planning the world’s greatest festival of sport, in spite of having less than half the normal time to prepare. Scheduled in conjunction with the Franco-British Exhibition, the Games of 1908 were the longest in Olympic history, running from April to October, and featured events like speed boat racing, dueling with pistols and figure skating. Heroes of the 1908 London Games included 60-year-old Oscar Swahn of Sweden who became, and remains, the oldest ever Olympic champion; John Taylor, the first black Olympic medalist; and Dorando Pietri of Italy, who fell five times from exhaustion on the last lap of the marathon but still managed to finish the race through sheer force of will.
The book concludes with the story of Elwood Brown, an American college basketball coach who journeyed to the Philippines to work as an organizer for the YMCA and became a pivotal figure in the growth of sport and the Olympic movement in Asia.
Juan Antonio Samaranch, former President of the International Olympic Committee, called The Olympic Century, “The most comprehensive history of the Olympic games ever published”.