The Games in London

5:55 pm on 26 July 2012

London is the only city to have hosted an Olympic Games three times - in 1908, 1948 and 2012. This year, more than 10,000 athletes from 205 countries will compete on sport's biggest stage.

The Games were awarded by the International Olympic Committee in 2005 after a battle with Paris in the final round. The vote went in London's favour by 54 to 50 after earlier bids from Moscow, New York and Madrid were eliminated.

The London bid was led by organising committee chairman Lord Coe, who as Sebastian Coe won four Olympic medals, including gold in the 1500m at the Moscow Games in 1980 and Los Angeles in 1984. In a passionate final plea to IOC voters in Singapore, he emphasised the importance of youth and belief in the Olympic ideal.

The London bid also presented a powerful case for transforming the site where the Games would be held - the East End - with a new national athletics stadium, aquatic centre and velodrome at Olympic Park. There would be no white elephants, as temporary venues would be relocated throughout Britain.

The bid also made use of the capital's landmarks and sporting venues: tennis at Wimbledon, athletics and cycling events through The Mall, and beach volleyball at Horseguards Parade.

The London Olympics officially begin with Opening Ceremony on 28 July, though competition starts two days earlier with football pool matches, and culminates in the Closing Ceremony on 13 August.

Four billion people worldwide are expected to watch the ceremonies in the £500m Olympic Stadium which can seat up to 80,000 during the Games.

New Zealand first sent an independent team to the Antwerp Games in 1920. It has won 89 medals at previous Olympics - 37 gold, 16 silver and 36 bronze - and London will be the 24th Games the country has competed at.

The 'austerity Games'

London during the 1948 Games was far different than the city of today. Although World War II had ended three years earlier, the city was still battered from the Blitz and large parts were in ruins. Britain - like the rest of Europe - was deep in austerity.

The International Olympic Committee decided that this Games would be a focal point of bringing nations together. London had been previously selected to host the cancelled 1944 Games and had less than two years to get ready for the event - on a budget of £600,000.

Fifty-nine countries and 4000 athletes took part, competing in 136 events during a sweltering summer. Japan and Germany were not invited, while the USSR chose not take part.

No new facilities were built. Wembley Stadium had survived the war and was deemed to be adequate to accommodate various sports. Canada donated two Douglas firs for diving boards at the Empire pool, Finland contributed timber for the basketball court and Switzerland provided the gymnastic equipment.

The Games were opened by King George VI and for the first time the Olympics were televised - although very few people had a TV set - and total coverage was just 64 hours.

The star of these Games was Fanny Blankers-Koen, a sprinter from Holland. The 30-year-old, dubbed the 'Flying Housewife', thrilled the crowds, setting world records in seven events.

She won four gold medals in eight days - the 80m hurdle, 100m and 200m sprint and the 4x100m relay and in 1999, five years before her death, Blankers-Koen was voted Female Athlete of the Century for her achievements at the Games.

The Games made a profit of almost £30,000 and was a remarkable success, despite the host nation only winning three gold medals, including two in rowing at Henley.

After six years with no professional football or cricket between 1939-45, there was an appetite for sport and the Games were faithful to the Olympian ideal that taking part was the important thing - not winning.

The 1908 Games

Rome was originally scheduled to host the 1908 Olympics, but the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 1906 forced the Italian government to ask for the Games to be relocated, as it needed money for rebuilding around Naples.

The London Olympics were attended by 22 countries, including New Zealand for the first time jointly with Australia as 'Australasia'. However, Irish athletes boycotted the event and US contestants did not dip the American flag to British royalty during the inaugural Opening Ceremony.

It was during these Games that the exact distance of the marathon was established as 26 miles and 365 yards.

Great Britain won 146 medals in London - the most of any country. The US was second with 47, followed by Sweden with 25 and France with 19. Australasia won the gold medal for rugby.

Sources: BBC, Encyclopedia Britannica, History of the Olympics, New Zealand Official Year Book, The Guardian