collections

Where were the Olympic brand police in 1908?

In 1908 London hosted its first Olympics. It was a Games of many firsts: the first to use a swimming pool, the first to ensure that competitors had to be representing countries, the first protest, and also the first Olympics to be properly commercialised. The official sponsors were OXO and Indian Foot Powder. As Rebecca Jenkins, author of The First London Olympic 1908, writes:

the 1908 Marathon course was sponsored by OXO. There were booths along the 26 mile and 385 yard course offering hot and cold Oxo for the refreshment of the competitors, who were also proferred the same in handy flasks. Many Edwardian trainers believed drinking water during a race was bad for the runner, though a little brandy or champagne was considered a useful stimulant. The salt in the beef extract that made up OXO may have been of some benefit considering that the day of the 1908 Olympic Marathon was one of the hottest of that summer.

The IOC of 1908 weren’t however quite as draconian about clamping down on unofficial Olympic connections as they have been this summer. One of the most ubiquitous adverts one would have seen in the summer of 1908 would have been for Odol mouthwash – the whole Olympic stadium transformed (without permission) into spelling out the name of “Odol”.

To read more about the 1908 Olympics and how it saw the first Olympic protest, see Rebecca Jenkins’ article for The Public Domain Review.