Carrying the Torch: Haringey's Olympic History

The Past, Present and Future of Our Sporting Heritage

In 2012 London hosted the Olympic and Paralympic Games. This major event gave Haringey an opportunity to reflect on our local sporting history.

Our exhibition Carrying the Torch at Bruce Castle Museum celebrated the Olympics in London and looked back over the past 100 years or so, to highlight the important sporting moments and heritage, and to find out more about the champions and heroes from Haringey’s history. We also considered how local people have participated in sport in the past, through to the present day.

Not all sports are represented in the Olympics but people have come together to take part and share their love for their own special sporting activity. Many established clubs specific to their sport in the late 19th or early 20th centuries. Some of these clubs may be long gone but a lot are still in existence and thriving today.

Sporting venues and organisations in Haringey have all played their part in our nation’s sporting history. Some venues may have disappeared but others are continuing to support their sports men and women through amateur competitions.

Looking at our past and to how well our athletes shone in 2012, you might be inspired to try a new healthy activity or introduce young people to new and exciting sports.

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1948 - The London Olympic Games

London was the first city to host the Summer Olympics for a record third time in 2012. Our capital city previously held the Games in 1908 and in 1948.

The 1948 Games were the first time the Olympics had been organised since the 1936 Games held in Berlin. There had been a 12 year gap because of World War II. The 1940 Games had originally been scheduled for Tokyo, with the 1944 Games provisionally planned for London.

The 1948 event in London became known as the Austerity Games because of post-war rationing and the economic climate. No new venues were built. Athletes were housed in existing accommodation instead of an Olympic Village.

A record 59 nations were represented by 4,104 athletes, 3,714 men and 390 women, in 19 sport disciplines. Germany and Japan were not invited to participate because of their roles as aggressors in World War II. The (former) USSR were invited but chose not to send any athletes. The United States team won the most total medals, 84, and the most gold medals, 38. Britain won 23 medals, three of them gold.

Wembley stadium was the main venue for the opening ceremony of the 1948 Olympics as well as the athletics events. Other sporting venues were used around London to hold the others including two in the Haringey area.

During the preliminaries for the football events, the Tottenham Hotspur football ground at White Hart Lane was used. The staging of the Olympic basketball events was held at Harringay Arena, one of the most important sporting venues in London. This was the second appearance of this particular sport as an official medal.

At Alexandra Palace, young visitors to the Games from around the world were made welcome in a makeshift youth hostel to accommodate their stay. The racecourse grandstand in Alexandra Park had been their temporary home, organised by the North London Youth Hostel Association (YHA). The total number accommodated was 1,600, made up of 600 different people and 23 nationalities.

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Knock Out - Boxing in Haringey

Haringey was once home to the capital’s best-loved boxing venue - Harringay Arena. Boxing contests were organised just 5 weeks after the Arena opened in 1936 and the big fights came thick and fast leading up to the Second World War in 1939.

With the BBC TV studios not far away at Alexandra Palace, 1938 saw the very first live televised boxing match ever, between Len Harvey and Jock McAvoy. Another first came on 17 September 1946, when Randolph Turpin (1928-1966), the first black British boxing star, made his professional debut.

Many other world-class boxing heroes fought at Harringay, including the legendary boxer Sir Henry Cooper. By the time the Arena closed as a sporting venue in 1958, five world boxing titles had been decided at Harringay - which is still a record for any British venue.

Forty years on, Haringey has produced its own home-grown boxing talent in former Wood Green resident and Olympian, Courtney Fry (born 1975). Boxing from the age of 15, he won his first national title in only his sixth boxing contest. He went on to win the Senior Amateur Boxing Association’s (ABA) title three times for three different clubs, picking up a European silver medal, Commonwealth gold medal and Olympic representation along the way in the Sydney 2000 Games.

Courtney fought in the light-heavyweight professional boxing ranks. He said:

“Against all odds, there have been many ‘best moments’ in my life - such as the gold at the Commonwealth Games in 1998. But winning my first national title was the most emotional. When winning the European silver medal, every bout I had was the hardest and most draining I had ever had. It took literally all the strength out of me mentally and physically.”

For London 2012, the Games were the first-ever to feature boxing for women competitors. Seven young women in the UK were selected to train for 2012, from which three went on to represent Britain. Amongst them, Gold Medal winner Nicola Adams, a 29 year old member of Haringey Police Community Boxing Club in Tottenham High Road. Nicola’s club trainers put her through her paces three times a day - skipping, running and working on her boxing technique. She said:

“I have always wanted to compete in the Olympics, ...I think if anybody was born to do something, it is me. I was born to box."

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Creating A Splash - Swimming in Haringey

As one of the most popular activities in this country, it is difficult to find a sport that has undergone such a dramatic change as swimming. It is now one of the most spectacular events of the Olympic Games, hosted in 50-metre, temperature-controlled pools with lane makers designed to reduce turbulence and wave-killing gutters.

For swimming galas at schools and swimming clubs across the UK, an Olympic-size swimming pool has always been desirable. In Haringey this was made possible at the former Durnsford Road Open Air Pool in Bounds Green.

Opening in 1934, it measured 165 feet by 92 feet, with a double shallow end, 3 feet 6inches to 8 feet 6inches deep. It is alleged that the American Olympic swimming champion and 'Tarzan' actor Johnny Weissmuller once visited the pool. Closing in 1988, most of the original architecture is evident today as the site is now the Sunshine Garden Centre, with the changing rooms still in use as the potting sheds.

Open-air swimming pools - or 'lidos' - were very popular and had also existed elsewhere in the former old boroughs of Hornsey, Tottenham and Wood Green.

The Tottenham Marsh open-air pool was located in the Marshes near Stonebridge Lock on the River Lea. Park Lane led to the pool and the lock. Opening in 1905, it was 'out-of-date', 'unhygienic' and unsuitable for schools' swimming instruction by the 1930s. It was demolished in 1939.

The new and modern Tottenham Lido replaced it in Lordship Lane, near to the Recreation Ground, opening in 1937. It had been built on the site of the old farmhouse of Broadwaters Farm. The pool was designed to be heated - making it the sixth pre-war lido in London to be originally heated. Closing in the mid-1980s, the site was redeveloped as Lido Square.

An open-air swimming pool in the grounds of Alexandra Palace had existed since 1875, continuing to be used into the early 20th century. However, it closed after various complaints arose about its cleanliness, with reports of visiting circus elephants and dogs bathing in it! Not far away, Wood Green opened its first and only indoor swimming pool in Western Road in 1911 (closing in 1997).

Hornsey lido - or now Park Road open-air swimming pool - in Crouch End opened in 1929, and remains very popular today. This pool along with its sister inside-pools receives around 350,000 swimmers a year.

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Dunkadelic - Basketball in Haringey

Basketball at the 1948 Summer Olympics was the second appearance of the sport as an official medal event. A total number of 23 nations entered the competition.

Olympic basketball had returned to being an indoor competition at Harringay Arena, remembering the disastrous weather conditions of the final game in the 1936 Games in Berlin.

During 1948, Olympic pictograms were introduced for the first time. There were twenty of them in all, with one for each Olympic sport. They were called "Olympic symbols" and intended for use on tickets. For the basketball events, the designed outline of a player featured on all entry tickets for the spectators at Harringay Arena. New designs of Olympic pictograms would appear again 16 years later and be part of each Summer Olympics thereafter.

No Olympics would be without its moments of light-hearted heroics. In London, these were mostly provided on the basketball court at Harringay. The Iraq team caused much amusement amongst the crowds with its rank incompetence (they lost two matches by over 100 points). But the highlight for many was watching a diminutive Chinese point guard dribbling the ball right through the legs of the mammoth US centre, Bob Kurland. China and Iraq went on to finish 18th and 19th respectively in this event.

In London 2012, qualifying matches took place in the plush new Olympic Basketball Arena, while the finals were held in the spectacular North Greenwich O2 Arena (the old Millennium Dome). Ros Mason is the most capped of Great Britain's women’s basketball players ever.

In Haringey today, the club Haringey Angels forms the best and most successful girls basketball programme in London.

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Cycling to Success in Haringey

From its invention in 1817 through to the modern day, the bicycle and cycling has been a huge attraction for many residents, as competitors and spectators.

The Victorian amateur cycling champion, JJ Linzell, lived in Tottenham. He won many cups for his cycling achievements - and all on a Penny Farthing! In 1878, he rode his Penny Farthing in a long-distance race from Tottenham to Exeter. His winning Penny Farthing can be seen on display here. Elsewhere in the borough, Wood Green once had its own cycling track and athletics ground. From 1895 to 1900 - when cycling was all the rage for the Victorians - the North London Cycling and Athletic Grounds were in Bounds Green Road.

With the nearby racecourse at Alexandra Park and other sporting facilities at the Palace, Wood Green was a great centre for sporting events in North London. In 1895 the track saw a 24-hour marathon race. The next year, in 1896, there was the first Ladies’ Cycling Race in England (against France) on an outdoor track. The grounds closed down in 1900 as the land was sold off for the new housing developments off Bounds Green Road.

Not far away, the renowned Finsbury Park Cycling Club started in Finsbury Park, in 1883. It has been in continuous existence ever since. The club came about - just like others around the country - as more and more Victorians had become interested in cycling and racing. With the 'new' motor cars on the roads, cycle racing on the highways was banned by Act of Parliament. Races were therefore held on secret courses. Great sport was had by racers and the police who tried to catch them in the act of 'riding furiously'.

Races against the watch became common as cyclists started racing at one minute intervals to disguise their true activity. Thus, the British Time Trial was born with Finsbury Park CC in the vanguard of the movement.

One cyclist Jack Lauterwasser (1904-2003), joined his local club at Finsbury Park and became an Olympian. A member of FPCC for over 79 years, Jack was a double medal winner at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. His Olympic success was the team silver medal won by Britain in the 168km road race.

Today, Finsbury Park CC is a progressive club with the interests of all cyclists very much at its core. Members take part in most branches of cycling and are active in the promotion of races and the management of the sport at local and district levels.

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Enfield and Haringey Athletics Club

Enfield and Haringey Athletics Club is one of the most famous organisations in British athletics. Formed in 1999, it followed the merger of Haringey Athletics Club and Enfield Harriers. Amongst the club’s members (and its predecessor clubs), Haringey can boast a prestigious parade of international and Olympic athletes who have trained there.

The earliest international in the club’s history was Bernard Eeles who competed for England in 1934 against France over 1500m. Paul Valle was another international competing in the 200m in 1946. Olympians swiftly followed with shot-putter John Giles and 10,000 metre and marathon runner Stan Cox both competing in the 1948 London Games.

The impressive hall of Olympic fame continued with:

  • Stan Cox (marathon - 1952)
  • John Wrighton (400m and 400m relay - 1960)
  • Gerry McIntyre (marathon - 1960 - representing Ireland)
  • Gary Oakes (400m hurdles - bronze medal - 1980)
  • Heather (Hunte) Oakes (100m relay - 2x bronze medals - 1980 and 1984)
  • Sebastian Coe (1500m - gold medal - 1984)
  • John Herbert (Triple Jump - 1984 and 1988)
  • Mike MacFarlane (100m relay - silver medal - 1988)
  • Dalton Grant (High Jump - 1988)
  • Anthony Jarrett (110m Hurdles - 1988 and 1992)

The Club’s most recent athletes continue to reach the top in all their efforts winning many titles - often in successive years - in British athletics. Amongst the many winning titles for the different athletic teams over the past 10 years are the National Young Athletes title, the National Young Athletes Auxilliary Final, and the National Junior League Final.

Individually the club continues to win medals at World, European and National level; Leon Baptiste (200m) and Matt Brown (discus) both finished third in the 2008 Olympic Trials and Leon repeated this placing in the 2009 World Trials.

At the close of the 2008 Track and Field season the Club was presented with the UK Speed award and 47 members were placed in the top ten of the UK national ranking lists, two of them at number one. The year 2009 saw members gain three national titles: Desiree Henry - who had dominated UK under-15 sprinting - took the G15 200m title, Ben Nagy won the M20 3km steeplechase championship and Jordan Arthur also surprised with his M17 100m victory after winning the English Schools 200m. At the end of the year, and out of season, Jordan won the World Schools Games 100m in a personal best time which took him to No 1 in the UK.

Enfield and Haringey AC is based at the Lee Valley Athletics Centre at Picketts Lock in Enfield and at the White Hart Lane Sports Centre (formerly the New River Centre) in Wood Green.

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Olympic Memories: Stan Cox

Stan Cox was a Haringey Olympian and one of the nation’s top runners at two Olympic Games. Born in Wood Green on 15 July 1918, he used to live in the old post-war prefabs at number 4 New River Gardens on White Hart Lane. Although always a Tottenham Hotspur fan, running was his first love. He joined the Southgate Harriers Athletics Club (now Enfield and Haringey Athletics Club) to train. Over a 30 year career he competed in middle and long-distance races and represented Britain at the 1948 London Games and Helsinki in 1952.

One of his friends at the athletics club was Norris McWhirter of the Guinness Book of Records/BBC Children's TV Record Breakers fame. Norris advised him to train in heavier shoes, so that when he competed in lighter shoes he would feel a real benefit.

In those days athletics was fully amateur. Stan's day job was as an assistant computer analyst for Standard Telephones and Cables:

"I worked about three miles from home and in the mornings I would put my running gear on and when I got to work I'd have a shower and put a suit on which I'd leave there. Then I'd eat breakfast in the canteen and go to work."

In 1948, Stan was the British Champion at six miles (now the 10,000 metres) and was an automatic choice for the British Olympic squad:

"For the actual games at Wembley - people won't believe me - I had to take a day off work, unpaid, in order to run for Britain! We were accommodated at RAF Uxbridge, but I only stayed there a couple of nights because I had to go back to work.

"Wembley only had a greyhound track so the track was put down new - but only a cinder track. The sprinters had to dig holes with a trowel - no starting blocks! …I think I ran the Games on the Friday and the next day I was more or less back to work!"

Stan Cox retired to Felixstowe in 1980 having been posted to the Suffolk town briefly during the Second World War. His late wife Audrey (née McCusker) was from Ipswich. Stan dreamt of appearing at the 2012 Olympics in his home city of London. Last year he said:

"I shall be 94 in 2012, and, if I feel like I do now then, I'd like to take part in some way. I'd like to carry the torch even if it's just for 100 yards and hand over to the one who lights the flame. That's my ambition and it would be quite a story, wouldn't it?"

Stan very nearly made it. He died on 27 June 2012 aged 94.

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Football Fever in Haringey

One can not think of Tottenham without thinking of the world premiership football club of Tottenham Hotspur. Since 1882, for over 125 years, locals and supporters from all around the world have followed the highs and lows of their own favourite professional footballer heroes and the team winning the championships. Here are some memories from their fans:

"In the 1960s, when Spurs did the double, the parades through Tottenham High Road were terrific. Over the years they used an open top bus for the occasion. Even 'Chas and Dave' had their piano on it, playing to the crowds along the way.

"Moscow Dynamos played Tottenham Hotspur. A lot of us kids took the afternoon off from school. The day turned out to be very foggy, but they still played!"

Some of Spurs’ football legends past and present:
Walter Tull (1888 - 1918)
Bill Nicholson (1919 - 2004)
Ledley King Spurs’ Captain and England player

Haringey is of course home to many amateur football clubs, most notably Haringey Borough Football Club.  Based at Coles Park in White Hart Lane for 80 years, the club has developed and grown from the merger of other local teams.

Within the community of Haringey, Clasford Stirling stands out for helping young people get into sport and to play football. Clasford is Haringey Council’s Youth and Sports Development Officer at Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham. During the 1980s, the football team Broadwater United was established because there were so many troubles on the estate. Many youngsters have gone on to have a future or career in sport. As Clasford says:

"We've had people go on from here to Arsenal, Spurs, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Queen's Park Rangers, Leicester, MK Dons, Peterborough. When you have kids at this age from six, all the way up, some of them from very difficult backgrounds, and when you fight on all those odds and then you watch that kid on television, there is no prouder moment."

Amongst them is Peggy Lokando:

"I knew Clasford for the last seven or six years, and I used to play for them. I came here when I was around eight and got scouted. Clasford helped me down the line. I was at Arsenal for eight years. Now I'm at Southend playing reserves in the first team. Rightly, in a sense I would not have probably got where I am so I come to see him, come to see the people who actually helped me down the line."

For his work in sport with the community, Clasford Stirling was awarded the MBE by the Her Majesty The Queen in 2007.

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Page last updated:

January 17, 2022