Valparaiso woman remembers attending 1948 London Olympics

2012-08-01T19:00:00Z 2012-08-01T20:17:21Z Valparaiso woman remembers attending 1948 London OlympicsBy David P. Funk Times Correspondent
August 01, 2012 7:00 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | Vivienne Barloga was 16 when she attended the track and field events the last time the Olympic Games were held in London.

The Valparaiso resident and London native is proud to see her home country on display once again for the rest of the world. She remembers that the 1948 games were a bit different than this summer's games.

World War II had put the Olympics on a 12-year hiatus after the 1936 games in Nazi Germany. London was chosen as both a symbolic gesture of the rebirth of the bombed-out city and because it was one of the few places with adequate facilities.

Now 80, Barloga wasn't able to speak with The Times directly, but through her son, Mitch, she said she sees a parallel with the renewal of London's historically economically-depressed East End through the 2012 Olympics.

The Barlogas watched the opening ceremony together, which Mitch said meant a lot to Vivienne with it's references to English history.

"At one point, a girl sang an old English hymn and I saw her eyes light up," he said. "I looked over and she was singing along."

Barloga saw one day of events at Wembley Stadium, which she'd visited in the past to see tennis matches.

The big name at those games was Emil Zatopek, a Czech distance runner. Barloga was thrilled to see him from the stands that day.

Nicknamed "The Locomotive" because the way he panted as he ran, Zatopek won the 10,000-meter run by more than 300 meters, lapping all but two runners in the field that year. Only three days later, he closed a 50-meter gap in the final lap of the 5,000 run and nearly caught Belgian Gaston Etienne Reiff, but settled for silver.

Four years later in Helsinki, Zatopek became the only runner in Olympic history to win the 10,000 meters, the 5,000 meters and the marathon in the same Olympics.

Vivienne saw some of what would divide the world for the next 40 years. Many people from Eastern Bloc countries came to London. She remembers them trying to disrupt the cheers of the London crowd.

But one Londoner carried a toy horn that made a raspberry noise. To the crowd's amusement, he blew it each time the disruptors tried to upset the British cheers. Eventually, the Brits won out.

The 1948 games were the first to be shown on home televisions, and the Barlogas plan to spend some time in front of theirs for the remainder of 2012.

"It means a lot to me, personally," Mitch said. "Just to sit with her and have her share these great memories."

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