Swimmers powered by Bovril

All the excitement in the Olympic pool puts us in mind of a nice item in the University Archives: a programme for the third annual swimming championships of the University of London Athletic Union held at Holborn Baths 75 years ago in 1937. The programme included 20 events, comprising individual and team races, diving and water polo. There were also special exhibitions by Miss Olive Bartle, southern counties 220 yards free style champion, and Mostyn Ffrench-Williams, who competed for Great Britain at the 1932 and 1936 Olympic Games.  And what did the competitors take to give them their competitive edge? Bovril. The salty meat extract was supplied to all competitors, and each page of the programme is adorned with a catchy slogan for the product: ‘After a swim – Bovril’; ‘Bovril promotes good health’; ‘Bovril gives strength to win’; ‘Bovril prevents that sinking feeling’. One wonders what the swimming stars of London 2012 would make of being presented with a hot mug on emerging from the pool …

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