Olympic Games 1948 London

14th Olympiad


Sports: 21

Events: 153

National Teams: 59

Participants: 4,396

Identity Card


The Executive Committee decided that the precedent of the Berlin and Los Angeles Games should be followed and that Olympic Identity Cards should be issued to all competitors and those officials intimately connected with the conduct of the various sports and teams.

The design and preparation of the Card was the responsibility of the Technical Department and it was planned to fulfil two main functions. It had to be a pass to allow competitors and officials access to those stadia where they had a right to watch events and, of course, to the dressing rooms of the stadium where they themselves were competing, and also to housing centres.

In addition it had to act as a valid passport and travel document for Olympic competitors and officials, for it was felt that this would greatly assist National Olympic Committees not only in the crossing of frontiers, but also from the point of view of Customs facilities in the United Kingdom. These considerations made it necessary that the document should be easily recognised and hard to imitate.

Certain box office considerations had to be met in the design of the card to avoid abuse for gaining admission to the complimentary stands reserved for competitors and officials. Every effort was made for the scrutiny of the card by arena and stadium stewards to be as simple as possible, and yet retain reasonable control. The card was designed to show on its first page the sport with which the holder was connected and the category in that sport to which he or she belonged, together with photograph, signature and full name. How the card operated as far as spectator use is concerned is dealt with under the complimentary ticket section. The scrutiny of the card for admission to the dressing rooms was especially strict.

As regards the use of the Identity Card as a travel document, the Aliens Department of the Home Office of His Majesty's Government gave great assistance and guidance as to the lay-out of the second page giving the agreement of the holder's own government, and the third page which gave the certified details of the holder.

H.M. Government agreed to allow the Identity Card to serve as a valid passport of entry into the United Kingdom, subject to the following provisos :

(i)   That the government of the country of origin of the holder should also agree to its use as a travel document for both inward and outward journeys.

(ii)   That the card should be valid for one journey only in each direction.

(iii)   That before the team of any country using the card as a travel document started its journey to London, a complete list of those persons to whom the card had been issued by the appropriate National Olympic Committee should be submitted to the nearest British Consul or Passport Office in order that the nominal roll could be checked by the U.K. representative.

The Government also agreed to waive visa fees for persons travelling on the Olympic Identity Cards, where these were still in force.

Where the first proviso was not met, the visiting competitors and officials had to travel on ordinary passports. National Olympic Committees were circularised as to these conditions and the onus of approaching their own governments was placed on them. Specimen cards were forwarded early in 1948, and the National Olympic Committees requested to make the necessary representations as soon as possible to their governments. Due to national regulations governing the issue of passports, some countries were unable to accept the card as a valid travel permit and, where this condition applied, the third page of the card was left blank. Even where competitors and officials travelled on normal passports, the Identity Card operated on arrival at the port of disembarkation in Great Britain as a Customs clearance certificate for the individual. As some of the teams, whose governments had been prepared to recognise the Card as a travel document, crossed in their journey to London the frontiers of certain countries who did not recognise it, they also had to be provided with normal passports, unless they came direct to London by air as, in fact, happened in one case.

Thirty nations accepted the Card as a valid travel document, which justified its use for this purpose.

identity card

(Source document: Official Report 1948,  page 72 )

Identity Cards

The problem of providing all competitors and officials with an Identity Card which might act as passport and also give easy admission to the holder where he was entitled to be admitted while at the same time avoiding abuses and errors, was very difficult to solve. Negotiations had to be entered into with the Foreign Office (Passport Department) and eventually the Identity Card illustrated was issued to the National Olympic Committees and their Chefs de Mission.


Passes on stiff cardboard with coloured background were prepared for all types of operating personnel and staff. These were all numbered and there was strict control of their issue at headquarters.

Use of Identity Cards

For competitors and sports officials, the method of admittance to the stands to which they had a right of entry was by Identity Card, and stewards at the Empire Stadium were instructed that all Identity Cards bearing the name of a sport on the first page and any category other than those catered for in Stands A, B and C (only about six in number), would admit the bearer to the Competitors' Stand.

At other venues the stewards had only to check that the name of the sport shown on the Identity Card was that which was taking place in the arena concerned, and coupled with the provision already made for the main stadium as to category, the bearer was allowed to enter. The fact that all Identity Cards bore the holder's photograph was a safeguard against abuse of this method of admission. Since the Identity Card was a document of some value to the holder, it was thought that there would be little chance of unauthorised persons gaining admission to the Competitors' Stands.

(Source document: Official Report 1948,  page 132 + 140 )

Other Olympic Identity Cards: