Venezuela at the 1948 Summer Olympics

Venezuela competed in the 1948 Summer Olympic Games held in London, United Kingdom. The country's first appearance at the Games, it sent one athlete, the cyclist Julio César León, and won no medals. León faced several difficulties before he could compete in the Games, receiving no support from the Venezuelan Olympic Committee until his arrival in London. He competed in two track cycling events, placing joint-ninth in the Sprint and 14th in the Time trial.

Venezuela at the
1948 Summer Olympics
Flag of Venezuela (1930–1954).svg
NOCVenezuelan Olympic Committee (in Spanish)
in London, United Kingdom
29 July–14 August 1948
Competitors1 in 1 sport
Flag bearerJulio César León
Summer Olympics appearances (overview)



Venezuela was one of the fourteen nations that made their first official appearance at the Summer Olympics at the 1948 Games.[1] Though the Venezuelan Olympic Committee (VOC) had been recognized by the IOC in 1935, it was skeptical about their athletes' prospects when competing against European athletes, and so did not send anyone.[1] The VOC still did not want to send athletes in 1948, and, according to Julio César León, the only Venezuelan representative at the Games, said they would "make a fool of ourselves".[1] Venezuela had been sent 50 registration forms in anticipation of the Games.[2]:68

León's journeyEdit

León, with the approval but not support of the VOC, had to get support from the British Embassy in Caracas in order to travel to London.[1] León's brother knew Raymond Smith, an attaché to the embassy. As such, his brother got León a meeting with the ambassador who quickly agreed to send León, his wife, and his coach to London on a Lancaster Bomber serving as a British Caribbean mail plane from Maiquetia Airport two days later.[1] The journey across the Caribbean, stopping at all British territories, took four hours; the flight from Bermuda to London lasted 36 hours.[1] The group was accompanied by three journalists. There were no members of the VOC traveling with them, which caused difficulty when León tried to register at the Games, as he had no paperwork; a call to Julio Bustamante, the president of the VOC, led the committee to fly to London three days later to approve León in person.[1]

Opening ceremonyEdit

León tells the anecdote that nobody had thought to bring a Venezuelan flag, as they were unaware of Olympic customs and did not know there would be the pavilion. He explains that he learnt of it when an Argentine competitor he knew from the South American circuit mentioned it to him in passing. The Venezuelan Embassy in London would not loan the VOC a flag until after the opening ceremony, so León's wife sewed a makeshift flag from fabric they bought, and he used a broom handle to carry it.[1]


There was one competitor for Venezuela at the 1948 Olympics, 23-year-old Julio César León,[3] who competed in two events within the sport of cycling.[3] With resistance from the VOC, León faced challenges to get to London and compete.[1] León's friendship with his Argentine rivals gave him some support, including allowing him to be an honorary member of the Argentine delegation so he could eat with them, as he could not buy any food due to national rationing in the UK.[1] León was housed at Richmond Park with the Ibero-American and Scandinavian male competitors.[2]:160 London 1948 was the only Olympic Games León competed at.[4]

Sport Men Women Total
Cycling 1 0 1
Total 1 0 1


León competing

In cycling, 188 athletes of 33 countries competed in 6 events between August 7 and 11 at the Herne Hill Velodrome for track events.[2]:26, 317–335


In the sprint event cyclists were drawn in heats of two; the winners would qualify, while the losing competitors contested repechage races before definitive elimination. The UCI decided to reduce the length of the race from the usual 1,000 metres to 920 metres in order to perform the competition in 2 laps. In the 1,000 metre time trial event cyclists raced individually to achieve the best time.[2]:322


In the Men's sprint, León was in heat six of the first round, and lost. He continued to round 2 by beating Trinidad and Tobago's Compton Gonsalves in his repechage race.[5][2]:322 In the second round, he lost again and thus was eliminated; however, his time and loss to the eventual gold medal winner resulted in León placing sixth.[1][5] He was ranked joint ninth, behind four athletes tied for fifth place, out of the 23 athletes competing.[5][4]

Athlete Round 1 Repechage Round 2 Quarterfinals Semifinals Final
Julio César León   Cortoni (ARG)
  Gonsalves (TRI)
W 12.6
  Ghella (ITA)
Did not advance
Time trial

Of his two events, León claims his "more likely" win was the 1,000 metre time trial, which he regularly rode in 1'12" to 1'13". He said the climate of London negatively affected him and caused him to underperform,[1] placing 14th of the 21 competitors with a time of 1'18.1";[6] the gold medalist Jacques Dupont won with a time of 1'13.5", which León later lamented he should have beaten.[1]

Athlete Time Rank
Julio César León 1:18.1 14


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Zamorano, Abraham (5 June 2012). "La odisea del primer venezolano en los Olímpicos" (in Spanish). BBC Noticias. Archived from the original on 10 June 2012. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e Burghley, David (1951). The Official Report of the Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad. London: The Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad. Archived from the original on 16 December 2020. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  3. ^ a b "Venezuela at the 1948 London Summer Games". Sport Reference. Archived from the original on 13 December 2012. Retrieved 20 August 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Julio César León Bio, Stats, and Results". Olympics at Archived from the original on 14 January 2020. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
  5. ^ a b c "Cycling at the 1948 London Summer Games: Men's Sprint". Olympics at Archived from the original on 14 January 2020. Retrieved 10 September 2019.
  6. ^ "Cycling at the 1948 London Summer Games: Men's 1,000 metres Time Trial". Olympics at Archived from the original on 14 January 2020. Retrieved 10 September 2019.

External linksEdit