Stadium Highlights

Registered: ​24th June 1946
Duration: 36 minutes
Feet: 3274 feet
Board of Trade Certificate number: ​AFF013406
Production Company: ​Federated Film Corporation Limited

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The shadow of WWII is cast over the events at The Empire Stadium, Wembley.

Title and Credits:
Federated presents Stewart MacPherson, to tell the story of

Photographed by: Edward Barrington
Script by: Edward Eve
From an idea by: Glenda Baim
Continuity by: P.M. Jeffcoat
Lighting by: D. Hewitt
Produced at Empire Pool and Stadium Wembley in 1946
Musical Arrangements by: M. de Wolfe
Edited by: Sam Lee
Recording by: Harry Sheridan A.M. Inst. B.A.
at Imperial Sound Studios London
Directed by: Sam Lee
In Charge of Production: Harold Baim

- Ice Skating from participating to ice manufacture, skate maintenance
- Table Tennis showing male and female champions
- Boxing – International Amateur Boxing (Great Britain/France)
- Tote betting with detailed view of early betting odds calculating by humans and machines for sport betting of dog races
- Greyhound racing track
- Speedway (motorcycle) racing
- Ice Hockey


Every week, over 16,000 young people wearing everything from blue Serge suits with tennis collars to primrose jumpers with magenta shorts, go ice skating and every week, further thousands crowd to other rinks in London and the provinces. Ice skating is getting a very warm reception.

Today, there are far more young blades with blades on their feet than youngsters with tennis rackets in their hands, and the call of the ice is answered as much by the girls as by the boys. Perhaps it's the girls who bring the boys, or vice versa. It's a far cry from the days when, if you wanted to skate, you had to wait for a visit from Mr. Jack Frost. Now they can make ice, as they make hay. While the sun shines.

With ice skating, as with lion taming, you have to learn. That's the reason for the bar, which some of the awfully clever skaters call mugs out. Of course they would. But what does it matter? We all have to start, and there are many worse places than the bar. Ask the Colonel.

And they make ices as well as ice. You can't go far wrong when you cater for both ends, heads and feet. Young appetites are all the keener after a run around on the ice. Rink and drink, that's what it comes to.

And you can't start too young. After all, Didn't somebody say that little girls were made of ice and spice and everything that's nice?

And even the babies having cold feet.

It may be cold comfort for the ice plant engineer to know that when he comes on duty, they sing, 'freeze a jolly good fellow'. But the plant itself is one of those modern engineering miracles. The amounts of refrigeration that takes place is equivalent to the melting of a hundred tons of ice each day.

Some skaters take to the ice as a duck to water, others just tumble to it. Thouhg the learners might feel that they've fallen on hard times, serious accidents are very rare. There's a nice nurse anyway.

And could you imagine a more graceful performance? It's the very essence of grace. The symphony of pretty girls with short skirts and handsome men with long looks. The poetry of motion on ice.

Good skaters are very fussy about their skates, and at the rink, there's a special shop where every sort of adjustment can be made while you wait. For a perfect performance depends a great deal on the setting of the blade to the skaters individual needs. A skater gets to know his skates as a golfer, his clubs, or a bowls player his woods.

The modern skate is a fine piece of engineering. Not so very long ago, the blade or runner was made of bone, clamped to a bit of wood and tied to the feet with thongs. Now, of course, the runner is made of steel, fixed as a rule, to special skating boots. The proof of the blade is in grinding, and that's a very expert job.

And not only must the skates be right, the ice must be that way too. The top must be as smooth as the slate of a billiards table. And this is the tractor that smooths the surface, that speeds the blade, that skims the ice, that lures the feet, that come to the pool. In proper condition, the ice is about two inches thick, and it needs eight miles of piping to keep it piping cold.

Enter the brush brothers in perfect rhythm. They sweep away the top ice that has been shaved off by the tractor. Their new brooms certainly sweep clean.

The second part of the brush routine. It's almost like a military movement. But of course, without the sergeant majors icy blast. The old surface is shoveled off and a fresh one sprayed on. In a few moments, a completely new ice floor will be ready to please the most particular patrons. You can see how the new surface freezes as it's laid.

When he started out as a trick skater, he was on tenterhooks. Now he's on stilts. And if you've never tried skating on stilts, please don't. It's the easiest ankle breaker ever invented.

Between public sessions, they practice making jumpers. One, for instance, who just jumps for joy!

It's here, too, that the candidates for the amateur championships rehearse their little piece before the big show. This is Marion Davies, who is third in the figure skating championship of Great Britain. Everybody who is anybody at all comes to Wembley to prove it. All the nicest figures in figure skating show them off.

There's a lot of fun too. You might even call it horseplay. Here's the favorite in the ice stakes. Well backed and well padded. Show him a gate and he's certain to go back for more. What he can't get over, he'll go through. That's the sort of horse he is. Swing it, Slippy, Swing it. That's the idea.

This is the right way to do it. Are you paying attention, Slippy? Now you try. Oh, well, you're like us. We can't help falling for her either. If it hurts, tell her. Now you see what happens when a horse wears skates.

Skating champions show what can be done with a little teamwork, gliding and twirling, almost floating over the ice, they demonstrate what is the most graceful of all sports. They're the perfect partners in what somebody once called majesty of movement.

And now other stars take the ice; Daphne Walker, Jill Lindsay, Cecilia Colledge, Bridget Shirley Adams, and Olive Robinson.

Here's a demonstration what, in skating parlance, is called a split jump and a crossfoot spin. And now a one and a half toe salchow into a broken leg sit spin with the head back. Well, now that you know what they call it, you should find it easier to do.

Now it's the turn of that remarkable young woman, Cecilia Colledge, who has been figure skating champion of Great Britain since 1935 and is still the title holder. She is demonstrating a stop and Axel Paulsen.

Under the spotlight is another clever girl performer. This graceful young star of the ice is demonstrating a loose and a variety of spins, those evolutions that turn the spinner into a sort of human top. With the spot making her a shimmering target, she puts up a grand show. A perfect example of grace, poise and balance.

Now they've rolled out the barrels. A jumper takes the air, and very nearly the last barrel. That touch down on the other side is as dangerous as it's clever. But here's a perfect clearance.

Hello. What are these? Hailstones? No. Well, you've guessed it right. They're table tennis balls. Ammunition for the English Open Championships. Richard Bergmann, men's singles titleholder, Elizabeth Blackburn, English international, Bohumil Vana, Czech champion and Vera Dace, women's singles title holder.

In a practice match, Bergman on the left, and Vania demonstrate various strokes, drives and services both close in and right off the table. The Masters, who are really itching to let themselves go, hold their hands to show you how easy it all is, or rather, how easy they can make it look. Could anything be more simple? But now the pace warms up a bit. There goes a smasher and another. This is more like the real technique of the masters. Both men are vigorous players and the Czech especially has a terrific forehand drive. Here's a nice rally coming up.

Let's join the ladies for a moment. Miss Blackburn is serving to Miss Dace, the singles champion, who you will notice is left handed. Miss Blackburn, who hails from Exeter, is the holder of the women's junior singles championship of England and both ladies are formidable players. As you can see, they even knocked the ball into a straight line.

Bergman at the far end, and his opponent now go into their game, which starts off with fast returns from all parts of the table. Like boxers, they're sparring for an opening, each ready to smash home a stunner as soon as the opportunity occurs, and each placing the ball where that chance won't happen.

Bergmann scores a return that only a meteor could catch, and the pace gets even faster.

Vana, now at the net, is one of the most outstanding players the game has ever produced. He's both aggressive and accurate, which means that he keeps cool during the hardest exchanges. And talking of exchanges, look at these and watch that deadly forehand drive of his opponent.

These are the first of the post-war championships, and they bring together old rivals who between them, represent all that's best in the game. With these two veterans, in experience, of course, and not an age, you get all the finer points of speed and placing. They're both terrific hitters and first class tacticians.

Another thrilling rally with Vana leading. It's a grand slug for slug, meeting with the players all out to snatch victory. Vana wins the title from Bergman.

Now what's this? The variety of sports in the arena is certainly great, for here is the ring. The ring that isn't a ring. The ring that's square. They're getting it ready for the international amateur boxing tournament between Great Britain and France. The ropes are bound with felt so as to save the boxers from injury if they're pressed against them. It's bad enough to be pressed without being cut, especially if you don't know the ropes.

The vast indoor sports arena was opened in July 1934 for the British Empire Games, and for a show of this sort, their are seating accommodations for many thousands. Fight fans are the most constant of all sportsman.

With the corners looking very spick and span, the brand new ring is ready for action in that rope square, very soon, a team of young men from France will try to win over a team from Great Britain. Alf Lambert, a well known trainer, checks the gloves.

Before the main attraction comes a demonstration by Barney Wright, on the left, and Gary Roach, of some of the punches. Here they're exchanging straight lefts, followed by a jab and a counter. A jab, of course, is a short blow, usually delivered with the left hand.

Coming up is a useful uppercut to the chin, followed by a couple of left hooks.

And here's a nice line in footwork. Without footwork, of course, a boxer wouldn't be long on his feet, for it's the ability to get around quickly on his feet that helps the fighter to elude his opponent and take advantage of any openings.

And now they mix it in a lively set two that shows how those punches land. Both men have the sort of stance that's typical of good British boxers. Upright and lightly poised in the forward left foot. Unlike the Americans who favor the crouch.

Roach lands a couple of beauties and Wright replies with a swing. A useful round arm blow that's delivered with a partial twist of the body to get the force behind it. With a beautifully timed blow to the point, Wright goes down for the practice count. Good show fellows.

The ring is now waiting for the tournament and the arena will soon be black, with fight fans who come regularly to Wembley to watch and of course, to criticise. Boxing has a tremendous following. An amateur contest draws large crowds. As the prizes are medals instead of money, you may be sure that the boxers are keen. They box for the love of the game, and that's a good thing.

Before the boxer enters the ring, the doctor has a good look at him to make sure he's fit. Most of the fighters have stout hearts or they wouldn't be fighters, but those hearts must be sound as well.

Muscles too are all the better for a massage before the encounter. Boxing is one of the best sports in the world for keeping a young man in the pink of condition. As you can see from this fine specimen. And what goes for chest and tummy, goes for the legs too.

The Frenchmen entered the ring to be introduced to their opposite numbers. A new Entente Cordiale is about to be celebrated in the ring. The visitors, eight of them, represent every class from flyweight to heavyweight, and among them are a painter, a baker, a designer and a policeman. The youngest is 19, the oldest 32.

And now the fight is on. And one of the rules of the Amateur Boxing Association is that strict silence be enforced throughout the fighting. So yours truly is going to abide by that ruling and at this time invite you, ladies and gentlemen, to sit back and relax and watch some interesting glimpses of the amateur international boxing tournament.

And this is the view that the young Frenchman gets of the things that are going on.

Some of the customers are forgetting to pay any attention to the rule of strict silence throughout the fighting.

From the pool to the stadium and to what, do you think? What is this? It might, of course, be just a bundle of wire waiting to be salvaged. On the other hand, it might be part of the tote. Well, as a matter of fact, that's what it is. The wire, ten miles of it that links the selling machines to the control room.

In the center is the greyhound racing track, which was opened in December 1927. It can accommodate 300 greyhounds in its kennels and over 30,000 people can sit undercover. Nearly 2000 race meetings have been held there and the number of greyhounds engaged has exceeded 20,000. And that's a lot of dogs. It was here that the world's most famous greyhound, Mick the Miller, ran in 1931.

That tote is one of the marvels of the age. Not that you'd think so from outside one of the selling windows. Though even there, you might be impressed with the ease and efficiency with which your bets are taken and dividends, if any, paid. Win, place or forecast pool, it's all in the day's work to the tote. That huge calculating machine through which over £70 million of punters money is passed in one year, and that's a lot of pounds. Automatic machines record the backers stake and punch out the tickets as his receipts.

Nerve center of the totalisator is the control room, where on finely adjusted machines, every bet is registered. The second to second betting is instantly recorded by these drums, which are electrically operated. Other apparatus calculates the odds as the betting proceeds, while dials in the arena show the public the movement of prices. Each bet is automatically recorded in units of two shillings.

When betting reaches its peak just before the off, the meters become just a streaky blur of movement. This machine, that looks like a battery of grandfather clocks, works out the odds. Betting is started through a control panel with indicators flashing messages to and fro from the key points. The message 'six dogs okay' given verbally on a direct line phone from the stewards box as a signal to start betting.

Another message from the steward 'dogs off' means switch off and all the 173 machines stop working. While the race is being run, girls begin moving swiftly up the line of the recording machines, taking note of the number of two shilling bets on the metres, and almost before the winner has passed the post, the totals of each machine have been agreed with the master machine, and the result flashed to the calculating room.

In the calculating room, the dividends are worked out and checked on special machines. From the three totals win, place and forecast, 6% is deducted for the track, and the balance divided by the number of units. The answer: the dividends for each two Bob invested. Every winning ticket is checked off onto sheets covered with columns of figures.

But even all that isn't enough. The result is further checked first by a man who does it mentally, second by an accountant appointed by the council, and third by a man with a slide rule. The possibility of error is very remote indeed.

So the winning ticket numbers and dividends reach the divvy board. If you're lucky, you'll be like the machines and click. If not, pray you're wrong, for it's the Speedway, the cinder track that was laid down in May 1912, dirt track racing.

Alec Green, used by the Wembley team, explains a point or two. Fixing the iron shoe that riders used on the bends. As you will see later from the actual Speedway trials, one of the big tests of winning form is getting round the bends with the bikes tilted sharply at high speed. Then the shoe comes into action as a sort of combined brake and rudder.

Note the clip that helps to keep the knee in position and take a look at the complete rider in his heavy boots, stout leggings, gents natty leather suit, crash helmet and all the usual conveniences.

Potential members of the Wembley team come out for an airing and to practice too, on the speedway that has seen such stars of the track as Jack Ormston, Buster Frogley, Colin Watson, Vic Huxley, Harry Whitfield, Lionel van Praag, Bluey Wilkinson and Jack Milton. With the roar of the quartet of riders streaks off for a fast lap of the track. See how that iron shoe comes into action.

A comparative newcomer to the side is Alf Bottoms, a poultry farmer from Hanworth who is fast heading for stardom. On this occasion, Alf is heading for the cinders just to show us how it's done.

It's a thrilling sport, the speedway racing and it's regaining the part before the war, when there were women riders too.

Meet Alec Jackson, speedway manager, with our friend who has just hit the dirt and looking no worse for it.

But of all the stadium highlights, the brightest of many visitors is ice hockey. It's the fastest sport in the world, and because of its speed and action, the most fascinating game to watch. Here, the players give an example of real teamwork.

Ice hockey is of Canadian origin, but it has a very large following everywhere. The rink is divided by a center line, and the game is usually played for three periods of 20 minutes each.

That rubber disk in the front is the puck, and the larger stick is used by the goal miner. He's usually kept very busy, and works hardest during the rush hours, if you know what I mean. That's why he's so well padded. And that's the famous emblem of the Wembley Lions, complete with goalie and his special skates. The Lions were founded in 1934, and they were soon among the big shots of the game. If the proof of the player is in the padding, you can see how good these boys really are. But it's a tearing hell-for-leather game, and they need all the protection that they can get from the feet up.

And here are the Lions, with defenseman and skipper Lou Bates in the middle in 1935 36 and 36/37 the Lions were the National League champions.

And now for a practice game. Watch the sort of tactics that enabled the Lions in the early days, when they were little more than Cubs, to beat the redoubtable Monarchs from Canada. In 1935, the game over here was in its teething stage, but it was then that the Lions licked the Canadians, who were world champions.

That's a near thing. but he just managed to save.

Watch this lone player weave his way through and give his markers the slip. Like a hurricane in a hurry, he sweeps forward and slams the puck out to a winger for a fine show of passing. It's action, action, action all the time.

He's down, but that's all in the game. A good iceman knows not only how to play, but how to fall. Though if it weren't for his padded suit, he'd soon be looking like a picture by Picasso. Hitting the ice at speed isn't everybody's idea of fun, but these youngsters are tough and as fit as fiddles.

Yes, these lions are still young enough to be good dribblers. And when they get going, nothing can stop them except the referee. Even those who don't know the game must be impressed by their speed and skill. Good skaters and clean players. That sums them up and the rules of the game bar any kicking, tripping, throwing sticks, raising sticks above the shoulder, holding the puck and all unnecessary roughness. See how gentle they've got to be? 

All music should be cleared with 

De Wolfe Music 
Queen’s House 
180-182 Tottenham Court Road