GREAT British football teams: The London Olympians

GREAT British football teams: The London Olympians
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Image from Double Coverage

It is time to look at another great British american football team: The London Olympians.

Following on from our recent look at the London Ravens and the Birmingham Bulls this is our third in a short series of articles looking at teams that have dominated the domestic landscape.

Like the Bulls we looked at last time the Olympians are still active in the sport. The London side have a long and proud history in the domestic game including multiple championships, European success and the longest winning streak in Britball history.

There are distinct phases to the history and success of this great British team. So let’s start in their first era – before they won their first title.

1985-1991 Always the Bridesmaid

Established in 1984 they were originally formed by a group who regularly worked out at the Olympians gym in Streatham, South London. Hence they originated as the Streatham Olympians.

The Streatham name was kept in 1984 and 1985 before morphing into the London name later.

Once again, as with the Ravens and Bulls they had been inspired by the Channel 4 launched first wave of interest in American football on TV.

Between 1985 and 1991 The O’s were a very competitive side. They just couldn’t seem to win it all.

The O’s lost to the Ravens 45-7 in the first Britball final in 1985 and 20-12 to the same opposition the following year. They also lost in the 1988 and 1991 finals. The former by 30-6, whilst the latter was a heartbreaking 39-38 defeat lost with 17 seconds on the clock.

Breaking the duck

1992 was a different story for the Olympians in a variety of ways. They had what was seen as the coup of the year signing former LSU quarterback Leonard Valentine.

LSU fans may have seen Valentine as a bust for the Tigers. In the early days of the UK game however he was the difference maker that delivered the Olympians their first title.

The Olympians won their first national title with a dominating performance against surprise finalists Leicester Panthers by a score of 34-6. They were 22-0 up at the half as their D really dominated.

Their first win opened the floodgates as it was the opening of a consecutive hat-trick of British titles. They beat the Glasgow Lions 40-14 in 1993, and the Birmingham Bulls 24-23 in 1994.

That rivalry with Birmingham was at the heart of Brit-ball during this era and the Olympian’s run of championships was almost inevitably ended by the Bulls who beat them 34-30 in another close contest in 1995.

Between 1993 and 1995 the London side also made three Eurobowl finals. Following in the footsteps of the first British winners the Manchester Spartans they won in 1993 and 1994.

That 1994 title where they retained the European title was played in front of over 20,000 fans in Stuttgart, Germany. Their 26-23 win against Italy’s Bergamo Lions was seen as one of the best games between two European teams so far.

Just as they gave up their British title in 1995 they also lost the Eurobowl final 21-14 to Dusseldorf.

Domination!

Following the team’s owner departing from the game but retaining the Olympians name in late 1995, the team morphed into the London O’s. 

After a one year hiatus from the championship game the O’s would be back with a vengeance in 1997. Between 1997 and 2004 the O’s set an astonishing record that still stands, winning 67 games in a row and collecting 7 consecutive championships along the way.

In 1999 they were imperious on the defensive side of the ball conceding just 6 points in the regular season before defeating the Bulls 9-6 in a tough final.

They finally fell in the 2004 final 28-14 against the PA Knights.

Given their history it was unsurprising to see them avenge that loss in the 2005 final winning 21-19. They would return to their Olympians name for 2006 but on the field they were as dangerous as ever.

The London Olympians won the 2006 British championship game against a coming force in the game, the London Blitz 45-30.

That game was the first to be named the BritBowl and other championships were retrospectively numbered with Roman numerals to celebrate the 20th anniversary of British championships.

Thus the Olympians were the fist team to collect the Boston trophy. An incredible run of  consecutive championships appearances and a 10-1 run in finals really sealed their superiority over this period. This remains their last national title.


Ring showing the Olympian’s multiple successes taken from the team website

The Olympians Now

Image from the Olympian’s twitter page

In April 2007, the London Olympians decided to withdraw from the league. In 2009 the team returned to the BAFA league after their short spell away from competition.

They originally returned to Division 2 East which they were promoted from at the end of the 2010 season. Once again they won a title match, all be it at a lower level, upending the Manchester Titans in the Division 2 Bowl game 35–13. 

In 2012, the Olympians returned to the Premier division. However they were relegated in 2016. In 2017 they were promoted back to the premiership but fell in the bowl game as the Titans took some measure of revenge 46-23.

You can find the Olympians in the BAFA NL Premiership South this season and follow their and other Britball team’s fortunes over at the double Coverage website.

It will be fascinating to see what happens next for this storied team. Whatever that may be however, they are a great team with a great history of success. Truly a GREAT British american football team.

Banner image from SirDavidIsaac.com

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