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Celebrating the Olympians of the 1948 Austerity Games

After a 12-year hiatus sparked by World War II, London hosted the 1948 Summer Games, known to many as the Austerity Olympics. But poor economic conditions didn’t stop the games from being a success.

Photographer Joseph Turp located many of the British Olympians more than 60 years after the event and took their portraits. Here, they are staged next to a souvenir each participant kept.

Turp began the project in 2009, hoping to create a favorable view of senior citizens. The ex-athletes proved to be fit and strong and even helped move furniture around their homes to set up his backdrop. One of the athletes even made Turp punch him in the stomach twice to show his remaining strength at 92.

“They were the perfect group to portray older people in a positive light,” Turp said.

Beyond sharing their stories and exercise routines, the Olympians also showed Turp how different the Olympics are now as opposed to then.

Then, it took two months to convert Wembley Stadium with about $30 million. This year’s budget stands around $13.5 billion.

The Opening Ceremony, which will cost about $30 million this year, in 1948 consisted of pigeons being released and “christening” some of the athletes, Turp said.

In those days, the competitors’ general expenses weren’t covered, and many of their employees didn’t pay them for the time they missed. They were less concerned about medals than participating.

Today’s events are “a world away from athleticism in ’48,” Turp said.

There is a looming problem in UK society that slants a negative impression about the elderly, Turp said. But this is also an important issue across the globe, he added.

He hopes to “highlight their lived-in faces and wrinkles” as something to be celebrated.

- Elizabeth I. Johnson, CNN

Video: A look back at the 1948 London Olympics

Watch Turp's interviews with the Olympians