New College Boat Club is the only Oxbridge College club to have been selected to represent Great Britain at the Olympics.
In 1912, Great Britain sent two men’s crews to the Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden. One was a Leander crew, mostly comprised of Magdalen College (Oxford) rowers, and captained by the Magdalen captain. The second was the New College 1st VIII.
The two British crews were the favourites for gold so started at opposite ends of the draw. They both worked up through the competition to make the final. The course in Stockholm was not straight, and one of the two lanes was clearly favoured, the other requiring the cox to steer around a protruding boathouse and then back under a bridge.
Before the final, the two British captains met to toss for lanes. New College won the toss and following gentlemanly tradition offered the choice of lanes to their opponents, who would – in a gentlemanly fashion – refuse this offer. However the Leander/Magdalen captain accepted this offer and chose the better lane. Leander went on to win the gold medal, leaving New College with the silver.
King Gustav V of Sweden was so disheartened by this display of ungentlemanly conduct that, as a consolation, he presented his colours to New College. Ever since then, New College have raced in purple and gold, the colours of the royal house of Sweden. A further tradition has been the adoption of the toast: God Damn Bloody Magdalen!, the supposed words of the New College stroke Robert Bourne as they crossed the line. The abbreviation GDBM is still used commonly, being on the bottom of the NCBC letterhead to this very day.