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Remembering the Heroic Olympians

Grainy black and white images of ‘Golden Girl’ Mary Rand in Tokyo in 1964 contrast starkly with today’s high-definition shots of millionaire athletes. Norman Wright recalls his own Olympic heroes

When the Rio Olympics opens on August 5, it will be a glossy affair with plenty of millionaire, high-profile, professional athletes circling the track behind their national flags.

There will be heaps of controversy, from the Zika virus to drug allegations, and most of us will be watching it all on pin-sharp high-definition TV.

It was very different when the British Olympic heroes of our generation were competing. They were much less well known outside their sports, mostly amateur – that is, other than the Eastern Bloc and US college system. Controversy was usually about the suspect gender of East German female shot putters and we watched in mainly black and white, up to  a day after it happened live. When I think of the Summer Olympics, I immediately hear the faintly oriental BBC theme tune Tokyo Melody in my head and can see those grainy 1964 pictures with the unmistakeable excited tones of David Coleman telling us that our ‘Golden Girl’ Mary Rand had indeed won gold.

On our 14in Bakelite telly you could just about make out a blurry figure in white heading down the runway and leaping into darkness to set a new world record of 22ft 21/4in. You can still see it on You Tube although the picture is much better today on my HD computer screen.

It brings back many warm memories of a more innocent age of sport when Coleman’s commentary, rising ever higher in speed, pitch and enthusiasm, made you proud to be British. 

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Who are your Olympic heroes? What makes them so great?

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