Monday, 30 April 2012

Faith in Marriage

It has been brought to my attention that there is a group Faith in Marriage who are campaigning religious groups  to be allowed, but not forced, to carry out same-se marriage in Scotland.

It has the backing of:

  • United Reformed Church (National Synod of Scotland)
  • Scottish Unitarian Association
  • Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Scotland
  • Liberal Judaism
  • Iona Community
  • Humanist Society Scotland
  • Metropolitan Community Church
  • Open Episcopal Church in Scotland
  • Pagan Federation (Scotland)
  • Community of Interbeing (Zen Buddists)
  • One Spirit Interfaith Foundation
  • Edinburgh Shamanic Centre
As well as support from
  • Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement
  • Quaker Lesbian and Gay Fellowship
  • Jewish Gay and Lesbian Group
  • Gay And Lesbian Vaishnava Association (Hindus)
  • SARBAT – LGBT Sikhs
  • Affirmation Scotland
  • Changing Attitude Scotland
  • CourageSCOTLAND
  • OneKirk
  • Scottish Rainbow Covenant – LGBT Jews in Scotland
  • World Congress of GLBT Jews: Keshet Ga’avah
  • Ekklesia

And individual support from

  • Rev. David Coleman, Convenor, Church and Society Committee, United Reformed Church (National Synod of Scotland)
  • Rev. Fiona Bennett, Minister, Augustine United Church 
  • Rev. Zam Walker, Minister, Greenock West United Reformed Church 
  • Roddy Macpherson, President, Scottish Unitarian Association
  • Rev. Maud Robinson, Minister, St Mark’s Unitarian Church, Edinburgh 
  • Robin Waterston, Clerk, Religious Society of Friends in Scotland 
  • Phil Lucas, Religious Society of Friends in Scotland (Quakers)
  • Nicola James, Honorary Quaker Chaplain, University of Glasgow Chaplaincy 
  • Rt. Rev. David Gillham, Bishop of Scotland, Open Episcopal Church in Scotland
  • Rev. David Furniss, Vicar General, Open Episcopal Church in Scotland
  • Rev. Jane Clarke, Minister, Metropolitan Community Church, Glasgow
  • Rev. Maxwell Reay, Minister, Metropolitan Community Church, Edinburgh
  • Rev. Peter Macdonald, Leader, The Iona Community
  • Rabbi Danny Rich, Chief Executive, Liberal Judaism
  • Rabbi Shulamit Ambalu and Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, Co-Chairs, Rabbinic Conference of Liberal Judaism
  • Rabbi Mark L Solomon, Rabbi, Sukkat Shalom: Edinburgh Liberal Jewish Community
  • Louise Park, Presiding Officer & Celebrants Coordinator, Pagan Federation (Scotland)
  • Suzanne Dance, Facilitator, The Community of Interbeing
  •  Rev. Jane Patmore, Interfaith Minister and Celebrant, One Spirit Interfaith Foundation
  • John Bishop, Secretary, Humanist Society Scotland
  • Stephen Chinn, Policy Development Officer, Humanist Society Scotland 
  • Ross Wright, Marriage Celebrant, Humanist Society Scotland 
  • Rt. Rev. Richard Holloway, Former Bishop of Edinburgh & Primus, Scottish Episcopal Church.
  • Rev. Kelvin Holdsworth, Provost, St Mary's Cathedral, Glasgow, Scottish Episcopal Church
  • Rev. Donald Reid, Associate Rector, St John’s Episcopal Church, Edinburgh & Co-Convenor, Edinburgh Interfaith Association (EIFA)
  • Rev. Ross K. Bell, Priest, Diocese of Edinburgh, Scottish Episcopal Church
  • Rev. Lindsay Louise Biddle, Chaplain, Affirmation Scotland & Minister Locum, Anderston Kelvingrove Parish Church, Glasgow (Church of Scotland)
  • Rev. Peter Johnston, Convenor, OneKirk
  • Rev. Dr. John W. Mann, Minister, St. James' Parish Church, Glasgow (Church of Scotland)
  • Rev. Scott S McKenna, Minister, Mayfield Salisbury Parish, Edinburgh (Church of Scotland)
  • Rev. David McLachlan, Minister, Langside Church, Glasgow (Church of Scotland)
  • Claudia Goncalves and Mark Halliday, Co-founders, Edinburgh Shamanic Centre
  • Rev. Sharon Ferguson, Spokesperson, Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM)
  • Mary Woodward, Membership Secretary, Quaker Lesbian and Gay Fellowship
  • Peggy Sherwood, President, Jewish Gay and Lesbian Group (JGLG)
  • Amara Das Wilhelm, President, The Gay And Lesbian Vaishnava Association 
  • Rev. Ruairidh MacRae, CourageSCOTLAND 
  • Jaye Richards-Hill and Beth Routledge, Co-Convenors, Changing Attitude Scotland
  • Rebekah Gronowski, Co-Founder, Scottish Rainbow Covenant – LGBT Jews in Scotland
  • Howard Solomon, President, The World Congress of GLBT Jews: Keshet Ga’avah
  • Jonathan Falk, Secretary, The World Congress of GLBT Jews: Keshet Ga’avah
  • Simon Barrow, Director, Ekklesia
Quite a list there including some whose church stance is still undecided of being dictated from the top is opposed to idea of same-sex marriage. 

So next time anyone says that same-sex marriage has no merit with people of faith maybe you should direct them to this list, which is only in Scotland and point out that they are those who want the freedom of religion to carry out equal marriage regardless of the sexuality of the couple before them and God.

The next time someone goes on about how churches are opposed to same-sex marriage, point them to these groups and others that say they want the freedom, but not forcing others to have to, to practice their faith AND carry out same-sex marriage. That is surely true freedom of religion not what leading members of the Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian Church in Ireland and others are saying. 

Friday, 27 April 2012

1964 Summer Olympics Tokyo: XVIII Olympiad and II Paralympics

In 1959 it took just one round of voting to decide to award the Olympics to Tokyo, they had come last in the first round of voting for the previous Games. With 34 votes the Japanese capital soared through the threshold it required over Detroit, USA 10, Vienna, Austria 9 and Brussels, Belgium 5.

Nations 93 (+10)
Competitors 5151 (-187)
Sports 19 (+2)
Events 163 (+13)

10 to 24 July hosted by Tokyo, Japan

II Paralympics 3 to 12 November in same venues

Nations 21(-2)
Competitors 375 (-25)
Sports 19 (+1)
Events 144 (+89)

The Japanese were the first Asian team to send a team to the Olympics as far back as 1912. They had been scheduled to host the 1940 Games both summer and winter, for the Summer Games the withdrawal of the candidature of London led to a two horse race between Tokyo and Helsinki which the former won 36 votes to 27. That honour got taken from them when they launched the second Sino-Japanese War. But 1964 saw the fourth continent to host the games when they finally came to Japan with this second invitation.

From flames to light the flame
Sakai climbing the steps towards the cauldron

6 August 1945 marked the day that the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. But elsewhere in the city that day Yoshinori Sakai was born.

Almost nineteen years later he was given the honour of lighting the cauldron in the stadium, the teen was a member of Waseda University's running club.

He was to go on to win gold in the 1966 Asian Games 4x400m relay having picked up silver in the individual event. By 1968 he was working for Fuji Television as a journalist in news and sports and never took part in an Olympics as an athlete.

Speaking of television this was the first Olympic Games to be telecast live across the world, or at least countries like the USA who had the facilities to cover it. Syncom 3 the world's first geostationary communication satellite was used to beam pictures to the USA and Relay 1 was then used to forward these to Europe.

But it was also to be the last Olympics that the athletics would be run on a cinder track, from here on the tartan tracks that we are familiar with would be used. It was also the first in the while fibre glass poles were used in the pole vault.

Come as one country leave as another

Northern Rhodesia sent 11 men and one woman to their first Olympic Games, taking part in athletics, boxing, swimming, wrestling with their sole woman Patricia Skinner talking part in the fencing. However, on the 24 July the day of the closing the country had gained independence and was known as Zambia.

Chad's Mahamat Idriss who reached the final
of the high jump
Also new to the Olympic family were fellow African nations Algeria, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire (as the Ivory Coast), Libya, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Sengal and Tanzania (as Tanganyika). From Asia came Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, while the Dominican Republic from the Caribbean made up a total of 16 new nations.

New to the Paralympics were Fiji, Japan, South Africa and as a separate state West Germany.

After the opening ceremony however, the Libyan athletes withdrew from the games. This meant that Mohamed Asswai with a time of 54.3 secs in the 400m hurdles was the first Libyan Olympian to compete in Mexico City.

While none of the new nations won medals Chad did have a finalist in men's high jump through Mahamat Idriss who came 9th jumping with one foot barefoot.There also had Ahmed Issa in the 800m who progressed to the semi-final.

In the Paralympics South Africa were to make their debut just weeks after they were banned from the Summer Games for the first time due to the apartheid regime. Other new participants were Sweden, Fiji and the hosts themselves Japan.

When in Rome Japan...

Anton Geesink (NED) the non-Japanese Judoka
in the first Olympic Judo competition
Judo was added to the Olympic family in 1964 in the home of so many martial arts. There was no reduction in the number of sports at the Games but at the

It joined the pantheon of Boxing and Wrestling of combat sports in the Games. With the exception of 1968 it has been ever present since.

Hardly surprising for a Japanese sport three of the first Olympic Champions were from the host nation. However, in the heavyweight division Akio Kaminaga who had secretly been nursing a knee ligament injury since the early stages of the competition came up against Dutchman Anton Geesink who unlike Kaminaga had won a world championship, in 1961 he came first while in 1958 Kaminaga had only come second. However, it was the superior grappling ability of the 6'6" Dutch Judoka that won the final bout after 9'33".

Kaminaga was villified for failing to complete the clean sweep of the nations own sport and was forced to retire the following year due to a retinal injury. However, the match was between two of the top judokas and Geesink was the first non-Japanese to not only win a world championship but to have made a world final.

...not on the beach

Action between gold medallists Japan in white and
silver medallists USSR
But volleyball was added to the games, a women's event was added late in the cycle to go along with the men's.

In the men's tournament The USSR topped the table with just one defeat to the hosts Japan, which meant that they had beat Czechoslovakia who ended up taking silver with a similar 8 wins and one loss on points difference. The Japanese took the bronze having only lost to those two teams.

In the women's event meanwhile the host team went undefeated only dropping one set in the six team league to Poland, who by suffering a straight set loss to the USSR ended up only winning the bronze medal behind their eastern neighbours.

...on your marks, get set, push

The Paralympics athletics programme of 1964 introduced track events for the first time in the form of the 60m dash. With the end of cinder tracks to come in the future this element of their games was to expand over future Games. The men's race in the T10 category was won by Ron Stein (USA) who had won three gold's in Rome. Along with this new sport he defended his three titles in pentathlon, club throw and shot as well as threw world records in the javelin and discus. It brought his medal tally to 10 all gold, including the wheelchair basketball medal from 1960.

It was still however, restricted to wheelchair participants, but unlike 1960 more than three competitors were entered in events so there was no automatic medal. This meant that Ireland and Fiji became the first nations to come to the Paralympics and return without a medal.

Best of three

Goal mouth action from the final India in the pale blue shirts
In hockey the final was the third in a row and last so far to have featured both India and Pakistan. The subcontinent had dominated the sport at Olympic level since 1928 and would continue to do so for one more Games. But in 1960 India had lost their crown to Pakistan so when the two teams lined up on 23 July it was all to play for.

In both their previous finals there had been a single goal that had decided the destinations of the gold and silver and in Tokyo it was to prove the same again. Five minutes into the second half Mohinder Lal found the net for his third goal of the tournament and India went on to secure the Olympic title. For Lal and other's it made up for only taking silver four years earlier.

But little did the Indian hockey players know this would be that their last appearance in a final, until 1980 when they took gold and that was the only final appearance of the once dominant nation.

Women's multi event in the Athletics

The women were finally given a multi-event track and field event something the men with the decathlon have had since 1904. The women took part over the 16 and 17 October in a five event Pentathlon, the events were

Irina Press in hurdle action
  • 80m hurdles
  • shot putt
  • high jump
  • long jump 
  • 200m
The USSR pair of Irina Press and Galina Bystrova took the lead after the first event running the hurdles in 10.7 secs with GB's Mary Rand and Germany's Helga Hoffman 0.2 sec but 35 points back. Press was to go on and finish 4th in the 80m individual final, Brystrova reached the semis but Rand who was entered didn't start her heat the day after the pentathlon finished. In the shot Press, who came 6th in the individual behind her sister Tamara's gold, putt for 17.16m longer than she managed in the individual. This was 2.68 metres further that GB&NI's Mary Peters, who also took part in the individual shot, who just threw one cm further that Brystrova, but Rand only managed 11.05 losing almost 400 points on Press the leader. In the high jump Rand fought back being one of only two athletes to go higher than 1.63m clearing 1.72m, the other was Australia's Helen Frith but Press was one of those jumping 1.63m. It pulled back almost 90 points for Rand.

Day two started in the event that Rand had earlier taken individual gold three days earlier, the long jum with an Olympic record of 6.52m. She jumped the furthest taking 1111 points for a jump of 6.55m some 69 points more than Press with 6.24. It meant that with one event left Press was on 4287 218 points ahead of Brystrova who was 41 points ahead of Rand with Peters 127 points further back.

With both Rand and Press being fast it was impossible for the Brit to overcome the Ukrainian Soviet athlete over 200m though she did run fastest in 24.2 secs it was only half a second and 48 points better than Press. 

Neither Irina nor her sister took part in international competition after 1966 when gender verification came into effect for female athletes (since 2000 this has been removed).

Return to Tokyo?

In a very close 4 way contest for the 2016 Games Tokyo lost out to Rio de Janerio along with Madrid and Chicago. They along with Madrid are looking to try again when the 125th IOC Congress meets in Buenas Aires next September this time to host in 2020. The other candidates cities are Doha, Istanbul and Baku, so we may be back to the Tokyo or back to Spain with Madrid, or maybe off to pastures new.
Update when the shortlist was announced for 2020 Tokyo were indeed still in the running along with Madrid and Istanbul.
See also the full list of my posts about past Olympiads

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Artful Thursday 11 - Louis de Brocquy

When the announcement that one of Ireland's most renowned artists Louis de Brocquy has died on a Thursday, aged 95, there is only one way to honour him with an Artful Thursday. His age means that the Dublin born painter was in the womb when the Easter Uprising happened in Phoenix Park in the year of his birth.

Over his career he has used a variety of styles in series of paintings.

Here is his work The Inner Human Reality (1979)  it is a style of portraiture he was to use often from 1975 to 2005. This one is based on the face of Samuel Beckett.

One of his first paintings from 1939 is Girl in Grey

and Children in a Wood (1988) from his Procession series

In 2000 he joined the elite band of artists who have sold a word of art for over £1m when Tinker Woman with Newspaper (1947-8) sold for £1.2m at Sotherby's. It comes from the post war Tinker Period.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Not losing my religion, but my church may lose me

The REM song Losing My Religion sprung to mind yesterday morning as I stormed out of church. Not that I am losing mine but certain lines stuck out.

That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
When I am in the bad we do sit down in the corner after we have finished playing waiting for the sermon. That was where I was yesterday morning, in the front pew next to the West door. Although I was furthest into the pew by the time we had all set down instruments and headed out. So in essence I was in the corner and in full view of most of the congregation.

That was where I was when the prayers of intercessions mentioned the evil of equal marriage, asked to pray for our lawmakers that they would come to their senses. There was me who had made sure that those very lawmakers were not forcing any church to do anything their didn't want to do in bringing this forward.

You see the issue I have is that I'd love God to be involved in helping me find someone that I can love, helping me find someone that I can spend the rest of my live with, and if possible and both of us agree invite God to the wedding if there is one. Of course that is something that I still couldn't do even if civil marriage is equalised. But my church doesn't even want me the option of getting civilly married.
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try
There is no thought about any of these statements all of these did happen. You see I may have stormed out during the prayer but I snuck in just behind the  door I'd stormed out of to listen to a lot of the sermon, which yesterday was on marriage. I could go off into an Alanis Morissette song there ironically, but I won't. When then had been announced earlier I was half thinking how much of that could I listen too calmly.

There was laughing, from the congregation at a few jokes that were hurtful to anyone present who may have been homosexual. I did hear them and the laughter and was in tears, when I did hear that.

The reason I did hang around is that there was one more song. Both our worship leader and the drummer had come out after me to see if I was okay. You see there are people in the church who do care about the hurt this is causing. The drummer is someone I have known for years, he grew up a few doors down from us, he was behind me age wise within the Boys' Brigade and was another decent runner, he is now an elder in the congregation so might well have been at the meeting where my application for membership was discussed and voted down. Because they had done that and said come back in we need your bass for the last song I didn't just dander across to Costa for a coffee.

Having said that the words of the last song were too much for me at one point. Having noticed the hypocrisy and cherry picking of the sermon to meet one meaning I just couldn't carry on playing for a few bars.

Then there was the try from the minister to say he understood that I was upset but that he didn't want to hurt me. It was rather too late for that, I was already getting hurt by this escalation of attacks on marriage equal poeple as a gay christian but also as one of the poeple who had got this issue dealt with in a sympathetic way for churches in the first place.

I'm not losing my religion, nor my faith, but my church is most likely on the verge of losing a bassist if that is all I was to them.

Friday, 20 April 2012

1960 Summer Olympics Rome: XVII Olympiad and I Paralympics

The voting for hosting the XVII Olympics started off very tight in the first round of voting at the 50th IOC Session in Paris on 15 June 1955. Rome had 15 votes to Lausanne in Switzerland with  14. Budapest in Hungary had 8, then Detroit , Brussels and Mexico City all had 6, with Tokyo bringing up the rear with 4.

The second round with Tokyo eliminated saw a shift of votes to 26 for Rome, 21 for Lausanne, 11 for Detroit and only Budapest picking up a single other vote. So the third round became a head to head which Rome secured  with 35 votes to 24.

So after having to give up hosting the 1908 Games due to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 1906 requiring the money set aside to host the Games, they finally took to a Roman stage.

Nations 83 (+11)
Competitors 5338 (+1984)
Sports 17 (NC)
Events 150 (+5)

25 August to 11 September 1960 hosted by Rome, Italy

Paralympics welcomed into the family

Rome was the first time that the Paralympics came to be associated with the Olympic movement. Original the games which were hosted in Rome from 18 to 25 September were just the 9th Annual International Stoke Mandeville Games. However, in 1984 the IOC approved the name Paralympic Games and since 1988 they have been hosted in the same city as the Olympics.

Because these games had stemmed from the Stoke Mandeville Games the only disability that was catered for at these Paralympics was spinal chord injury. Also in each of the events there were only three competitors or teams per event so everyone received a medal on completing their event.

The stats for those first Paralympics wer

Nations 23
Competitors 400
Sports 8
Events 53

The sports that formed those first paralympics were:

  • Archery
  • Athletics
  • Dartchery
  • Snooker
  • Swimming
  • Table Tennis
  • Wheelchair Basketball
  • Wheelchair Fencing
Taking part along with the hosts Italy, were:

Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, West Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Lebanon, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Rhodesia, Sweden, Switzerland, USA and Yugoslavia.
Margaret Maughan Britain's first Paralympic Gold medalist 
One element that did arise from the early paralympians certainly was the diversity of sports that they took part in. One example from those first Games was Great Britain's Margaret Maughan (pictured) . In 1959 she had been involved in a car accident and was unable to walk. Just over a year later she was taking part in the inugural archery competition winning Britain's first Paralympic goild medal. She also took to the pool for the 50m backstroke. Although she was the only competitor in her class she had to complete the swim to earn another gold.

She returned in 1968 in Tel Aviv for two Archery competitions but failed to medal. In 1972 at Heidelberg she again failed in the archcery but took gold with M. Cooper in the women pair open Dartchery competition. At Toronto in 1976 she and M. Cooper narrowly failed to retain their title settling for silver, but she also entered the lawn bowls, just missing out in 4th in the ladies singles but with F. Nowak winning silver in the pairs. Her final Games were in 1980 at Arnhem where she only entered the bowls, coming fourth again in the singles but with R. Thompson took her fourth and final gold in the ladies pairs.

Little bit of sprint history

Photo Finish in the 100m
The 100m final of the 1960 Games were unbeknown to those watching going to make a bit of Olympic history. It was the last time in the history of the Games that the 1,2,3 in the Blue Riband event of the Athletics were to be Caucasian. Even in the heavily boycotted Games of 1980 Cuba's Silvio Leonard would ensure that the scene at the medal ceremony in Rome would not be repeated at any Games since.

In the end it did take a photo finish to separate the first two to cross the line on the evening of 1 September. But Armin Hary of Germany became the first non-American since 1928 to take gold in the 100m, beating out the American Dave Simm in an Olympic record equalling 10.2 secs, a time they were both given. In third came Great Britain's Peter Radford, who is one of the home Olympians to appear on the front covers of 2011/12 Phone Directories as he appears on the Birmingham North directory where his club Birchfield Harriers is located.

Great Britain's last team in Olympic Football

Great Britain's last Olympic Football team
What may startle many football fans in that up until 1960 Great Britain usually took part in the Olympic football competition. In 1896 and 1932 there was no competition, in 1904 when only two USA and one Canadian team took part and in 1924 and 1928 there was no Great Britain team but in 1960 came the end of the long line of GB taking part.

The squad in 1960 consisted of 13 Englishmen, 4 Scots and 2 Northern Irish players. Among them was Laurie Brown then of Bishop Auckland who would later play for Arsenal and Tottenham. His daughter Karen would win bronze in the 1992 Games in Hockey and who retired the world's most capped player. Also there was Jim Lewis making his third Olympic appearance who as an amateur was part of the 1954-5 Chelsea league champion side. David Holt then of Queen's Park but about to sign for Hearts who would earn 5 caps for the Scotland team. Hugh Barr of Ballymena United who would go on to play professionally for Coventry City.

Many of this squad are still alive and in their mid seventies. But their loss to a Brazil team, which contained some of those that would go on to win the 1970 World Cup, in the first game was their undoing. They conceded three goals in eleven minutes after the 60th minute. Although even the Brazilians lost out to Italy for the Group but it was Yugoslavia in their fourth consecutive final took what ended up being the countries only gold from five medal performances.

Six sabre golds

Aladár Gerevich first appeared in the Hungarian sabre team in Los Angeles in 1932. As was Hungary's way the team won gold. Apart from 1920, when they weren't invited and 1924 when they lost out to the Italians it was Hungary gold since it was brought in in 1908. He was part of the team in Berlin 1936, London 1948 (in which he also added individual gold), Helsinki 1952 and Melbourne 1956, all of which earned another team gold. In 1960 aged 50 he secured a sixth team gold in the sabre. But he also made it to the semi-finals of the indivudual. Two of his bouts had ended 5-4 to Wladamiro Calarese, who would go through on the fence off to claim bronze, and his team mate Zoltán Horváth who took silver behind another Hungarian Rudolf Kárpáti.

Along with silver in the 1952 individual sabre and bronze in 1936, plus a bronze in the 1952 team foil Gerevich is certainly the most successful Olympic fencer. One does wonder what he could have done if the 1940 and 1944 Games had taken place. Surely in a period of Hungarian dominance he would have been in eight consecutive teams likely to have won team gold.

Four Golden Sails and Discs

The last time the Olympic sailing regatta came to British waters a young Dane called Paul Elvstrøm won gold in the Firefly class off Torquay. 

By Rome he had added two gold in the new Finn Class. He started the regatta with a win in the first race, a feat he repeated in the third and sixth races of the seven race competition, with the best 6 results counting. Along with a second place finish in the fourth race and two fifths in the second and fifth race he's opened a 1,978 point lead. With 1,645 points going to line honours he didn't even need to start the last race to claim his fourth gold medal in consecutive games. Elvstrøm was not finished yet though he would compete in four more Games up to his final appearance in 1988. This summer off Weymouth there is of course a British Sailor who in his fifth Olympiad is seeking to take fourth Olympic gold, as Ben Ainslie goes for his third Finn Gold medal as well.

The sixth race for Elvstrøm occured on the 6th September and 12:30pm the same day that in the 10am qualifying session another Olympic Champion stepped up to attempt to take gold once more. Al Oerter threw 58.43m in the second round of qualifying of the Discus to surpass his own Olympic Record from Melbourne by over 2 metres. At 3pm the following day he stepped up for his final his toughest challenge came from his team mate Rink Babka, the world record holder at 59.91m just the month before equally the distance of fellow finalist Edmund Piątkowski of Poland who had thrown that far in 1959. 

Piątkowski however was never in form, throwing no further than 55.12m for fifth place. But Babka took the lead in the first round with 58.02 to Oerter's 57.64. In the fifth round Oerter threw yet another Olympic Record 59.18. He would go on to win another gold in Tokyo for third successive time beating the holder of the world record at the time into silver before taking his fourth at Mexico City with a fourth Olympic record winning performance.

Barefooted Marathon

These days it is hard to imagine an Olympic athletics meet without any number of medals going to black African runners, but by 1960 there had still to be the rise in Kenyan distance running, let alone anywhere else. However along the road of the Rome including past the Collesium and along the famous Appian Way  a barefoot Ethiopian made amends for that.

At 10km there was a group of five already formed with Allah Saoudi (Morocco), Arthur Keily & Brian Kilby (GB), Gerhart Hecker (Hungary) and that Ethiopian in his bare feet Adebe Bikilia. Just three seconds back was Bertie Messitt of Ireland. 

But the heat started to play its part by 15km a totally different group had formed at the front. Bikila and Keily were still there but a different Moroccan Rhadi Ben Abdesselam and the Belgian Aurèle Van den Driessche. Saoudi was next some 23 seconds back, Kilby 42 seconds behind the leaders. Hecker and Messitt had dropped right away and would be among those that failed to complete the course.

At 20 km it was just the two pictured in the lead Bikila and Rhadi in 1h 2'39", Van den Driessche was 26 seconds behind, Keily was 4th  with Dutchman Frans Künen 5th. Worth mentioning is Barry Magee of New Zealand who was 10th five kilometres earlier only 57 seconds back. While others were dropping off he had only lost 4 seconds on the leaders pace and was now 8th. 5km later Magee had climed to 3rd one 1'24" behind the leaders along with Sergey Popov of the USSR who he had been running with, they were now 23 seconds clear of Keily. With another pair Bakir Ben Aissa (Mor) and Franjo Mihalić (Yugoslavia). From 35km on though Popov was dropped by Magee and from 37km on Bikila dropped Rhadi but these three would win the medals, in the case of Magee certainly a case of slow and steady wins the day (or at least the bronze).

But Bikila's win was the start of the open floodgates of African nations winning distance races, that includes an Ethiopian who won the Marathon in 1964, the first time the Marathon title was defended.

Future King in golden dragon

Nyrefs skippered by then HRH Crown Prince
Constantine is the farther yacht GE-3
Back to the Bay of Naples for one final piece of Olympic trivia. For the second time a Crown Prince of a European Royal Family won gold at an Olympics. The first occasion was Crown Prince Olav of Norway, who since 1957 had been King Olav V. This time it was the now monarchs 3rd cousin once removed and the Crown Prince of the land of the Olympics Greece of the Hellenes themselves.

The twenty year-old Prince Constantine didn't start too well skippering his Dragon Class yacht Nyrefs, he only came 10th in the first race of the regatta. But the 532 points awarded for that postion would end up as his disgarded score when the best six scores were taken at the end. On the last two days of August in races two and three he placed third in the dragon fleet. But he started September in race four with a win, which pulled him ahead of the Argentine and Canadian crews with only Italy still ahead of him. 

Race five saw the Italians finish a lowly 11th with Constantine taking Greece into fourth behind Great Britain, Argentina and Denmark. It meant that Argentina had recovered second place behind Italy but the gaps were closing for the top three. The next race saw the Greek boat only nine seconds behind Norway for second, but Argentina had been disqualified from that race and Italy only 14th. It meant that if Italy didn't win a fourth place finish would be enough. Constantine did crew his boat to 4th in the final race of the regatta, Argentina came 10th and were not able to challenge and the Italians were disqualified.

See also the full list of all my Olympic posts.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

He came from a land down under

Many of you will not recognise the name Greg Ham but once one of, if not the, most famous flute riffs in pop music strikes out you will immediately know the song.

For it was Ham whose flute underpins all of Men at Works big global smash Down Under probably the only song in history to reference a vegemite sandwich, men chundering, a VW combie. As well as flute he played, saxaphone, percussion (see the bottle playing at the start of the video for Down Under) and keyboards.

Ham was found dead at his Melbourne home today at the age of 58, after a friend had tried to get hold of him for a week with no reply.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Inspire a generation - London 2012 Motto

So with 100 days to go before the Olympics come to London, Lord Coe has revealed the motto for the 2012 Games

Inspire a Generation

Picture via the BBC
At the same time the double Olympic Champion and London 2012 Chairman was unveiling a giant set of Olympic Rings composed of 20,000 flowers at Kew Gardens. He said of the motto:

"It is everything we have been saying since we have started this extraordinary journey. 
"It is the heartbeat, the very DNA of this organisation and a rallying cry for the athletes to come to the UK to perform at their very best and inspire the world."

So with a little over 3 months to go the excitement is heating up.

Monday, 16 April 2012

I am the bowling rain God

I apologise for any rain you may have encountered this evening. Unless of course you are one of the people who was added to the drought area earlier today, in which case you're welcome.

Saturday may have been the first friendly match of the season but that was away. It was also the opening day of the greens at Ward Park, Bangor where my team North Down play their home matches. Therefore today I was always going to get down there to play a few ends.

Of course this morning the Sun was out, but I was helping my Mum with some things. This afternoon though overcast and windy was dry. Of course as soon as I started to get ready to leave the house this evening after a yummy fish pie it started to rain. Not a lot, but a persistent drizzle, that lasted at least as long as daylight did.

However, as bowls is a sport that you have to carry on playing even in the rain, that is one reason that I do practice in drizzle when I get the chance, I don't want to have to encounter it for the first time in a match. So I was out in the rain for the first session of the season on my own green. That said, despite the green being heavier than the all weather surface down at Cloughey on Saturday, I was happy with my first bowls on grass this season. Weight and line were good the majority of the time.

So again I apologise for this evening's weather. But I'm a bowler, I was expecting it.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

When satisfied doesn't tell the whole story #ldconf

At the conference in Birmingham I would say I was satisfied with the way police dealt with security. It may have something to do with being raised in Northern Ireland that I noticed certain things that maybe many of my party colleagues didn't quite see, or maybe didn't quite understand was was going on, such as swabs off various parts of the ICC first thing in the morning, or the odd movement at the edge of my peripheral vision.

Of course while I may have been satisfied with how the security operation went at Birmingham, that has to be taken under advisement. Anyone who saw my only contribution from the stage will know I wasn't that satisfied with procedure before the conference. If you didn't see what I said you can take a look.

 Now from what I understand only 66% were satisfied or higher with security arrangements at conference, from their feed back forms. That does leave 1 not satisfied to a greater or lesser extend to every two above. But also how many of those would normally have been a higher than satisfied rating.

You see security arrangements cover more than merely pre-conference accreditation checks. It also covers the handling of queues, the security on site, the ease of access between sites etc. So a very satisfied can become a satisfied because of a mishandling of one area very easily.

There was a vote at conference, bear in mind this was only of the reps that attended conference, as I mentioned in my speech there are those who were not with us, some refused to seek access to the security zone because of the accreditation process. That vote didn't go the way of what the Lib Dems Federal Conference Committee (FCC) said they 'had' to do. The other speeches pointed out flaws in what the police said they 'had' to do, just in the way that Lib Dem MPs did when the police said they 'had' to have the right to detain for 90 days without trial. Remember that?

Therefore to be asked to give my opinion on accreditation at conference by Andrew Wiseman, chair of FCC yet again seems a bit much. I have already given it three time. First when I noticed a Northern Irish issue with the disclosure of both passport numbers, something that was flippantly ignored. Second when I spoke and conference voted to keep Lib Dem Conference liberal, something that now seems to be ignored, and finally in the comments I made on my conference feed back form.

I am however, now stating why I am opposed to it yet again, for a fourth time.

Sometimes you just have to repeat yourself. But come on FCC I'm not going to let you carry out a neverendum on this issue. We have spoken, we have instructed you to seek a better situation, get on with it. If you cannot watch out for your positions when those conference reps get a chance to elect a new FCC later this tear.

Sometimes I know I have to repeat myself, so today is one of those days.

Friday, 13 April 2012

1956 Summer Olympics Melbourne: XVI Olympiad

Main poster for the XVI Games
The main competition for the 1956 Games came from Buenos Aires, Argentina and was decided by a single vote on the 4th Round for voting at the 43rd IOC Session in Rome, Italy. Eliminated after the first round were Chicago, Minneapolis, Philadelphia and San Francisco all in the USA. Mexico City after losing 6 of its nine first round votes was eliminated after round two and Los Angeles and Detroit were eliminated after the third round. All six USA cities totalled 10 votes in the first round which would have been more than Buenos Aires and Mexico's nine at that stage had there been a unity candidate.

However, the win for Melbourne meant that the Games were coming south of the Equator for the first time in their history.

Nations 72 (+3)
Competitors 3314 (-1641)
Sports 17 (NC)
Events 145 (-4)

22 November to 8 December, 1956 hosted by Melbourne, Australia


11 to 17 June, 1958 equestrian events hosted by Stockholm, Sweden

Poster for the Equestrian Games
For only the second time the games were held across two countries. Whereas in 1920 in Antwerp, it was one sailing event was moved due to water conditions in this case an entire sport was moved.

Horses in Stockholm

However, an IOC Congress in Athens in 1954 having decided that the the "rigorous stipulations in Australia for bringing in of horses" made it impossible to hold the equestrian events there and entrusted this part of the Games to Stockholm, Sweden.

Bizarrely having the events in two totally separate nations at totally separate teams it meant that five nations took part in the XVI Olympiad without sending any competitors to the 'host' city. These were Cambodia, Egypt, Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland. Of those the Swiss are unique in being the only country to have won an Olympic medal without sending an Athlete to the country that was awarded the Games, with a bronze in the team dressage.

Several of the teams chartered planes to bring their horses to the games. But those from Portugal spent five days on a train to get there. They were then stabled with the Swedish Horse Guards only a few hundred metres from the Stockholm Stadium.

The Olympic Stadion from the 1912 Games was used to host the showjumping and dressage events. Indeed the stadium had been designed in such a way to allow it to be transformed to allow for showjumping overnight even in the 1912 Games, at which Sweden won the team events in jumping and three-day eventing. This was also the venue for showjumping and dressage phases of the eventing.

The three-day eventing endurance phase started about 1 km from the stables. The first phase 7.2km at a pace of no more than 240m per minute started as Husarbron in the Lilljansskogen wood. The second phase 3.6km over just 12 obstacles within a pace of 600m per minute, though there was bonuses for riding it faster than 690m/min, took place at the Ulriksdal dirt track to the north of Stockholm. The cool down period then was a further 14.4km over the same track and conditions of phase one.

Queen Elizabeth II along with her sister visited the equestrian part of the Games, taking a keen interest in the three-day eventing. Especially the that of Britain's Bernie Hicks who she is seen here watching him riding her horse Countryman III through the water obstacle along with (pictured to her left) Princess Margaret, the Duchess of Gloucester and Princess Sibylla of Sweden. Despite the rain Her Majesty, the Swedish Royal Family and members of other European Royal houses spent most of the afternoon watching the competitors.

The following day for the third discipline the sun was out again and the two Royal Families who between them were hosting the 1956 Olympic Games shared the first golden haul of this summer's Games. In the individual event Petrus Kastenman on Iluster (pictured right) took the individual honours. But Queen Elizabeth's horse with Hicks and Francis Weldon on Kilbarry and Arthur Rook on Wild venture took the honour's for Great Britain and the Queen of Australia.

Sweden dominated the dressage taking both individual and team gold, something that the German's did in the showjumping.

So to Australia

After a successful week in June in Sweden it was off to Australia in November for the main event. Although since the Equestrian Games the USSR had occupied Hungary which led to the withdrawal of Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland who had all competed in Stockholm. Although both Hungary and the USSR took part. It was the turn of the People's Republic of China to boycott the Games because the Republic of China (Taiwan) was being allowed to compete under the name Formosa. There was also the Suez Crisis which led to the non-appearance of Egypt and Malta.

The teams of East and West Germany meanwhile competed as a combined Germany team this arrangement would carry on until 1968.

New nations were Ethiopia, Fiji, Kenya, Liberia, Federation of Malaya, North Borneo (now Sabah part of Malaysia) and Uganda.

Ethiopia and Kenya where not yet the world strength in middle to long distance running they have become and indeed while Ethiopia sent three runners to the marathon, Kenya only sent one man to the 5000m coming 7th, a marathon runner and a high jumper. Of the new nations it was Malaya that had the best performer when K.B. Tan came 6th in the Middle-Heavyweight 82.5-90kg weightlifting category.

With all the tension in the world the Olympic Truce never felt more real than at the Melbourne Games and when the Organising Committee President received this letter a very special Olympic tradition was created:

"Mr. Hughes,
"I believe it has been suggested that a march should be put on during the Closing Ceremony, and you said it couldn't be done. I think it can be done.
That one Olympic nation march at the closing ceremony
During the march there will be only one Nation. War, politics, and nationality will be all forgotten. What more could anybody want, if the whole world could be made as one Nation ? 
"Well, you can do it in a small way. This is how I think . . . No team is to keep together and there should be no more than two team-mates together. They must be spread out evenly . . . I'm certain everybody, even yourself, would agree this would be a great occasion . . . no-one would forget. The important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win, but to take part."

The letter came from John Ian Wing and Australian-born Chinese carpenter's apprentice. At a meeting on the lunchtime before the closing ceremony the idea which had sparked the imagination of H. S. Kent Hughes finally got the approval of those that had to sign off on the idea. The now familiar sight of the athletes mingling together as they enter the stadium one last time was born and came into being the next day 8 December. Although it was still a formal column rather than the mass of exuberant athletes we will undoubtedly see again on 12 August.

Now on Television

Television arrives at the Olympics
1956 saw a new way to broadcast the games. Television was just starting to take off, but these were the Games that were first to welcome TV into the celebration. However, it was not without complications as the newsreel providers didn't like the encroachment unto their turf.

As the Official Report says:

The Organizing Committee, therefore, through no fault of its own, found itself in the midst of a battle royal between news gatherers and entertainment providers. Direct telecasts of sporting events in Great Britain and America had always been " entertainment " but, because the Melbourne Olympic Games would be shown by film after the event took place, they were claimed as news.
Sport is recognized as one of the best television features, but apparently it will be some time before agreement will be reached as to what is a fair payment to both television and the sport concerned. The Organizing Committee also realized that, if they departed from the recognized standard of three minutes daily free for newsreels, they might be setting a precedent for other sports and for future Olympic Games. Pages 156-7
In the end the three minute daily offer to the newsreel companies was left open. But the television broadcast was nothing like the total saturation we have today. There were six half-hour programmes produced for American syndication. Japan also received footage both for TV and movie theatres. England took film stock and produced a 75 minute film for release 10 days after the conclusion of the Games, versions of which were then dispatched across Europe.

Locally in Australia TV companies in Melbourne and Sydney had only been operating a matter of weeks when the Games opened. But were given the option of screening material daily from any venue that had sold out. This meant that the option arose for daily coverage of the main arena. A nominal fee was charged due to the small amount of sets available in Australia at the time but film was sent daily to Sydney for broadcast there.

Blood in the water

The most famous game of water polo in Olympic history wasn't even in the final. But is wasn't just about the game that made the game so important. Less than a month before the Games opened there was an uprising in the Hungarian capital Budapest against the puppet Soviet regime. On the 1 November Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest, while the favourites for Waterpolo gold were in their training camp above the capital while the  unrest was being quelled. The Hungarian waterpolo team found themselves moved to Czechoslovakia to complete their pre-Games training. They only learnt of the extent of the '56 Hungarian Revolution when they arrived in Australia.

Evrin Zádor (Hun) leaving the pool after the
semi-final against the USSR
Many Hungarian athletes had decided that that would not return home at the end of the Games. So when the semi finals brought Hungary and the USSR together, two of the top nations along with Yugoslavia, there was a sense that the Hungarians wanted to show the USSR they were nobody's stooge.

The Hungarians had been taught Russian as part of their schooling so insults were flying in their opponents native tongue from the start. At one point team captain Dezső Gyarmati (who with the exception of 1968 was involved as player or head coach in each Hungarian team) punched one of the Russians which was caught on film.

Evrin Zádor who already had scored three in the tournament got two more in this match to help the Hungarians to a 4-0 lead. In the dying minutes of the game however Valentin Prokopov hit him across the face leading to blood pouring from around his right eye. The referee stopped the match early after the incident for fear that the crowd was going to get violent.

Zádor was one of the defectors from that team, he went to the USA were he coached a great name from the 1972 Olympics Mark Spitz.

Coxing from the front
Finding a course for the rowing in Melbourne itself proved impossible the two options the lake in Albert Park and the Yarra River didn't measure up to Olympic standards, a new bridge on the River meant that the division into lanes was impossible and the lake was too short and narrow. So the events took place at Ballarat on Lake Wendouree. The lake was almost square and to accommodate a 2000m straight course the lanes were laid out diagonally across the lake.

However, the shock of the Games was the boat in which the German coxed pairs emerged. Their cox Rainer Borkowsky was sitting in the bow of the boat with Karl-Henrich von Groddeck and Horst Arndt rowing behind him. Having won their heat and then narrowly beating the USA in their semi-final they suffered a reversal to Arthur Ayrault, Conn Findlay and cox Armin Seiffert.

Conn Findlay from that winning American crew would go on to medal in four Olympics taking coxed pair bronze with Richard Draeger in Rome in 1960 and another gold in 1964 at Tokyo with Edward Ferry on both occasions with Kent Mitchell coxing. But in 1976 he became one of the few Olympians to medal in different sports when he took bronze in the Tempest Class sailing with Dennis Conner , the man who famously lost the America's Cup for the first time in 132 years.

Three times a champ

Papp on the right taking his third consecutive gold
beating Torres on the left with a unanimous decision
On the 1 December at ring side people were gathered to see if Olympic history could be made. Having won gold as a middleweight in London in 1948 and Gold at light-middleweight in Helsinki four years before László Papp of Hungary was attempted to retain his Olympic title for an unprecedented third gold. The southpaw in the end defeated José Torres of the USA by a unanimous decision.

Both would go on to have pro careers Papp circumventing the ban on professional boxing in Hungary by training and fighting in Austria but it would be the American who would pick up a world title at light-heavyweight and not the three time Olympic champion.

More Hungarian gold

While Larisa Latyina of the USSR dominated the individual all around in women's gymnastics and their team the team gold. Three of the four apparatus golds went to the woman who came second in the individual Agnes Keleti of Hungary.  She along with the gold for floor (which she'd defended), beam and uneven bars helped Hungary to pick up team gold for portable apparatus the equivalent of rhythmic gymnastics.

However she was 35 at the time of Melbourne as was very lucky to even have been at any Olympics. In 1940 she was hotly tipped to take a gold for Hungary in the 1940 Games but of course World War II put a stop to that. But Keleti was an Hungarian Jew and went into hiding purchasing papers that said she was a Christian maid in a village in the countryside. Her father died in Auschwitz while her mother and sister like her survived by going into hiding. She would have taken part in London in 1948 but she was injured, so she made her Olympic gymnastic debut aged 31 in 1952 with gold in the floor, sliver in the team and bronze in team portable apparatus and uneven bars.

She took her four golds, along with individual and team silver medals with her as one of the 45 Hungarians, almost half their team, who stayed in Australia after the Games seeking political asylum, she settled in Israel and sent for her mother and sister to join her. She is still alive aged 91.

Ireland's crook of gold

Australia had John Landy the second man to run a sub four minute mile and a past holder of the 1500m record holder as home favourite for the metric mile on the track. He's even taken the Olympic Oath at the opening ceremony. When world record holder Isván Rozsavolgyi (Hun) and defending champion Josy Barthel failed to make it out of their heats,  even though five of the men who made the final had run a mile in under 4 minutes, Landy was still perceived to be predestined to be the Olympic champion.

Nobody had shown that script to the man who earlier that year had become the seventh man to enter that that sub four club and one of my predecessors into that club from this island.

Ron Delany is was who ran the tactical race. He stuck with Landy throughout and as the race entered the final bend with Landy near the back the Irishman started his burst quickly opening up a four metre lead. The German Klaus Richtzenhain was the first to respond and in the end he held off Landy for the silver but nobody could beat the Irishman to the tape.

Surprisingly despite great athletes like Eamon Coghlan, John Treacy, Sonia O'Sullivan, Cathrina McKiernan Ireland have yet to win an athletics gold medal since. Indeed he was the last Irish Olympic champion in any sport until 1992.

See also The full list of my posts of other Olympiads

Tour de France Teams announced

The teams for the 2012 Tour de France have been announced.

As always the top 18 pro teams in the world are systematically selected to take part so that means:

There are also four invites from the organisers.
With the announcement only coming this afternoon I will get around to profiling the teams a little nearer the time of the race.

Let's celebrate the Queen's birthday with the Tricolour

So Sinn Féin are welcoming the decision by the Assembly Commission to consider whether the Irish Tricolour should fly alongside the Union Flag at Stormont. I take it by that they mean on the same flag days, the only days that the Union Flag flies over the building.

So what are the 16 days that the Union Flag flies from all Government buildings in Northern Ireland?

Well there is one Saturday in June that will mark HM the Queen's official birthday, along with the 10th to mark HRH the Duke of Edinburgh's birthday and the 21st April for her actual birthday and the 20th November to mark their wedding anniversary. There is also 6th February to mark the Queen's Accession to the throne and 2nd June to mark her coronation.

Then we have the 19th February, 10th March, 15th August and 14th April to mark the birthdays of her children HRH The Duke of York, HRH The Earl of Wessex, HRH The Princess Royal and HRH The Prince of Wales in that order. Plus 20th January and 17th July for the Countesses of Wessex and Duchess of Cornwall.

The 2nd Sunday of November of course marks Remembrance Sunday and the 2nd Monday in March for Commonwealth Day.

So while none of the above seem to be days that Sinn Féin would want to see the tricolour flying I suspect it must be for the other two days that they are so adamant that the green, white and gold of the tricolour to fly on top of Stormont as well. So obviously it is for the other two days that are such pressing importance.

17th March St. Patrick's Day a given


9th May Europe Day.

So I say no give and take Sinn Féin you want it to fly we'll let you fly it on all the dates listed above.

And while we at it can Unionists keep to flying the flag on these days unless there is a member of royalty present that necessitates further days, and make sure that they only fly the Queen's standard when she is actually in the building. I doubt she is in some of the housing estates or shops that I've seen her standard fly outside throughout the summer months.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

It's Easter let's show the love with Christians, unless they are Gay

Today is Easter Sunday.

As a Christian it should be the day that I am at my most joyful, even more so than Christmas. Today is the day that marks the day that Christ conquered death from when he died on the cross for us.

Yet today I'm not joyful. Today I couldn't enjoy the service of praise that we had planned for this morning. The reason is the picture attached (I apologise for the quality it looked fine on my phone). However, what it is was a petition set up in support of the Coalition for Marriage including several newspaper extracts that including this one (I apologise for the Daily Mail link) which is derogatory about our Equalities Minister as well as spreading some untruths.

I've spent most of this afternoon with family, including the annual Easter Egg hunt around the garden of the nephews' other Nana. But before lunch I had started to write an email to my minster pointing him among other things to minutes of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland from 4 June 2007. Which said that:

Resolution 2 was then put to the House. For 159 against 120. The Resolution was declared passed.

That resolution was basically this paper on homosexuality (in full at the bottom of the article), you can see that there are some Guidelines which the minutes state:

That the General Assembly welcome the recent report of the Social Issues and Resources Panel regarding Sexual Orientation and authorise its publication as pastoral guidelines.

I have trailed every other minutes since 2007 and these Guidelines have not been rescinded despite some concern raised about how the Church of Scotland are dealing with LGBT issues at almost every General Assembly since.

I've not had a good day as far as Church goes. But have had some nice comments via Twitter and other means which I really appreciate. Indeed I very nearly set picked up my bass and walked out of the church before the service even began.

The email has been sent, rather than sending it straight away when it would have been angry it is more considered. But I do feel the need to pray about the future and where I can actually worship and receive pastoral care that is keep with what Christ, who has risen today, would have wanted.

Friday, 6 April 2012

1952 Summer Olympics Helsinki: XV Olympiad

A resurrection of the 1940 poster
featuring Paavo Nurmi
Having been under consideration in 1936 (no votes) and  actively seeking nomination in 1940 (second) Helsinki finally got to stage their games. They had been awarded the 1940 Games after Tokyo had been forced to abandon its hopes of hosting the games in 1938.

Progress on many of the Olympic venues had been well under way in 1939 when Europe once again found itself at war and Finland too found itself fighting for its independence. Indeed the Organising Committee were in air raid shelters whilst enemy bombing of Helsinki was going on while they decided on the winner of the competition to compose an Olympic Fanfare, it was to be heard only in 1952.

In the first round of balloting Helsinki had 14 votes the other 15 were split between Amsterdam (3) and the US cities of Minneapolis (4), Los Angeles (4), Detriot (2), Chicago (1) and Philadelphia (0). With the bottom three eliminated on the second round each of the top three received one additional vote enough to push Helsinki over 50%.

Nations 69 (+10)
Competitors 4955 (+841)
Sports 17 (nc)
Events 136 (+7)

19 July to 3 August, 1952 hosted by Helsinki, Finland

At 60°10′15″N Helsinki is the most northerly city ever to have hosted the Summer Olympics, beating nordic neighbour Stockholm's 59°19′46″N from 1912.

The poster for the games showed an illustration of Finland's own great distance runner Paavo Nurmi, who feats were to emulated by another great distance runner at these games (see below). The design was originally intended for the 1940 Games that Helsinki were preparing for at short notice. Along with 1912 triple distance running Gold medalist Hannes Kolemainen he did bear the Olympic Torch on its final leg to light the flame.

First Soviet gold medalist and indeed 1,2,3
wrapped in their blankets between throws
Israel were a new Olympic nation at the 1952 games they had been the 6th nation, as Palestine, to accept the invitation to the 1940 Helsinki Games but because of the war of independence in 1948 had not been able to make their debut then.

Also making a very much delayed first appearance was the USSR, the first gold for what became one of the Olympic Superpowers went to Nina Romanskova in the discus, in what was also the first instance of the Hammer and Sickle flag flying from all three poles in an Olympic ceremony as Yelisaveta Bagriantseva and Nina Dumbadze (who had lost her World record [53.37m] to Romanskova [53.61m] a month before and would reclaim it in October [57.04m]) took silver and bronze respectively. In the end the Soviet Union ended up 2nd in the medal table taking 22 Gold, 30 silver and 19 Bronze medals. They were most dominant in the Gymnastics something that is still true today taking nine of the possible 15 medals on offer and 22 out of the 47 medals of offer. Taking out the three team medals where they could only win one in each event that is half of all the medals awarded

1956 medalists in the womens K-1 500m in the German
colours on the left is arguably the only medalist for an
independent Saar
There were invites send out to the three German states at the time. Yes I did say three. The Federal Republic of Germany (West) accepted the invite sending 173 men and 32 women to take part in 123 events winning 7 silver and 17 bronze medals, the German Democratic Republic (East) did not send a team. The other German nation was Saarland or the Saar Protectorate that existed on the German/French border. The team from Saar produced  no medalists and returned to the Federal Republic on 1 Jan 1957, although their athletes competed for West Germany in the 1956 games, making this their only appearance at the Olympics. However, of all the years that German athletes took part in the Games this was the only time they failed to win a Gold.

However, if we are to look at Saar based on time as a separate state one of their 1952 athletes did pick up a medal for them in 1956. Her name was Therese Zenz and in the sea off Helsinki in her kayak only came 9th in K-1 500m. But in 1956 she would win silver in the same event (effectively Saar's only Olympic medal while not under the control of Germany), she repeated the achievement in 1960 (pictured on left) adding a second silver in the K-2 500m.

The People's Republic of China also competed for the first time. This lead to The Republic of China (Formosa/Taiwain) withdrawing their athletes from competition.

Other less controversial first time nations were The Bahamas, Gold Coast (now Ghana), Guatemala, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Netherlands Antilles, Nigeria, Thailand and Vietnam.

Sport innovations

There were no new Olympic events although the women gymnasts rather than taking part in just a team event had the events we know today, floor, vault, beam and uneven bars as individual events along with their overall team event. The Modern Pentathlon also saw the introduction of the team event based on the scores of the individual event. Elsewhere there were minor changes to classes and division of competition but there was nothing majorly different event wise from London 4 years previously.

However, there were innovations as to how the results could be relayed to spectators. In the athletics stadium and electric scoreboard was used to convey the results of the running events. At the jumping and throwing events numbers were flipped over to convey how the competitors were doing. At other venues where space was limited a codification of nations names to 2-5 letters was used to indicate results on score boards, this did away with the need to show things in 4 languages. This was the start of the standard three letter codes we now all now recognise for international sport of all types, not just at the Olympics.

Women and non-military on Horseback

For the first game the Equestrian events were opened up to non-military officers. This also as a result led to women being able to compete. It also remains the only sport that men and women compete for the same medals in all events on an equal basis regardless of gender. Most of the other Olympic sports have male and female events.

This led to the Danish dressage rider Lis Hartel making history as the first woman to win an Olympic medal on horseback in the individual event. Considering that the London Olympics emerge in the year of Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee the fact that in the year of the accession of such a horse loving monarch the first woman to win an equestrian medal did so on a horse called Jubilee. Even more astounding is that Mrs Hartel as a result of polio was paralysed below the knees and required assistance to mount and dismount. The duo where to repeat their silver performance in four years time when the Melbourne equestrian events were held in neighbouring Sweden at Stockholm (but more on the reasons why next week).

Lebanese medals

Zakaria Chibab first
Silver medal for Lebanon
Lebanon gained their first Olympic medals in the 1952 Games. Indeed totally 1952 has provided half of all the medals that the Levant state has achieved and they were both gained in the same event. It even warrants a mention in the official report of the Games.

A pleasant surprise was the emergence among the medalists of two Lebanese wrestlers P. 347

Those medals game in the Greco-Roman Wrestling silver in the bantamweight class (52-57kg) to Zakaria Chibab and bronze in the Welterweight class (67-73kg) to Khalil Taha. Very little is known about these wrestlers apart from their appearance at these games and the fact that they produced the first medals for their nation and that results in those bouts.

Luxembourg Gold and Czech family fortunes

The 1500m field contained the World Record holder at the distance Werner Leug (Ger) in a race in which he just pipped his compatriot Günter Dohrow (who failed to make the final here). There was also Roger Bannister (GB) who within 2 years would be the first man to run a sub 4 minute mile but who many thought was the favourite, plus the Swedish milers Olle Åberg and Ingvar Ericsson.

The Olympic record going into the final as the 1936 winning time of 3:47.8 and this race was fast, so fast indeed that that the first eight finishers all ran faster than the existing Olympic record. However, the fast finishing Luxembourger Josy Barthel shocked all the big names to take the tape and the gold medal. This is the only gold that the tiny European Grand Duchy has won in Athletics at any Games so far.

To win any distance over 1500m in Helsinki you had to be Czech and indeed you had to be called Emil Zátopek. On the 20 July the man from Kopřivnice, who shares my birthday, lined up to run 25 laps of the track in the 10,000m. After the fifth lap he took to the lead setting the pace and was never headed. He ended up running reverse splits running the second 5000m faster than the first. (14:43.4 to 14:33.6) Alain Mimoun of France came second some 15 seconds behind the new Olympic Record. However, Britain's Frank Sando had lost a shoe on the first lap and completed the race to finish 5th. Sixteen of the 33 runners if they had run the same time in London four years earlier would have beaten the silver medalist.

Chataway hits the ground as Zátopek heads
for second of his three golds
On 22 July he took part in the heats of the 5000m securing his place in the final. The final was another two days later. German Herbert Schade led most of the way but in his wake were five other runners Zátopek and Mimoun, Chris Chataway and Gordon Pirie from Great Britain and Gaston Reiff the defending champion from Belgium. They stayed together until about 600m from the end. At that point Reiff left the track and Pirie was dropped by the other four.

At the bell Zátopek took the lead, but the other three all came back past him on the back straight first Schade, then Mimoun and Chataway. With 250m to go Chataway kicked to the front, but halfway round the final bend Zátopek surged to the front again him followed by Mimoun and Schade. Chataway stepped on the inside curb and fell. He recovered but just lost on the line to Pirie for 4th place. Zátopek it was for gold in yet another Olympic Record with Mimoun again having to settle for silver.

Three days later Zátopek took part in his first ever Marathon. James Peters of Great Britain went off fast from the gun opening a lead even while the runners were still in the stadium and soon had over 100m lead over the next athlete. That was a lead he held until about 13km, when he was joined by Zátopek and Gustaf Jannson (Swe). By half distance Peters fast start was staring to pay as he was 10seconds behind the other two, by 30km he was a minute back, at 32km he was too exhausted to carry on. However, by this stage the double Olympic Champion had already started to put a gap between himself and the Swede at 30km he led by 26secs, by 35km by 1min 5 secs and over 2 minutes by 40km. In the approach to the stadium Argentine runner Reinaldo Gorno overtook Jannson for silver, but Zátopek was already the three time Olympic champion in the longest three athletic disciplines.

More Czech gold but keeping it in the family
Czechoslovakia did manage another gold in the athletics in the 1952 Games. It came in the women's javelin an hour after Zátopek had won his second gold in the 5000m. Throwing an Olympic Record 50.47 her name was Dana Zátopková, her husband was Emil Zátopek who had left London with one gold medal and two gold rings so he could marry his fiancée who had come 7th then. She's been invited to London the scene of the first of her four games and her late husbands first gold, but she doesn't want to miss a thing by nipping between venues so is staying at home with her TV remote.

First the Olympics  then youngest ever undisputed World Champ

Patterson in action ducking a punch in his first round bout
The Middleweight division final of the boxing didn't take long. Indeed most of the champion's opponents didn't go the distance. As the official report says:

The most phenomenal boxer, however, and the most victor was a youth of seventeen, the coloured American middleweight Floyd Patterson. Only his first opponent, Omar Tebbaka of France, lasted all three rounds. All the others fell to this agile youth and his amazing reach before the final gong. The final Paterson - Tita (Rumania) was the shortest in modern Olympic history, ending in 42 seconds in a knockout. The Official Report, page 399

Those ringside knew they were witnessing embryonic greatness. By the end of the year of the next Olympics had come around he had become the Youngest World Heavyweight Champion in history (until Mike Tyson later took that record) but also the first Olympic Gold Medalist to win a professional heavyweight title.

Cycling crashes

One thing about cycling whether on the road or on the track is that sooner or later you will witness a crash. Normally these events somehow the cyclists get back up and back on their bikes. In the 1000m Scratch Sprint race there was a horrific crash (pictured) in the repechage in the quarter finals when Frank le Normand of France suffered a burst tire and took out Stéphan Martens of Belgium. Falling unto concrete and then grass on the infield.

Under the rules of cycling such a crash demands a rerun of all four competitiors but Normand being hospitaslised was unable to take part and Martens was so badly injured that he wasn't able to put up a showing.

See also: The full list of my blogs about previous Olympics