The Big Read

The story of Rosemary Mula - the most dedicated volunteer in the world

Brian Oliver head and shoulders ©Brian OliverThe gold and silver medallists in the triple jump at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne both left their mark, in their own way, in sporting history.

In the second round there was a huge shock when Vilhjálmur Einarsson broke the Olympic record with a leap of 16.26 metres. His lead lasted only two rounds but Einarsson, in finishing second, became Iceland's first medallist and was thereafter known as "the silver man". He was so popular for his achievement that he was five times voted Iceland's sportsperson of the year. He later became a headmaster and a talented landscape artist.

The Brazilian who beat him, Adhemar Ferreira da Silva, had artistic tendencies too. In 1959 he played the role of Death in the film Orfeu Negro, which took an ancient Greek legend and set it in a twentieth-century favela. Orfeu Negro won the Palme d'Or at Cannes and the Oscar for best foreign-language film.

Caviar vol-au-vents were not on the menu, but 10 years on, the Athens 2004 legacy is a lot more positive than organisers are generally given credit for

By David Owen

David OwenA world-weary sigh invaded the cafeteria. An Olympic media veteran was contemplating another slab-like cheese (or was it spinach?) pie. "In Moscow they gave us caviar vol-au-vents," he groaned with Chekhovian whimsy.

The Athens 2004 Olympic and Paralympic Games did not get everything right. But given the unseemly rush to be ready, and persistent doubts over whether an economy the size of Greece could truly cope with the monstrous scale of a 21st century Olympics, they were an unmitigated, enchanting triumph.

Britain went briefly badminton-potty; the footballers of Iraq inspired their war-weary nation by winning through to the semi-finals precisely 252 days after the capture of Saddam Hussein; and, in the open-air pool, we thrilled to the exploits of Thorpe, Phelps, Van den Hoogenband, Lochte, Hackett, Katajima and Peirsol in a men's swimming competition for the ages.

Thirty years on from Coe's unique Olympic defence, and 60 years on from Bannister and Landy's Miracle Mile, those great deeds still resonate

By Mike Rowbottom

mike rowbottom ©insidethegamesSignificant anniversaries of two great foot races fall either side of this weekend - races won by two Britons who, through their performances on these and other occasions, have earned timeless renown in world athletics.

Tomorrow will be exactly 30 years since Sebastian Coe became the first man to defend the Olympic 1500 metres title as he finished just under a second clear of his domestic rival, world champion Steve Cram, following one of the most remorseless demonstrations of willpower ever witnessed on the track.

And Thursday (August 7) marked the 60th anniversary of what has come be known as the "Miracle Mile" at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, a race in which Britain's Roger Bannister, who earlier in the year had become the first man to break four minutes, showed similar determination to overcome the challenge of John Landy, the Australian who had bettered his landmark time a month later.

A tribute to the Olympic Movement's fallen

By Philip Barker

Philip BarkerThe city of Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina has sweet and bitter memories for the Olympic Movement. In 1984, the XIV Winter Games proved a fortnight of tremendous charm and wonderful sport. Tragically, civil war soon ravaged the city and at the 1994 Lillehammer Games, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Juan Antonio Samaranch was forced to make a plea for peace at the Opening Ceremony.

Happily, tranquillity has now returned to the region but the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914 in Sarajevo, had unleashed World War One, the most terrible conflict the world had ever seen. Tomorrow marks the centenary of when Great Britain declared war on Germany, with fighting continuing until the November 11, 1918 - Armistice Day. Millions died, many were sportsmen and at least 160 had competed in the Olympic Games.

Hungarian fencer Béla Zulawszky was killed in action in Sarajevo itself. He had won silver in the sabre at the London Olympics of 1908 at the age of 39. A career soldier in the army of the Austro Hungarian Empire, he had reached the rank of captain and was killed in action a day after his birthday in October 1914. His team mate Béla Békessy also died on the front in 1916. He had competed in foil, epee and sabre at the Stockholm 1912 Games where he had won the silver medal.

How Hollywood ensured a happy ending for the Olympics

By David Owen

David OwenToday the Olympic Movement is well established as the most powerful, and one of the best-resourced, sports organisations the world has seen. But it has not always been that way.

Thirty years ago, political pressure and inept commercial management had weakened it to the point where its very existence was under threat. What then enabled the Five Rings to check out of intensive care and embark on the path to complete recovery? A few things, but one of the most efficacious tonics was without doubt the unexpected success of the Games the 30th anniversary of whose Opening Ceremony falls on July 28: Los Angeles 1984.

Earlier this year, insidethegames was privileged to be granted an extended interview by the man chiefly responsible for Tinseltown's unlikely Olympic triumph. Peter Ueberroth's personal Olympic odyssey took him from the lobby of a bank where he opened an account with $1,000 (£589/€745) of his own money to the cover of Time magazine. As a plot line, it might have been scripted by Hollywood. In the annals of sports business management, it is the equivalent of Diego Maradona's virtuoso performance - OK, minus the Hand of God incident - at the 1986 FIFA World Cup, or perhaps the barefoot Abebe Bikila winning the Olympic Marathon in 1960 in Rome.

Influential actor in Olympic Movement looks ahead to "Oscars of sport"

By David Owen

David OwenIf anyone is in a position to comprehend what International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach is seeking to achieve with his reform-minded Olympic Agenda 2020 initiative, it is Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, President of the 35-year-old Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC).

Since his election as only the second ANOC President in Moscow in April 2012, the 50-year-old member of the ruling family of Kuwait has been overseeing a far-reaching programme of reforms that are reinvigorating the body responsible for protecting and advancing the interests of the 200-plus National Olympic Committees (NOCs).

Changes have included updating the constitution - ensuring for example that a General Assembly would be held every year, overseeing a soon-to-be-completed move of ANOC's headquarters to new modern premises in the Olympic capital of Lausanne, and establishing nine commissions and working groups charged with identifying and solving pressing issues facing NOCs.

The Pyeongchang 2018 backstage story

By Terrence Burns

Terrence BurnsWe are a little less than four-years away from the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

This is a story, just one of many, of their bid's path, culminating in victory almost three years ago in Durban, South Africa.

Much is being written and read in the current media about prospective bid cities for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. A lot of the commentary pertains to "consultants". Much of the commentary is ill informed or naive at best, or wrong, spiteful and even defensive at worst.

Brendan Foster - on sporting inspiration, and why he wants one million more running by 2020

Mike Rowbottom ©insidethegamesIt is - although he finds it hard to believe - 40 years since Brendan Foster christened the new track for which he had campaigned so tirelessly at his local Gateshead stadium by setting a world 3,000 metres record there.

Those who witnessed the efforts of the local hero as he drove himself on to cross the line in 7 minutes, 35.1 seconds, head rolling with the effort, will recall the spectacle. It was inspiring.

Forty years on, Foster - who ended 1974 as European 5,000m champion and BBC Sports Personality of the Year - is still attempting to generate inspiration within the sport which has shaped his own life.

Bowling's image crisis, and what needs to be done about it

By Zjan Shirinian

Zjan ShirinianLuis Suárez and bowling have something in common, it turns out. Bear with me here.

Image might not be everything, but it counts for an awful lot. Suárez's Jaws-like shoulder-gnawing at the FIFA World Cup last week simply added to his bad-boy image, the perception he has a short fuse and he bites before he thinks.

I have no idea if the Uruguayan international has any skills on the bowling alley, but the pins might - if they could talk - express some sympathy for him.
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