Mike Rowbottom: The official London 2012 commemorative book – it's full of riches
Thursday, 01 November 2012
1992...Barcelona...walking back down the dusty pathways of Montjuïc hill amid a tide of spectators at the end of another night's athletics at the stadium, the air still packed with heat, the lights of the city twinkling below ...Ben Johnson failing to reach the 100 metres final (thank goodness)...Sally Gunnell leading into the turn in the 400m hurdles final, and maintaining that lead to the line ahead of the gaudy figure of Sandra Farmer-Patrick of the United States...Chris Boardman grinning after winning the individual pursuit cycling gold by a metaphorical mile...
1996...Atlanta...the night of the bomb, wandering through the city streets trying to get a comment from one unwilling soul after another and beginning to realise that I might have done better to have stayed put at the digs and watched CNN... ears reverberating the chanting of "USA...USA" as the home gymnasts secure the gymnastics women's team gold despite the drama of Kerri Strug's fall and rise for her final vault...Frankie Fredericks running a personal best of 19.66sec for the 200m and not getting anywhere near Michael Johnson...being told by a marshal that I could not walk 20 yards into a venue as I had not arrived by bus, and having to hitch a very short lift in a carful of Japanese photographers...
2000...being told by a bus driver "Where do you want to go?" (What? You mean you are here for Me?)...Watching cyclist Jason Queally set an Olympic record in the individual pursuit on day one of the Games, and then seeing all remaining riders fail to match it as the Briton, looking on from the centre of the arena, became assured of bronze, then silver, then gold...Cathy Freeman sitting stunned after winning the 400m gold medal for herself and, oh yes, the entire host nation with special reference to its native Aboriginal people...seeing Denise Lewis embracing her coach Charles van Commenee in the mixed zone after she had held her injured body together for long enough to take heptathlon gold...
2004...witnessing the effective no man's land around the Olympic Stadium, which had been finished in the nick of time, but with no time for landscaping...watching the marathon finish in the small, marble stadium which had hosted the first Modern Games of 1896...walking into a press conference the day after Britain's men had won the 4x100m gold so unexpectedly, seeing the beaming faces of Messrs Campbell, Gardener, Devonish and Lewis-Francis and coming out with the incisive journalistic response: "Well done!"..
2008...watching Christine Ohuruogu add an Olympic 400m title to the world title she had won the previous year in a stupendous demonstration of strength and willpower...walking to the massive Bird's Nest stadium every night and seeing photo after photo being taken of a spectators holding up their arms in an appearance of grasping the Olympic Torch which flamed at the end of the arena...
And 2012? The memories of the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics are so close that it is hard to know what will persist. But there is now a comprehensive reminder of the Games which sat so happily in the middle of what has already been described as a golden summer of sport – in the form of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games' official commemorative book, which is entitled, not unreasonably, The Official Commemorative Book (Wiley, £29.99).
Written by former Daily Telegraph athletics correspondent Tom Knight and Sybil Ruscoe, the journalist and broadcaster, this handsome tome comes with a foreword from Sebastian Coe, chairman of London 2012 and the man credited so hugely with the manifest success of the whole enterprise.
"When our time came, we got it right," writes Coe. "And I am incredibly proud to say that all this was made in Britain. I hope the London 2012 Games made you proud too, and that this beautiful book will rekindle memories of an incredible summer and be treasured and shared for many years to come."
A succinct introduction makes it clear that, for all the magnificent leverage exerted by Coe, the gaining of the Games involved huge efforts from a large number of people. After the disappointments of three failures to gain the Games either for Birmingham or Manchester, the London bid for which, it became clear, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had always been waiting, was set in motion by a British Olympic Association (BOA) feasibility report produced by David Luckes, goalkeeper in Britain's hockey team at the 1996 Games. David Welch, the late sports editor of the Daily Telegraph, did all he could to energise the idea of a home bid.
And massive credit went to Tessa Jowell, then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, for gradually persuading a host of Cabinet colleagues including the Prime Minister himself, of whom she asked: "Tell me what the answer to this question is – we are the fourth largest economy in the world, we are a nation who love our sport and we think London is the greatest city in the world, yet we don't dare to bid for the Olympic Games?"
So much for the groundwork. The bulk of the book picks out the stories and exploits of the Games that will resound down the years, complemented by numerous apt and startling images. A detailed results section at the end of the book frees the text to adopt a newspaper-type attitude to the sporting events of the summer, featuring the juiciest items.
I am dipping into it at random now. "Lightning Bolt strikes again in 100m final." And again: "Broken jaw bronze for Team GB" – the tale of hockey captain Kate Walsh's courageous and instant return from a horrible injury. Paralympic table tennis – a picture of Poland's Natalia Partyka, intent on a serve, en route for another gold as she maintained her 12-year unbeaten run at the Paralympics.
The book is full of riches. Recommended.
To order a copy of the book click here.
Mike Rowbottom, one of Britain's most talented sportswriters, has covered the past five Summer and four Winter Olympics for The Independent. Previously he has worked for the Daily Mail, The Times, The Observer, the Sunday Correspondent and The Guardian. He is now chief feature writer for insidethegames.