By Mike Rowbottom

Christopher Davidge, pictured right preparing for the 1958 Empire and Commonwealth Games, has died aged 85 ©Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesChristopher Davidge, who rowed for Britain in three successive Olympics from 1952 and led the team into the 1976 Montreal Games Opening Ceremony as Chef de Mission, has died aged 85.

Davidge, who retired from competition shortly after winning gold in the coxless four at the 1962 Empire and Commonwealth Games, played a hugely active role in sports administration, serving as Chairman and then Vice President of the British Olympic Association in the 1970s,

He was a Steward of Henley Royal Regatta - where he won the Silver Goblets in the men's coxless pairs three times - a member of the Commonwealth Games Council, President of the Amateur Rowing Association from 1977 until 1985 and a Council member for the international Rowing Federation (FISA).

He attended the 1984 and 1988 Olympics in Los Angeles and Seoul respectively as chairman of the FISA Regattas Commission.

Davidge - who also rowed in three Boat Races for Oxford, including the 1951 running when the Oxford boat sank - recalled in a 2011 interview with Rowing & Regatta, the British Rowing magazine, how he had helped persuade New Zealand's Chef de Mission to resist pressure being brought to bear at home to boycott the Montreal Games in 1976.

The Oxford crew, with the late Christopher Davidge aboard, sink during the 1951 Boat Race ©Getty ImagesThe Oxford crew, with the late Christopher Davidge aboard, sink during the 1951 Boat Race ©Getty Images

Boycott threats were made after 17 African countries demanded that New Zealand - whose rugby players had recently played against apartheid South Africa - should withdraw.

"Great pressure was being put on the New Zealand Chef de Mission," Davidge recalled.

"He came to me to discuss it.

"And I said: 'You do not under any circumstances agree to withdraw.

"'Rugby football is not part of the Olympic Games.

"'Therefore, there is no reason whatsoever why the Olympic team should be crucified, as it were.

"'You stand firm."

New Zealand remained at the Games allowing John Walker to get his 1500 metres gold medal.

A total of 22 countries withdrew.

In 1980 it was Davidge's turn to withstand political pressure as - in his position as ARA President - he was called into the office of the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Carrington, who sought to persuade him to join the US boycott of the Moscow Games following the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union.

Davidge stood firm.

He died on Monday (December 22). 

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