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Last updated 26 October 2019


My thoughts about Tokyo 1964 (and 2020)

From Mike Martineau ex Member & Past President, 26 October 2019

Arguably, 1964 was one of the best years of my life. And an Olympic Year too. Iíd left School at 16 so, in 1964, I had been at work for two years in Local Government. I passed my driving test, had bought a Morris Minor VXW914, and drove down to Dubrovnik and back with two School friends, camping in a pitiful apology for a tent. The Rhine, Oberammergau, Innsbruck, Venice on the way, and Switzerland, Paris on the way back. And also at 18, I passed parts 1 and 2 of an Intermediate Professional Qualification with a subject prize, the youngest person ever to do so. Loved my Sport, played football badly for the Council team, supported Chelsea who were on a roll with Tommy Docherty, Chopper and the Cat. And I met my wife. Life was very good. Also very much into Athletics. Couldnít not be with an Olympian for a father. Trips with him to the White City had been the norm for almost 10 years! Inter Counties, AAAs, Internationals. Annoyed by my Dad who went to see Ibbotson break the World Mile Record in 1957. Went in his break, he worked at nearby Park Royal. He told me at breakfast the next morning!

Vest, blazer badge, commemorative bronze medal and photo of my Dad finishing

Diploma given to everyone finishing in first 6

My first real recollection of the Olympics was of Dadís bronze medal proudly displayed on the mantelpiece in our front room. He came 5th but every participant in the Games received a commemorative bronze medal. Dad was in the 3 selected in 1948 and got close in 1952 but not close enough. And in 1952 he was 37 so getting on a bit! Of course he had, like so many of his generation, missed the opportunity of competing in the 1940 and 1944 Games as they never took place. 1956 I have a memory of hearing the commentary at breakfast time of Brasher winning the Steeplechase. We didnít have a TV in 1960, but my Aunt in Loughton did. And I stayed with her for two weeks and watched lots of the action. Remember the 100m and Radford winning the bronze. Two false starts, one each by winner and runner up. Third time lucky with the start! With todayís rules Peter would have won Gold!

1964 in Tokyo. One thing at the outset that should be noted is that of the 5151 competitors in the Ď64 Games only 678 were female. A slightly higher percentage than in 1948 where less than 10% were ladies. In the 1964 Athletics, 24 events for Men, just 12 for Women (9 in 1948). Women could run no further than 800m (200m in 1948, it was considered bad for them!). Just 93 Nations and 19 Sports in 1964. 2016, it was 207 Nations, 28 Sports and 11238 competitors, 47 Athletics events, as no 50k Walk for women. In 2012 it was 55/45 for Men/Women. Canít find the figures for 2016.

Memories of Tokyo 1964. Great expectations for Packer in the 400 but, in the event, disappointment. And of course the same reaction in the Menís 400 for her fiancť, Robbie Brightwell. But redemption in the 800 for Ann. However, strangely it didnít feel to me as good as a win in the 400 would have done! Felt a bit of an anticlimax. Canít explain why! Emperor Hirohito had opened the Games which were held between 10th and 24th October. Begs the question as to why the Games in 2020 will be end July early August! Mary Rand was exceptional. Disappointment in the Pentathlon, only silver, even though she was best performer in 3 of the 5 events. 6 metres behind Irina Press in the Shot Putt was the big problem! But joy with the Gold in the Long Jump where she was outstanding with a 6.77 WR. The medal in the 4x100 completed her set of G, S and B. Sensibly, she didnít compete in the sprint hurdles for which she was also selected and was a likely medalist. Dame Mary Peters was 4th in the Pentathlon.

Lynn Davies exceeded expectations in what has always been one of my favourite events. A very tight competition where he defeated favourites Boston and Ter-Ovanesyan. But it was Walking that naturally excited our household. Paul Nihil from my Dadís old Club, Surrey WC, missing Gold by being just 19 seconds behind Abdon Pamich. 1960 winner, Don Thompson, was 9th even though he walked the distance 3 minutes faster than in Rome. In 16th place, and in his 5th Olympics, was John Llunggren who won the event in 1948. In 1964 he walked the distance 12 minutes faster than he did in 1948! John had been just 17 seconds behind Don when winning silver in 1960. Ken Matthews won the 1964 20k Walk in an Olympic Record. Had seen Ken walk many times at the White City and neither my Dad nor I favoured his walking style, far preferring the poetry in motion movement of one of his contemporaries, Stan Vickers. Stan was bronze medalist in the 1960 Games at 20k and was also in Melbourne in 1956.

Ron Clarke excited everyone! World Record holder at 10000, how could he not win in Tokyo! Great disappointment! He only won bronze behind winner Billy Mills. Over 45 seconds slower than his 1965 WR. And of course Mexico was far from a level playing field and he probably destroyed his health in the effort. 6th place and over 2 minutes slower than his WR, such were the effects of Altitude. Saw him in 1965 being the first person to break 13 minutes for 3 miles with his 12.52. Absolutely awesome! That event mattered far more in those days and 13 minutes was another barrier a bit like the 4 minute mile and 2 hour Marathon. It was also just 4 days before his 27.39 WR for 10000m. He never won an Olympic Gold but was given one by his great admirer Emil ZŠtopek. In 1964, Ron didnít just run the 10000, he did heat and final of the 5000, 13.48 and 13.58. 9th in the 5000 final and 9th in the Marathon in 2.20. Met Ron Clarke on a couple of occasions and asked him about the Tokyo 10000. Clearly it was still a big disappointment.

Basil Heatley was a hero. Great performance in 1964, but 4 minutes behind Bikila who famously ran in bare feet in 1960. In shoes however in 1964. It was stated that he had his appendix removed 6 weeks before the Tokyo Marathon. Tragic early end to his life at age 41 after a cerebral haemorrhage related to being paralysed in a car accident. He had competed in what became the Paralympics at sleigh-riding. He was given a State Funeral.

But back to Basil! Met him at a 1991 gathering of living Olympians in Manchester to support the bid for Manchester hosting the Olympics. An occasion with Princess Anne present and British Olympians from as far back as 1928. Each, including my Dad, was presented with a gold pin with the 5 rings and the year of the Olympiad they competed at. Basil had put on a few pounds but along with everyone else enjoyed a very joyous occasion. Brian Kilby was there too. 4th in the 1964 Marathon just 40 seconds behind the Japanese, Tsuburaya.The Rev Martin Winbolt-Lewis was there. I had run against him in a National League 400m in Blackburn. I think I entered the finishing straight as he crossed the line! McDonald Bailey, sprinter at 1948 and 1952 Games was also there. Tall and distinguished, with white hair. The only black man in the 1948 Menís Athletic team photo!

There was another Ron Clark! He won the Poly Marathon in 1956 and was selected for the 1956 Games in Melbourne. Sadly he was a DNF. He ran in plimsoles bought for ten shillings (50p) in Woolworths. He lives just around the corner from me in Biggin Hill and I met him when giving a talk on the 1948 Olympics to the local Probus Club. What would all of these great runners from yesteryear make of the new Shoe technology!

So Tokyo 2020! It will write its own History. Hopefully this will be very positive for people like Dina and KJT. There will be surprises and new names will appear. In the lead up there will be much said and shown about 1964 and many living medalists from those Games will be interviewed and will of course be there.

At one stage it looked as if the Olympics might die. 1976, 1980 and 1984 all had their problems and the World Athletics Champs commenced in 1983 so Athletics would not have a void. But the crisis subsided and the Worlds then became slightly devalued when they changed to being every two years. So the Olympics never really slipped from its pedestal and is the number one crown for any Athlete. I really canít wait. Tokyo 2020 will certainly be an unforgettable celebration. The Rugby World Cup has given just a glimpse of what a great Olympics we can expect.


Selection letter


In connection with 1964: The winner of 1948 50k was Swedenís John Ljunggren. In 1964 he was 16th and taking part in his 5th Olympics.  1960 he won silver behind Don Thompson, 1956 he was 3rd and 1952 9th. So he ended his Olympic career in 1964 but with a full set of medals G, S, B. 

Mike Martineau ex Member & Past President
26 October 2019

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