Olympic Memories – guest post by Peter Wells

My father-in-law is a fellow scribe and he’s a bit shy, so let’s hear a rousing round of applause for his appearance here… He’s also my saviour, because instead of writing captivating blog posts, I’ve been sitting on my behind, watching the Olympics!

‘Olympic Memories’ by Peter Wells

The Olympics seem to be flavour of the month. In 1960 at the tender age of 19, I travelled to the Rome Olympics in a student group to enjoy the glorious late summer weather in the Eternal City. We went every day to the beautiful Stadio Olympico with our crusty Italian bread rolls and bags of peaches (it was all we could afford!). We had arranged to see the athletics events for the princely sum of twenty-five shillings for the whole day. A student concession rate of course, but twenty-five shillings, can you believe that? We actually thought that was a bit much, lashing out a whole £15 for the week, but now that same week at the Games would be at least $1200!

A few memories stand out. I saw Herb Elliot win the 1500 metres in record time, including the famous towel-waving antics of his famous coach Percy Cerutty as Herb rounded the final bend on the last lap.

Dear old Herb, my absolute hero, I would love to meet him, and now living in Perth I believe. He’s about my age too. Back then, I had made the college cross-country team, and on hearing that he was attending Cambridge University for a short stay, and rumoured to be competing in one of the inter-collegiate races, we were keen to see if we could keep up with him. But he didn’t show, so we all said he’d piked out. Yeah, right!

Actually, our college was quite well represented in the English athletics team at Rome, as we had a runner in the 400 metres men’s final, and a huge hammer thrower. Neither won a medal, but we cheered like mad anyway.

The 200 metres mens’ final was something else – it was won by the local hero, Livio Berutti, who won in grand style wearing sunnies, an unheard of affectation in those days! The whole stadium erupted, and ice cream vendors immediately began selling a new flavour to the ecstatic crowd – “Gelati Berutti, Gelati Berutti!”

Another memory was not so edifying. Every day there was a huge contingent of German youth at the stadium, mainly blond youth types all dressed identically who were intent on dominating the cheering with regular bursts of what sounded like “Ticker, tacker, ticker, tacker, Oi, Oi, Oi!” all chanted in complete unison. You could see the crowd getting restless with these outbursts, for some perhaps a bit too reminiscent of Hitler youth demonstrations of only a few years previous. Today’s boisterous Aussie rendition of “Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie, Oi, Oi, Oi!” has much more going for it!

Perhaps the most moving moment was the closing ceremony. This was a very simple affair, where most people in the crowd set light to their programs or other pieces of paper to become torches, forming tiny twinkling spots of light in the night air. Of course, quite unsafe and unacceptable in today’s politically correct world! The crowning touch was the brief message on the electronic scoreboard – “Ciao Roma! Arriverderci a Tokyo”.

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14 Comments

Filed under Family, Flash fiction, Health, Humour, Inspirational, Writing

14 responses to “Olympic Memories – guest post by Peter Wells

  1. CJ

    Hey Dad, that’s great!
    S’funny, I’ve heard you mention the Rome Olympics many times, but never heard the specifics of the adventure like this. I’ll have to sit you down and ask some more questions…

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  2. That is a lovely piece of memoir writing. There is a real relaxed confidence in the writing capturing the event through Aussie eyes. Very natural and balanced prose style. And cool, go Herb! Run, run,

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  3. great post. it is amazing how these events have changed and stayed the same.

    i guess we all have memories that are a part of our own development and dreams…these icons help us believe there is more, i think.

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  4. kaylee

    Great post!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  5. Rachel

    Great post! Do you remember the name of your 400m runner?

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  6. Peter

    Many thanks. The runner was Robbie Brightwell (actually he may only have made the semis, but he had enormous talent, and we thought he had a great chance). And the hammer thrower was Mike Ellis, broader than he was tall!

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  7. Peter

    Thanks for your generous words Paul – I didn’t think anyone would be moved to comment!

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  8. Thanks for a great post Pa! 🙂

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  9. Peter

    Thanks Simonne. Actually, I’ve got a confession to make – Robbie Brightwell did make the 400m final, he came fourth, but in 1964 in Tokyo! Just googled him to make sure. Sorry ’bout that, must have been a seniors moment, but I’m pretty sure he was also at Rome…….. I got Mike Ellis right though (he came 15th)!

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  10. He he, you’re allowed one senior moment a year, so that’s it for you now, okay? 😉

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  11. Dawn

    Peter that was great and CJs comment was interesting. I think our offspring are often surprised at things we’ve done and are most interested – it’s just that often it was so long ago and the pace of life so hectic that we don’t look back often enough. I love it when my mother tells stories of her younger days and I marvel at how inventive they were and how different were the attitudes of the time.

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  12. Dies ist ein groer Ort. Ich mchte hier noch einmal.

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  13. marco impiglia

    I am an italian essayist and I am writing down a study on the 1960 Olympics. Would you annoy if I quote your rememberings in my book? Do you have something ore I can appreciate?
    sincerely yours
    m.i.
    rome – Italy

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  14. UQVQbf Excellent article, I will take note. Many thanks for the story!

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