Before the Games: My background as a middle distance runner

Emile Zatopek's stunning performance in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics where he won three gold medals revolutioned the approach to traing of middle and long distance runners. His traning regime involed at least daily sessions of interval training where the runner repetitively ran at almost full pelt over 200 or 400 meters followed by a jog of the same distance The most obvious impact was on the mile, as in the ensuing four years the Englishman Roger Bannister and subsequently the Australian John Landy race miles in under four minutes. This new style in traing filtered down to school athletics. The writer, then a student at Sydney (Boys) High School was encouraged by the Atletics Master, Lenny Basser, to likewise develop running capability through interval traing. I developed as a middle distance runner further when in 1956 as a university student I was 'promoted' to run A grade middle distance. My most notable effort in 1956 was to break the 880 yards record for my age group.sub-junior (under 18) Unfortunately I was running A Grade,my time of 2m 0.8 sec was not recorded by three stop-watches

My performce in Interclub athletics was certainly noticedathletics organisers. In the lead up to the Olympics, there was a much publicised mile race featuring the then current world record holder John Landy, in which the writer was invited to compete. In this event, Landy won in the slow time of 4minutes 12 seconds, while I was about 100 m behind, finishing 18 seconds behind.

About torch bearers for the 1956 Olympics

Selecting torch bearer

The Melbourne Olympics committee used the NSW Athletics management to select a group of runners to participate in the Torch Relay. Representatives of the variopus Olympic sports were invited to nominate youthful male athletes for carrying the torch. Athletics NSW then selected the actual runners on the basis of their performance carrying a short steel pipe of comparable weight to the 1956 Olympic Torch over a mile course in Centennial Park Sydney. To be actually selected as a torch bearer a runner had to complete the mile course carrying the weight in under eight minutes.

At Centennial Park after the time trials the future torch bearers could hold the torches to be used.
My athletics background

Following Emile Zatopek's amazing performance in Helsinki, there was much excitement in middle distance running as up and coming athletes set out to smash records by applying Zatopek's techniques to their training scgedule. The writer was one such - and would diligently train using the Zatopek strategy alternating laps at race speed with laps walked or jogged. As easily the best runner in Eastern Suburbs AAC I was competing in the A Grade competition. One Saturday I was clocked at 2m 0.8sec for the half nile, eight eighty yards. The time WAbroke the state record for my age group, but as a placeholder in A-grade there were not the requisite 3 stop-watches to formally establish a record.
My Club formally recognised this achievemt with the awartd of a cup for outstanding performance


Carrying the Torch along the Pacific Highway

I was designated to carry the Olympic Torch for one mile along the (old) Pacific Highway just south of Gosford. I stood with am unlit torch, and when the previous runner came along I touched a fuse on the torch against the flame area of his torch, and after an initial fiss, my torch lit up. I ran escorted by a police man on a motor bike, running my mile, and lighting the torch of the next runner.
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Having played out my role, I climbed onto an army truck which was to carry me and other runners to the Sydney Town Hall, where, after the arrival by relay of the Olympic Flame, we were each to be presented with an Olympic participants medal.

At Sydney Town Hall - A Direct Witness to the Hoax

After carrying the Torch for one mile on the Sydney side of Gosford I joined other torch bearers on an army truck. We were taken to the Sydney Town Hall where we stood at the top of the stairs. We runners, about 20 in all, were harangued at length by an official who insisted we were there to provide pictorial background, and should remain standing where we had been placed without moving as a photographic backdrop.
So we stood behind the (Sydney) Lord Mayor Pat Hills as he awaited the arrival of the torch. But then a grubby individual started running up with a poorly faked torch -- a silver painted cam on a stick - just past me and the other torch bearers. Wer had been harangued before about staying quite still. I consider tripping up this idiot -- but felt that the Lord Mayor would reject such a an obvious fake. But TV lights and camera flashes abounded -- and the Lord Mayor -Porteus |I think - held up the ligt gazed at it -- ah ha I thought he'll throw it down that he actually looked at it -- but NO1 - the Lord Mayor burst into his speech "This little fl;ame has come all the was from Greece --- and after a few more sentences an Olympic Official tapped the LM on the should and removed the hideous monstrosity. Meanwhile the fake torch bearer had somehow gor off the town hall steps and disappeared into the throng below. II have always been angry at myself for lack of initiative - I could see it as easy to trip up the faker -- but felt that others = Olympic Officials would block the guy. Every now and then on radio --maybe also on TV -- the story of the 1956 Torch Relay is told -- and the shit runner boastfully takes part!


Promising middle distance runner, Ron Clarke, two years my senior- carries magnesium flare torch to enter the MCG where he lights the Olympic flame.

The Hoax about the Hoax

Somehow the runner who perpetuated the hoax has enjoyed amazing self aggrandisation over the years. For reference he shall be here referred to as Mr Hoaxer.

As a University Student in 1956 I was familiar with the rather pathetic objection of some University students to the staging of the Olympics. And standing behind the Lord Mayor while the hoax was committed I was in no doubt as to the absolutely pathetic nature of the hoax.
Over the years Mr Hoaxer would make reqular media appearances.
But about 2010 he added a new explanation of his motives: he claimed to be offended in 1956 by the Nazi origin of the Torch Relay.
It had taken him over forty years to invent this measly excuse for his misbeaviour.
What is the truth behind this claim? The Olympic Flame had been used as motif in the Olympics since the 1928 Antwerp Olympics. But 1936 was the first Olympics which involved a Torch Relay carrying the Olympic Flame from Greece to bthe actual Olympic venue.
Prior to 1936 the actual project of carrying an Olympic Flame from Greece over vast distances to the Olympic venue was essentially impractical. But by 1936 with emergent air transport it was practical.
But for an Olympics in 1956 the reference to Nazi heritage was scarcely credible. However from about 2010 in his so regular imedia interviews Mr Hoaxcer claimed to have be motivated by anti-Nazi feelings. It had just taken fifty reasons to have noticed them!



This medal was awarded to all participants in the 1956 Olympics including Competitors, Officials, and Olympic Torch Bearers
The absolutely brilliant design which incorporated the shield of the City of Melbourne was by Andor Meszaros


Competing in Brisbane over 880 yards wearing my University colours