Four years of incredible discipline and dedication, training with the focus of a Tibetan monk to be ready for ‘the greatest show on Earth’. And somehow I’ve been able to repeat the feat every year since LA in ’84 (though, I've got to be honest, not eating and sleeping for 16 days does leave you pretty pooped).
Credit, too, must go to the athletes who work pretty damn hard themselves.
I was around (as in, a member of Planet Earth) for both Montreal (1976) and Moscow (1980), but have no recollection of either.
During the former, I was more interested in munching on Farley's rusks, playing the saucepans and dribbling with carefree abandon as Canada hosted its first Olympiad. Being three at the time.
Moscow, as I now famously know, featured a quintet of Olympic golds for Britain – thanks to the heroic exploits of messrs. Coe (1500m), Ovett (800m), Thompson (Decathlon), Wells (100m) and Goodhew (100m breast-stroke). Just to be clear, Goodhew’s latter gong was in a swimming event, and not a brand of foreplay.
I, however, seven years young in 1980, was banned by my parents (or at least subtly steered away) from watching the controversial Moscow Games – boycotted by a fat squad of nations due to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.
Retroactively, the epic battles between Great British rivals Seb Coe and Steve Ovett in the 800m and 1500m in Russia’s capital have become Olympic classics.
Millions at the time (and since via YouTube), were/have been spellbound by the drama that unfolded those two nights.
First the 800. Coe, the middle-class Tory boy and arguably the then World No.1 and favourite for gold, freezing in the bright lights of Moscow’s Central Lenin Stadium, getting lost/stuck back in the pack and ultimately leaving himself too much to do.
Meanwhile, Ovett the barrel-chested working-class hero from Brighton, bumping and barging his way through the chasing pack – and ultimately putting himself in prime position to make a decisive attack coming off the final bend.
Those were the days when it was a man’s game, and you weren’t disqualified for blowing raspberries in your rival’s ear on the back straight or giving another a killer wedgie on the penultimate bend as you prepared to kick for home.