I was gripped by Olympic Fever once more four years after LA – in fact, struck down by a double dose of Five-ringed Fantastica.
1988 was the penultimate year in which both the Summer and Winter Games were
staged – though in different cities – since the white version launched in Chamonix,
France in 1924.
This time round, Canada
played host to its second Olympiad – Calgary
hosting the XV (15th) Winter Games in February, while Seoul, South
Korea assumed the honours for the Summer
Games in September/October.
While there were many monumental Olympic-medal-winning performances to shout
about at Calgary Olympic Park (none of which I can recall), the most memorable
event for me (as a 15-year-old Brit) was the ski-jumping, featuring Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards.
Eddie, who famously wore bifocal glasses to address far-sightedness and
had to keep them on when competing, was the British ski-jumping champion. But
on the world stage, he was a 'little further back in the pack'.
His biggest issue was the glasses. When covered by ski goggles, ventilation was at a premium and his bifocals would invariably steam up. The first question
anyone asked when the TV cameras zoomed in on a close-up of Eddie’s face as he
prepared to jump was: “Can this guy actually see where the hell he's going?!”
It's fair to say, that if there's one event where you want your vision to at
least be within a stone's throw of 20/20 range, it's in the ski-jump.
As referenced above, Eddie could jump – just not very far. Which meant the
predictable use by commentators of the phrase: "The Eagle has
landed!" would invariably hit viewer earwaves roughly 0.00111 seconds
after "The Eagle has launched!"
I felt a particular kinship with Eddie, as he was born in Cheltenham (where
I spent a portion of my 20’s) and is now based in the village of Woodchester,
near Stroud – two spots I frequented often during my teenage years, after my
family moved to Gloucestershire.
Eddie had been a decent downhill skier, but narrowly missed out on the GB
team which travelled to the 1984 Games in Sarajevo,
He switched to ski-jumping as it was the cheapest form of skiing and offered
him his best chance of making the Olympics. Not least because he was the only
guy in a country (the UK)
with no ski-jumps and just a small knob of snow at the top of Ben
Nevis to choose ski-jumping as a career.
Ski-jumping also helped
satisfy a childhood dream to be a stuntman...
To read the rest of this column, check out BC Johnny's upcoming book: Chilled Almonds.