David Leggat on sport

David Leggat is a Herald sport writer

David Leggat: As Games buzz begins, thoughts turn back to 38 summers ago

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New Zealand Olympic triathlete Bevan Docherty won the bronze medal at the Beijing Olympic Games. Photo / Kenny Rodger
New Zealand Olympic triathlete Bevan Docherty won the bronze medal at the Beijing Olympic Games. Photo / Kenny Rodger

Bike New Zealand's announcement yesterday of its biggest Olympic Games track contingent is another sizeable step towards completing the naming of New Zealand's team for London this year.

Several sports have yet to reveal their hand, but the Olympic buzz is gathering volume as names are produced which carry hopes of bringing home medals or at the least performing with distinction.

It is this way every four years, and there is a tendency for over-excitement. Projections are made, and more often than not reality brings them down with a thump.

The thought of this expectation occurred as news emerged a few days ago that Christchurch's Queen Elizabeth II Park is to be demolished.

In itself this may be no big deal. Ever since last year's February earthquake scarred the city and ruined so many lives, this has had an inevitability about it.

There has been far worse destruction in the city but this decision should give pause for recollection for its place in one of New Zealand's most memorable sports events.

Built in 1973, with temporary seating it held 35,000 for the Commonwealth Games the following year.

This, remember, was when the Commonwealth Games meant something. It was far more than the third-rate event, tailored more at developing athletes, which by the highest international standards it is now.

Top athletes can't be bothered turning up; world records are rare. Not the case on those sunny days 38 summers ago.

World and Olympic champions past and present were there, such as pentathlete Mary Peters, sprinter Don Quarrie; colourful long-distance runner David Bedford.

Mike Wenden in the pool, Ben Jipcho on the track, hurdler Alan Pascoe - responsible for one of the Games great bloopers, falling over hurdles in celebration after his victory - were Olympic silver medallists.

The standard was high and there were highlights which still resonate. For evidence, check out the stunning Filbert Bayi-John Walker 1500m duel in the sun, when both broke the world record, on YouTube.

A few years back, a couple of old Games hands, blazered British officials in their seventies, were reminiscing on Games past.

Which, asked one of the clearly more travelled other, had been the best?

"Christchurch, 1974. Just marvellous," the answer shot back.

Out of the rubble, in time you have to hope something good comes for Christchurch sport.

- NZ Herald

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