IT WAS Rome 1960 and, oh boy, was the pressure on in the city which all roads lead to.
For three Olympians, it wasn't so much doing as the Romans do but more a case of emulating the feats of two New Zealanders, Murray Halberg and Peter Snell.
Ian Kerr and Kevin Percy were locked in the mother of all battles with Spain on the hockey field when they heard Halberg and Snell had won gold.
Equestrian Adrian White was on his mount having watched the pair put New Zealand on the map within the space of an hour.
"We just felt like we'll take the whole town with them," White told SportToday last night soon after receiving his gold pin No 155 and a certificate at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale. More than 20 other Olympians living in Hawke's Bay were at the Sport Hawke's Bay-organised ceremony to mark the 1111th games' representative from New Zealand.
"You know, Peter Snell was unknown until then," said White, a 76-year-old semi-retired Hastings farmer.
Thomas "Paddy" Donovan (No 86), of Meeanee, was the oldest Bay Olympian at the New Zealand Olympic Committee-sanctioned function to honour the athletes around the country for 100 years of competing on the global stage.
Bay entrepreneur and former Magpie, Donovan was a boxer in the 1956 Melbourne Games and the 1964 Tokyo Games but was not available for Rome in 1960.
While White was proud as punch to hear the national anthem twice that day in Rome he had to reconcile that with the disappointment of finishing 23rd.
"I thought everyone who went to Olympics went there for a medal," he said with a laugh.
His late mother, Rhona White, and sister, Juliette, now living in Australia, were there to support him but his late father, Patrick White, had to stay back to manage the farm although he did go with him to the 1964 Tokyo Games as his groom.
"We realised showjumping was a very powerful sport in Europe and it was a bit of a long shot for me," he said, adding competing was a huge thrill in itself considering not many people knew where New Zealand was.
The 74-year-old pair of Kerr, a pharmacist, and Percy, an antique dealer, will never forget the opening ceremony and taking photos with Snell and Halberg after the medal ceremony.
Kerr was from Wellington then, before moving to the Bay in 1965, while Percy was in Wairarapa before moving here in 1977. At his first games in Rome, Kerr, a fullback, was taken aback with how much Rome was steeped in history.
"Lots of events were held in older buildings. We played in the Marble Stadium, which was constructed to hold an earlier games but World War II got in the way," said Kerr, of Havelock North, elaborating that marble statues depicting all the different codes were built around the stadium, leading to a tunnel that opened into the main stadium.
"The opening ceremony and marching out in front of 80,000 to 100,000 people were just amazing."
The anticlimax for Kerr and Percy, of Napier, was without doubt losing 1-0 to Spain two minutes before the end of the final whistle of extra time after the sides were scoreless in regulation time.
"Murray Halberg and Peter Snell were receiving their medals at the same time," said Kerr, recalling how in regulation time a shot at goal was heading for the goal but struck a Spanish defender's jaw.
"Spain went on to win bronze," said Kerr, reconciling that with the fact that his side's performance remains the second best - behind the 1976 Montreal gold medal-winning one - in New Zealand Olympic history.
His next stint in the following Tokyo games wasn't so memorable in an inexperienced side.
Percy recalled the 5th-6th playoff against the Aussies, which the Kiwis won 1-0 after having lost earlier to their archrivals in pool play.
The centre forward, who made the crucial pass to left wing Phil Bygrave to score, said he had to contend with the strangest instruction ever on the sports field.
"Coach Bruce Turner said if we were to go one goal up my job was to take the Australians mind off the game.
"Let's say when they scored I had to fulfil my brief."
So did Percy deliver the goods that day?
"I must have because only one player shook my hand after the game, Queenslander and fullback Desy Spackman," he said with a grin.
Aware of Percy's mission, Australian coach Charlie Morley had issued counter instructions, Percy said, claiming the Kiwis had planted a spy near the rival camp.
"He said, 'If that bushwhacker centre forward walks off the field you guys are for it'," he said, adding that his fellow Wairarapa Olympian, the late Bill Schaefer, had been magnificent as a goalkeeper.
The other thing Percy will never forget about Rome was how the politics in New Zealand athletics had ostracised the late Arthur Lydiard from coaching his team.
"His charges would meet him outside the village after Arthur travelled to Rome on his own expense."
Before he and Schaefer left for Rome, every code in the region had united to help raise funds for them to travel.
"At Bill's funeral, Sir Brian Lochore [former All Black] had reminded me that he went door-to-door selling raffle tickets to raise funds for us."
On the last night at the village, the beer stocks were alarmingly low and hockey players were among the wine drinkers well into the wonderful evening.
Needless to say, one Les Mills, a boxer, who went on to become Auckland mayor and entrepreneur, came to the players rescue.
"He was seen driving around in a Land Rover picking up all the boys who had been on the turps," he said of the Rome Olympics flagbearer.