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Olympic Gains – Tokyo 1964 and Beyond



Olympic Gains – Tokyo 1964 and Beyond

Throughout an extraordinary sporting year; one flame burns brightest.

Primed to host its second Summer Olympics (23 July – 8 August), its perhaps prescient to reflect on the events of Tokyo 1964.

Then, as now, the ‘Friendly’ Games were enveloped in the maelstrom of ‘otherness’. Apartheid was the symbol of division which rendered (white) South African participation unpalatable. Whereas the scourge of drug misappropriation, continuously overshadows contemporary events.

The 1964 Tokyo Games took place in mid-October; with the two-week event showcasing the athletic integrity of well-nigh 100 participating nations.

The scale of resources available to World superpowers (United States & Soviet Union), was reflected in their overall medal haul (amongst whom stood heavyweight prospect Joe Frazier).

In track & field; Great Britain amassed a total of 12 medals. A similar return in this-years renewal, would be viewed as an unmitigated success.

The pentathlon made its introduction in ’64, with Mary Rand (GB), winning silver. And with the addition of a further two disciplines; the modern heptathlon has provided a lasting legacy for female British athletes.- Mary Peters; Denise Lewis, Jessica Ennis and Current World Champion Katarina Johnson-Thompson.

The afore-mentioned Mary Rand, collected a full complement in Tokyo; winning Gold (long jump), and a Bronze in the 4x100m relay – A feat Dina Asher-Smith (GB’s most high-profile athlete), hopes to emulate in the weeks ahead, over 100m, 200m and the 4 x 100m.

The stand-out performance by a British athlete however, belonged to one-lap specialist Anne Packer; who set a new 800m World record (2:01:10), to take Gold. To provide some context…

Scotland’s Laura Muir – widely regarded as a live medal hope at Tokyo 2020, recently recorded a personal best 1:56:73, at a Diamond League event in Monaco. Muir has opted to concentrate on the 1500m; where the prolific Faith Kipyegon (KEN), and Sifan Hassan (NED), await.

The 1964 Tokyo Olympics also witnessed the incredible performances of Peter Snell (NZL), who captured Gold in both the 800m & 1500m. Four decades would pass, before Great Britain’s Kelly Holmes matched the feat (Athens 2004).

In promoting diversity and gender equality, the 2020 Tokyo Games has the potential to provide a lasting legacy which fosters grassroots engagement – thereby allowing the torch to further illuminate.


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Born in 1963, Peter attended St Mary's Leith High School. Peter worked within the plumbing industry before studying a degree in journalism within the University of Stirling. Peter has been a lifelong sports fan and has volunteered within the Edinburgh Soccer School's programme on numerous occasions.


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