London 2012 Olympics: Why Sir Roger should light our fire

Sub-four-minute legend would be a noble choice to do cauldron-lighting duties at Olympic opening ceremony

Olympic flame (Mark Shearman)

The lighting of the flame is perhaps the most magical moment of any Olympics. From the Spanish archer in 1992 to Muhammad Ali in 1996 and Cathy Freeman in 2000, it is a chance for the host city to stamp its personality on the Games and the memory is etched in the minds of billions of people for eternity.

Given this, speculation is high when it comes to who will have this honour on Friday night in London. Will it be five-time Olympic rowing champion Sir Steve Redgrave? Decathlon legend Daley Thompson? Kelly Holmes? Prince William? Even David Beckham? All fine names, but there is only one candidate as far as I am concerned – Sir Roger Bannister.

Owner of the most talked-about athletics performance in history, Sir Roger is one of the few genuine sporting heavyweights. By running the first sub-four-minute mile he conquered the Everest of athletics. Later, he went on to forge an equally formidable career in medicine and sports administration.

The quintessential Englishman, he is a throwback to the Corinthian spirit and Chariots of Fire era that is such a big part of the history of sport in Britain. He also represents the No.1 Olympic sport and, aged 83, continues to hold his 6ft-plus frame with poise, dignity and considerable aura.

While some candidates are forever in our faces on television and may possibly have their careers and profiles in mind, Sir Roger is a slightly elusive figure who would only want to do it for the right reasons.

In 2004 Seb Coe helped twist his arm so he would join in with the 50th anniversary celebrations of the sub-four mile. I hope he does it again, as there would be no finer person to light the flame.

» Athletics Weekly’s July 26 issue contains news and features on the eve of the Olympic opening ceremony, while the August 2 issue is a bumper 100-page edition with detailed previews of every track and field event at the Games.

One Response to “London 2012 Olympics: Why Sir Roger should light our fire”

  1. Kevin O'Neill says:

    Bannister was always my favourite for the job. And yet he did not feature at any stage at the ceremony. Perhaps he was asked but refused – we know how he tends to shy away from publicity, feeling as he does, that his sporting achievements are far less important than the medical. In fact there were a lot of legends missing – where were the likes of Mary Rand, Ann Packer, David Hemery and their ilk?

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