The triple jump world record-holder used a recent trip to The Olympic Museum as an opportunity to reflect on his top-10 Games memories
A recent visit to The Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, proved the perfect opportunity for triple jump world record-holder Jonathan Edwards to think back to his most memorable Games moments.
Surrounded by athletics artefacts as well as audio and visual clips from Games gone by forming part of the new temporary ‘Behind the Screen’ exhibition on broadcasting, the Olympic, world, European and Commonwealth gold medallist recalled his top-10 Games memories. With so many top moments to choose from, the 48-year-old even neglected to include his own Olympic triumph in Sydney in 2000.
Johnson’s sprint in Seoul
One of the moments that has had the biggest emotional impact on me when sitting watching as a fan would be Ben Johnson in 1988 in Seoul – it was just an incredible race. The whole Carl Lewis and Johnson rivalry. The whole build up and the animosity that existed between them.
Obviously Johnson got an electric start as he always did but it was that acceleration from 20 metres to 50 metres that took your breath away, absolutely took your breath away. It was like everybody else was in a different race.
Regardless of what happened afterwards, that doesn’t take away from the emotional impact that the race had at the time.
Bolt in Beijing
The same goes for watching Usain Bolt in Beijing. I had a slightly better seat – the commentary position, finish line – but I’ve never seen anything quite like that. Arms splayed open, banging the chest.
So those two moments, at Seoul in 1988 and Beijing in 2008, would be my top two in terms of emotional impact. Not making a judgement on the result, but just being like ‘oh my goodness, I’m so lucky to have seen those live’.
A moving moment in Sydney
Cathy Freeman’s win in Sydney in 2000 was another top moment. I had literally a perfect view, I guess. I think what probably had a bigger impact on me was the national anthem and the medal ceremony. They continued to sing her name. It was very moving.
A double Mo-ment
Mo Farah’s 5000m win in London. That moment, for me, more than Super Saturday. The noise. At that stage, there was just an incredible momentum, the Games were coming towards a close and had gone better than anybody could have anticipated by every measure that you could think of.
Let the Games begin
The opening ceremony. I’d been on the organising committee and seen it all the way through from when the bid was launched at the end of 2003. I’d lived every moment in the preparation of those Games and to sit there and just be completely wowed by Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony was something.
The torch relay
Running with the torch, that was another memorable Olympic moment. I ran a leg which started outside my childhood home in Ilfracombe. I used to catch the bus from pretty much where I received the flame and I was in bits.
My athletics career started at school. There were lots of people there that I remembered and I hadn’t been back very often having moved away from there in 1989 so just to be back there running with the Olympic torch ahead of a home Games, that would be one of my top Olympic moments.
Michael Johnson’s 19.32
I watched it on TV because I was back home having not performed as well as I’d hoped – Michael Johnson’s 200m in Atlanta. He took the event to a different level. I was miserable, there was no doubt about it, but in that moment again you’re just transported to a different place by a superlative performance. It’s 19.32 – it’s like, 19.32!
That moment in Singapore when London won the bid. That moment when Jacques Rogge said London rather than Paris. The hugs. You turn round and there’s people like the Princess Royal and David Beckham. That was incredible.
Coe vs Ovett
I think I’d also have to have the 800m at Moscow in 1980 – Seb Coe and Steve Ovett – because that was my first big Olympic memory. The hype around that rivalry. Sitting watching and expecting Coe to win and Ovett won and I was more of an Ovett man than a Coe man! I’m obviously very close to Seb but I was an Ovett man.
The whole experience of working on the Paralympics with Channel 4 is also a special Games moment. Promoting disabled talent on screen and not being in any way afraid of disability. I think they made a substantial contribution to disability awareness in the UK and acceptance of it and seeing people’s abilities.
It was less well-known names but the surprising thing if I’m honest was that you got completely taken along by the sport, in the same way as you did with the Olympics. Now knowing what I know that sounds like a ridiculous thing to say, but I think you approach the two with a different mindset. Given I think some of the things that the athletes had been through, the stories were compelling and you felt a greater connection. The stories of the Paralympics are incredibly powerful and it’s the admiration you have for what they have overcome as well as their ability as athletes.
» You can read more about The Olympic Museum and the new temporary ‘Behind the Screen’ exhibition on broadcasting in a feature published in the March 5 edition of AW which is available digitally here