Games has lost meaning

I wonder if your paper would be interested in my recollections of the Olympic Games in 1948.

I lived at Aillneuk, Ashkirk, for the first 20 years of my life. I believe that Aillneuk is now called Haugh Head, the name that the property had before my father, William Belfrage, bought it in 1931. He retired to Crail, Fife, in 1954.

I have lived in the south of England for more than 50 years, being married to an Englishman, but have never forgotten my Borders roots and am proud to be a Souter.

When I first heard that London was to host the 2012 Olympics, I thought, “Oh, wonderful! I shall buy tickets for the opening ceremony and several track events, and then I can compare them with the 1948 Olympic Games”. How foolish and naive can one be?

In 1948, I was a 15-year-old girl living in the Borders and attending Selkirk High School.

Our headmaster, Donald Kennedy, thought it would be a good idea for his pupils to have the opportunity to attend the Olympic Games in London. A small group of us, plus teachers, took up this offer and we set off for London by coach, full of excitement. For some of us it was the first time that we had crossed the border into England.

We were to be accommodated at a school at Harrow on the Hill. This sounded very impressive as we had heard of Harrow – a top English public school. Big surprise! Our accommodation was in a large secondary modern school where we slept on camp beds in one of the classrooms.

We went to the opening ceremony. For us it was amazing. We sat on benches high up on the opposite side to where the Olympic torch was to be lit. An athlete ran into the arena carrying the torch, ran up to the bowl which would hold the flame, and lit it.

There was a march past around the stadium by the athletes, proudly carrying the flags of their countries. Germany and Japan were not represented.

King George VI was there, and he declared the Games open. Then some pigeons were released from crates at the side of the track and off they flew. That was it.

When I think of the razzmatazz at the opening of modern Olympic Games, I wonder what people would have thought of 1948, “The Austerity Games”. Yet we had the privilege of watching some wonderful dedicated athletes. Our school party was at Wembley every day for the duration of the Games. I can still remember the chant of the crowd, “Zatopek, Zatopek”, as the great Czech performed and was thrilled to see the 30-year-old Dutchwoman, Fanny Blankerskoen, win four gold medals.

Poor old Britain won only three in the whole Games.

Today the world is so much more sophisticated. But maybe something has been lost, as now the hosts of the Olympics strive for a bigger and more spectacular event, and perhaps some of the true meaning of the competition has been lost.

I shall be watching the 2012 Games on television.

Moira Wells


East Sussex