*************************************************** RANELAGH HARRIERS E-NEWS # 383 1 September 2012 Editor: Steve Rowland mailto: email@example.com *************************************************** OLYMPICS SPECIAL Some Ranelagh Harriers might have dim and distant memories of the 1948 London Olympic Games, but for most of us having the world's biggest sporting event on our doorstep has been a once in a lifetime experience. And what a great job London has done. No city could hope to match the extravagance of Beijing's Games but we did it our way and the British people took the Games to their hearts. Security fears proved groundless (or else were quietly dealt with out of sight) and there was a fantastic buzz in central London and at all the Olympic sites. Olympic rings were everywhere from Tower Bridge to Trafalgar Square. Uniformed volunteers - the Games Makers - were ubiquitous, unfailingly cheerful and eager to help. Major rail and Underground stations had dedicated teams waiting to offer advice to bewildered visitors. Almost every session of every sport was sold out. The noise generated by the partisan crowds in the stadia was deafening. And unprecedentedly it looks as if the Paralympics - which are taking place as I write - have equally caught the public imagination. Many Ranelagh members were involved in some way and we had two former members as part of Team GB. Triathlete Stuart Hayes and Marathoner Scott Overall were both Ranelagh members as youngsters and experienced differing fortunes in the Games. Stuart, although finishing down the field in 37th place, was in the team primarily to act as a "domestique" (helper) to the Brownlee brothers. They won the gold and bronze medals, so Stuart can be adjudged to have done his job well. Scott, now a member of Blackheath and Bromley, found it tough going in the Marathon and, struggling in the closing stages, finished 61st in 2:22.37. Hugh Jones was the official course measurer for the marathons and walks, and during the marathons could be seen hanging out of the window of the press truck desperately trying to see what was going on! Hugh aside, the highest profiles amongst current membership were those of Duncan Mallison and Nathan Mills, who were amongst the cast of thousands at the spectacular Opening Ceremony. Here's Duncan: "It was shortly after the results of the Olympic ticket ballot had been released, and somewhat disappointed with my Wednesday afternoon Table Tennis tickets, that I saw an item on the London 2012 website requesting volunteers to appear in the opening ceremony and thought this might be my only way into the games! A few months later I was invited to attend an audition at 3 Mills TV studios in East London. After a couple of hours of dancing and acting, certainly neither strong points of mine, I left thinking that it was a fun experience but that I would never hear back. As my wife kindly pointed out I would probably be one of those really bad auditions you see in the early weeks of X-Factor. However somehow I was invited back for a second audition in January and shortly after received the news that I had been chosen! Then arrived the rehearsal schedule - ever Saturday and Sunday and some weekdays from May to July! Early rehearsals took place on a patch of waste ground near the Ford plant in Dagenham where the only audience was the speeding traffic on the A13. The weather was appalling, without fail every Saturday and Sunday was cold, wet and windy. It became obvious at the first rehearsal that we hadn't been chosen for our dancing ability, we were the heavy lifters changing the scene from a green and pleasant countryside to an industrial landscape, which involved the removal of 2,000 props and pieces of grass in 16 minutes. It was clear from the off that this was a work in progress, and that no one was entirely sure how we were going to do it. We soon became expert at sitting around for hours and waiting to be told what to do whilst swapping stories with new-found friends. Progress was slow as we tried to work the logistics of this thing, every so often a breakthrough would occur, only for us to take a step back. After five weekends in Dagenham, most of us still had no real idea what was going on. Rehearsals shifted at the end of June to the Olympic Stadium. We now got to work with the real props in a stadium we had to ourselves. After the wet cold days in Dagenham everyone seemed to get a burst of renewed enthusiasm. Despite the rain, the waiting around, the tiredness and the heavy turf, it was always the human element that got us through. I nearly quit a million times - I sacrificed time, money, my social life, my family and my ability to function at work on Mondays - but the main reason why I didn't was that I couldn't have left the friends I'd made. We were in it together, and we were in it to the end. The final week was magical. Eton Manor, our cast holding area, was bathed in sunshine and there was a festival atmosphere as we all sat around in our miscellaneous costumes. Two dress rehearsals to a full stadium on Monday and Wednesday gave us an insight into what we could expect. Friday was one of those days when things just seem to fall into place. As we made our way to the stadium for the last time, pausing to watch the Red Arrows splash our national colours across the sky, we kept reminding ourselves that this was a moment we could never capture in a photograph or fully explain to our friends, we just had to be in it, here and now. The tension as we waited to go on was electrifying. As we came out into the stadium I was fully aware for the first time of the crackle of excitement from the crowd around us and the adrenaline was really pumping. We had only managed to successfully complete our section a couple of times during our rehearsals either within the 16 minutes or without something going seriously wrong but as they say 'it will be all right on the night!' It's strange now having weekends free from rehearsals. Running has been on the back burner over the summer so having being inspired by the action after the opening night, it's time now to get some serious training done. Alternatively I learn Portugese and Samba and head off to Rio in four years!" Nathan adds: "I auditioned hoping for a drumming part and ended up with a dance role. Doesn't say much for my drumming skills! I'm so glad I took part and although I was definitely out of my comfort zone (Wayne Sleep I am not) I enjoyed every minute, especially the moment where I found out that I would not be wearing a 70's style Lycra cat suit but instead a rather fetching sixties combo of grey trousers black shoes and orange coloured cardigan, phew. And this year I can proudly say that I have a dancing injury, rather than a running injury. It's still my hamstrings but since I haven't done any road races this summer I can't really blame running can I?!" As part of its journey to the Olympic Stadium, the flame travelled down the Thames in a flotilla of boats. Paul Gregory was in one of the skiffs: "An early start of 5.30am was needed to skiff up to Hampton Court and get into position. There was a little bit of waiting as Matthew Pinsent was about 20 minutes late with the torch, so the procession rolled off nearer 8am than 7.30. The weather was kind after the cold and drenched Queen's Silver Jubilee Pageant, where we were in open skiffs for eight hours and not allowed to drain liquids over the sides of the boats! There were cheering crowds of high volume on both banks all the way down, definitely a party atmosphere. At Teddington Lock, it was clear that there might be delays, so we were able to go down the skiff rollers and not via the locks, about one boat each minute. The good part was when we came out, we were in an ideal position to see 'Gloriana' which was heading the procession and many pictures were taken of this magnificent craft. It was very congested as we approached Richmond, and a cutter went straight in front of our skiffs with near disaster. The skiffs departed from the procession at Richmond half lock and went back to Richmond Bridge. On the way back, the Swan was sighted and we drew up on the slipway. Precisely as we left the skiffs at 10am the heavens opened as the weather forecast said, so we took refuge in the nearest pub, what else? There, the Olympic Torch Relay was toasted and reviewed - it was an honour and a privilege to take part and see the enthusiasm of everyone - a wonderful day." Of the many "Games Makers", we have collected a few personal accounts from Ranelagh members. I'm sure more were involved but these should give a flavour of the kind of activities the volunteers were drafted in to cover. We heard in e-news 381 from Frances Ratchford who was a judge's assistant at the walking events. To keep all of the accounts together, here's Frances's report again: "I have just taken part in an Olympic Final and I am going to take part in two more next Saturday. You did not know tiddlywinks was an Olympic sport I hear you say, thank you! Let me explain; last Saturday I was a judge's assistant for the men's 20k Walk in the Mall. The judge gives me a piece of paper with the athlete's number on and their offence (athlete not judge) which can be as heinous as bending their knee or something equally awful, I enter it on my machine then it magically appears on a giant scoreboard on The Mall....... oh and all around the world! So it really is a relaxing job, no pressure. If you want to spot me I am in that mauve and red confection of a uniform which mark us all out as something called "Games Makers". I felt a little self conscious when I wore the uniform for the first time but then began to like it; people smile at you, ask you to take photos of them in front of landmarks and ask worrying questions. One American family accosted me on Waterloo station and asked me to help them plan an interesting walk round London. How did I get here you ask? It began last year when I volunteered to help with the test event for the marathon but found myself working on....you guessed, the 20K walk. Since then I have been to training sessions with 10,000 others at Wembley Arena, more intimate training sessions with only a couple of hundred others and last week a specialist training half hour with eight people, my fellow assistants. Everyone working in my team seems to be an official either in athletics or some other sport: one man officiates in carpet bowls, not sure I see the link but who am I to question the selection procedure. Strangely no one has ever helped with Walks events before; perhaps the people doing the lap chart for the Olympic marathon are all experts on the 50K walk. Have I enjoyed it? Yes, of course, I still can't believe I have been part of the Olympics in London, the atmosphere, razzmatazz and overwhelming crowd noise has been stunning, everything you'd expect from a final and more. Sadly by Saturday evening it will all be over for me but perhaps Rio want some help in four years' time!!!" Christian Vaughan writes: "Like Frances, I was a Games Maker at the Mall...although ironically the only Mall event which I was not present at was the Men's 20K walk (i.e. the one she officiated at) so I didn't see her. Having started to assist Andy Bickerstaff's race marshal team at Ranelagh events over the past couple of seasons, I thought I would apply to help at a slightly larger event. I ended up being an Event Services Team Leader at the Mall, which meant that I led a team of about ten volunteers manning a ticket entry point for the two Cycling Road Races, both Marathons and the men's 50K walk. I was also drafted in at Greenwich Park for the three-day event cross-country race. It was all extremely hard work - very early starts (4:45 at the Mall for the Men's 50k Walk), long shifts, terrible weather for the women's cycling and marathon and some moaning members of the public but - especially now that it is all over - I am really pleased that I got involved and am very proud to have helped out in some way. I did see some familiar faces at my events including the two Hughs - Jones at the 50K walk and Brasher at the Marathon. I enjoyed some banter with members of other running clubs: pretending that the ticket of the guy in the Stragglers T-shirt was not valid ('Sorry, no Stragglers allowed in today') and reminding a man in a Blackheath vest yesterday who was claiming Scott Overall as 'one of us' that Scott had in fact started his career in a blue and yellow Ranelagh vest. Just like Frances I underwent various training courses. From my perspective, the whole organisation of every aspect of this by LOCOG was pretty slick right from the interview process, through collecting my uniform to the actual race day co-ordination itself. I even attended a management course at McDonalds University at East Finchley (yes, such a place exists). One of the highlights (or lowlights depending on your political viewpoint) was getting thanked in person by the Prime Minister. The day before the Games began...a group of six of us were setting up barriers at the Mall and as he walked towards St James's Palace, he saw us in our ghastly uniforms and came over to thank us for giving up our time to help - I appreciated that he did that, he didn't have to. Since then, the world and his wife have gone on record to say that the Games Makers have been an integral part of the Games' success - and that has been great to hear. So all in all an exhilarating experience. When I was a youngster at Ranelagh I dreamed of getting to the Olympics...so I guess I have accomplished that, just not quite how I had expected it!" Heather Martingell was involved from very early in the Olympic saga: "Over the past couple of years, in addition to attending the training sessions, I've been part of a couple of test events: UDAC (Uniform Distribution and Accreditation Centre) and Beach Volleyball at Horse Guards Parade. These events really tested everything from the time it takes to photo capture an athlete, the time it takes to move from one section to another area of the venue, to the tasting of the meals for the workforce. Games time: I was a Team Leader - Accreditation working across all the terminals at Heathrow over the six weeks leading up to and including the first week of the Olympics. The passes we processed acted in some cases as a visa waiver. The stats: Terminal 1: 7,031, Terminal 2: 7,880, Terminal 3: 5,052, Terminal 4: 6,245, total 26,208. On top of that we probably saw 30% more clients that could not validated at Heathrow. Favourite moments: * Meeting and having a little chat with Michael Johnson, Kenenisa Bekele, Vivian Cheruiyot to name but a few. * Tracking down a pole vaulter's missing poles then watching the baggage handlers cause mini mayhem getting the 5m long kit around the tight Nothing to Declare corridor of T4. * Walkie-talkies playing up so resorting to improvised sign language to get the message to transport that VIPs were on their way. * Accrediting family members, the youngest being six months. (Someone will have the pleasure of accrediting Mo's twins at some future event). * The purple part of our uniform was the same colour as the flight connection sign and our desk underneath. I cannot begin to tell you how many times we said 'flight connections' whilst pointing the passengers in the right direction. * Someone asked me if I was in charge of the Olympics!?!" Bronwen Northmore and Mary Hickson were both involved with the aquatic events at Eton Dorney. Here's Bronwen: "I was a Games Maker at Eton Dorney - three days of rowing and four of canoeing, on what was euphemistically called 'venue entry' otherwise known as security, helping the army search spectators. Mobile phones, keys, coins in the tray please, belts and watches off, any liquids or aerosols - that sort of thing, just like airport security. I never knew so many men wore belts. For a week it was fine and working with the army was very good fun, but I do now understand why the people on the scanners at airports aren't the smiliest of folk! We had to be there at 6.30 am which meant getting up at 4.30 - not my forte but actually dawn at Eton Dorney was very beautiful, driving around at that time was a pleasure and I came to quite enjoy it. No public transport at that time of the morning of course and very limited parking at the venue so we were all told to sort ourselves into car pools. The car pool for Richmond/Barnes/Twickenham and assorted other vaguely west London locations consisted of nine people, two cars, numerous different shift patterns and two very precious green parking badges, all organised with military precision and efficiency by - naturally - a Richmond parkrunner. The huge plus for us was that the events were mornings only and all the spectators arrived early so we had finished work by about 9.30 am and were then free to watch the racing - mainly from the banks and on the big screen, but occasionally from the stands. Saw lots of medals won including golds for Team GB. It was a brilliant experience, unforgettable, and I am so grateful to have done it. Now thinking of volunteering for the rugby World Cup in 2015!" And Mary: "I was working in the medical clinic at the rowers' and canoeists' village which was at the Royal Holloway College at Egham - I was a receptionist, meeting and greeting the poorly athletes and making them appointments to see one of a long list of medical professionals - Doctor, Nurse, Radiologist, Physio, Sport Masseur, osteopath, chiropractor.....! We had a good team. It was great fun, the team were fantastic to work with and I got a few treatments myself as we were rather quiet - my shifts were all in the morning when the athletes were at Dorney Lake. We did keep up to date with all the Olympic TV while waiting for sick folk to appear! It was good to be part of the 'Olympic machine' - a tiny cog, but at least I felt part of it and I was proud to be part of the Games Makers team. Now it is over I might have time to come back to club nights and do a bit of running myself!" Chris Wright: "I was an Olympic Family Assistant which meant looking after an assigned client from the Olympic family (IOC, NOCs, and Sports Governing Bodies). In my case I was looking after the President and Secretary General of the Dominica NOC. The role was primarily about getting them to meetings on time, so I got to drive a big BMW around in the games lanes (which was fun). It was hard work with very long days, but it had its perks; Mary and I got to see the dress rehearsal for the opening ceremony, my client got us tickets just below the royal box for the closing ceremony, and I was able to watch the athletics on three nights - including my personal race of the games, David Rudisha's 800m." Finally Carol Barnshaw: "I worked at Excel for the Olympics and will play the same role but at North Greenwich Arena for the Paralympics. I was in the Mobility Team in Event Services and the work was in three main areas: 1 Driving the Golf Buggy up and down the waterfront. The length of the building is 0.7 km so it is quite a hike for disabled and older people. We could take four walkers and one wheelchair per trip. 2 Issuing and assessing people for wheelchairs and mobility scooters (also providing commentary ear pieces for people with sight loss and induction loop systems for people with a hearing impairment.) We provided a wheelchair pushing service and sighted guide service for people within the Excel Centre. 3 Attendence in the Arenas before and during sessions. We controlled accessible seating (not always easy as they were often the best seats in the house and everyone wanted to sit there) and generally attended to the needs of disabled people within the arenas during the event. Cons - the early starts (often 5.45am), long shifts (often 10 hours) and a lot of pushing heavy wheelchairs and standing for long periods. Pros - being part of a fun, committed and hard working team, feeling we were providing a useful and sensitive service, being in the arena for the first ever Olympic women's boxing match and having the opportunity to attend events such as fencing and weight lifting that I would never, in real life, consider watching. Roll on the Paralympics." Mike Rowland's spectator view: "Well, it's over and I must try and get used to Countdown and Deal Or No Deal all over again. It was the most wonderful fortnight of sport, starting with Danny Boyle's spectacular opening ceremony right through to the brilliant closure of the Games. How sad I felt when the flame was finally extinguished but what a night of music it had been. For an old rocker like me, it was so good to see some of the great bands of the past. Roger Daltrey's voice just does not fade. And no song is more certain to get a huge crowd involved than 'We Will Rock You'. I just hope a DVD of that closing ceremony is released. There are so many memories but here are a few of my own magic moments: Top for me has to be David Rudisha. It's the way he runs his races that I love. He just goes out and does it. His world record was inevitably overshadowed by Bolt's run later that evening but, for me, his was THE performance of the athletics. How long before he breaks 1:40.... or will young Nijel Amos get there before him?? And so to Usain Bolt. What more can be said about this man? He is the best thing that has happened to athletics in decades. His gold medal runs didn't quite give me the thrill that I got in Beijing. I didn't then realise just how good he was. Will he move up to 400 metres? Something tells me he won't. Mo Farah.... or will it soon be Sir Mohammed? A few years ago, he was on the same college course as my daughter and, from what she tells me of those days, he's matured a bit since then! Tactical brilliance. Saudi Arabia's first female athlete. 2:47 for an 800, that was me a few years back. From one tail-end Charlie to another - you were FAB-U-LOUS!! The tears of Felix Sanchez, back on top of the world after many, including me, had written him off. Kirani James swapping name bibs with Oscar Pistorius, and many others in the race congratulating him. They've all accepted him for what he is - a superb athlete. A horse dancing to a medley of Land of Hope and Glory, The Great Escape and the chimes of Big Ben. And we think we have to train hard!! Andy Murray crushing Roger Federer. He'll never do it again but what sweet revenge for Wimbledon. I noticed their towels after the match was over. Murray's was thrown haphazardly on his chair, Federer's was neatly folded. Typical of the man. The beautiful smile of Nicola Adams, first ever Olympic women's boxing champion. It put a smile on my own face every time I saw it. Boris dangling on a zipwire with a plastic Union Jack in each hand. Only he could survive the indignity! The great Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang being helped from the track by Andy Turner and another athlete after yet again sustaining a serious achilles injury. How unlucky can you get. I hope Charles Van Commenee doesn't carry out his threat of resigning if GB didn't get eight athletics medals. Four golds was our best, I think, since 1964 but our performance should not be judged on medals alone. There were some fine achievements by others, not least Julia Bleasdale and the wonderful Jo Pavey. I think they were the first non-Africans in both the 5000 and 10000 metres. Lawrence Clarke did superbly well to finish fourth in the 110 metres hurdles, though it has to be remembered that the race was missing two of the event's stars in Liu Xiang and Dayron Robles. I was so pleased to see Andrew Osagie in the 800 metres final. At last we have a half-decent middle distance runner. And there were good performances by Steve Lewis, Chris Tomlinson, Sophie Hitchen and the highly promising Katarina Johnson-Thompson (watch out, Jessica!) We didn't get any tickets. Not for want of trying but all I could come up with were £450 tickets for the Tuesday evening of the athletics and a couple for one of the Paralympic power lifting mornings. So we made do with television. But we did come up to London on the final Saturday and had a great day , culminating in the women's 20k walk. Ten laps of a 2k course using The Mall and Constitution Hill (where we were). And what a great race it was. Defending champion Olga Kaniskina set off at a furious pace with only Liu Hong for company. But the Chinese girl could not keep it up and faded back into the chasing pack. Then it seemed that the Russian could not be caught and the main interest was whether she could break the world record. On to the last lap and we were all shouting "Olga! Olga!", trying to spur her on to the record. But then we saw 19 year old Russian Yelena Lashmanova and China's Shenjie Qieyang eating into Kaniskina's lead. I wish we'd been in The Mall to see the end of the race. I hear that Lashmanova took the lead with 100 metres to go and came home just 7 seconds clear of poor Kaniskina. Qieyang was a further 7 seconds back in third. And the world record was beaten! We came to cheer GB's Jo Jackson and she'd started to move through the field when she was DQ'd at the end of lap four. I suspect the noise of the huge crowd cheering her on may have caused Jo to lose concentration. Walkers are used to crowds that you can count on the fingers of your hands! But once she'd gone... well, we just chose somebody else to cheer. We were surrounded by a family of Chinese, three Spanish guys, a tiny Japanese woman, two Portugese and some Italians. So we just joined in their cheers! It was so lovely at the end. Hardly anybody left until the final woman had gone through, a little Venezuelan who was a long way last. And what a cheer she got!. I don't mind admitting it brought a tear to my eye. A big thank you to Frances Ratchford who was on the course just in front of us and helping the judges. The thank you is to Frances as a representative of the huge army of volunteers who helped to make the Games such a success. We went into Green Park after the race to have a well-earned sit-down - we'd been standing in one place for about three hours! And then I saw something which seems so insignificant but meant a lot to me as a race-walker. A young lady from the Czech Republic who'd just finished the race, was walking up the path with her kit bag over her shoulder, laughing and joking and holding her boy friend's hand. They seemed to be heading for Green Park station. It was as if she'd just completed a low-key Saturday afternoon race in the park. No matter that she'd finished way down the field, she was just so pleased to have been in the Olympics. She didn't need the glamour that the big track and field stars get. And good for her - walkers like her will keep my sport alive. Shame on the BBC for not even giving the result - IT WAS A WORLD RECORD, BBC, A WORLD RECORD!!! The final word has to go to Channel 4 for their ingenious slogan for the Paralympics - THANKS FOR THE WARM-UP!!" Mike Hubbert sends the Aussie view as represented by the Melbourne Age: "LONDON, you didn't half do a decent job. These Olympics had Sydney's vibrancy, Athens's panache, Beijing's efficiency, and added British know-how and drollery. With apologies to Sydney, they might just represent a new PB for the Olympics. They were superbly organised. Olympic Park's setting, in one of the UK's poorest boroughs, proved inspired. London consists of layers, new cities built on top of fallen or demolished old. Now another has been added. Some Olympic sites become post-Games wasteland. This one began as wasteland and is now full of possibilities. Derelict bits of old Stratford still poke through, without ruining the effect. It is a measure of the UK's maturity that it went to less effort to disguise its warts-and-all self for the Games than most Olympic cities do. Elsewhere, London was unbuttoned, which made for some delightfully unexpected sights: of the Lord's pavilion, for instance. In London, the Games were preceded by the usual fatalistic anticipation of a cock-up. It proved groundless. Moving masses of people around a mazy city was expected to be a nightmare, but London made it look effortless. Security was plentiful, but low-key. The Army, called in to meet a shortfall, proved to be the UK's finest ambassadors. If you were to pick a nit, it would be to say that some volunteers tended to officiousness, sometimes. It rained, of course, but no more than usual for London, and not at all on London's parade. A carnival spirit prevailed. A London cabbie (is there any more authoritative?) said he had never seen so many happy people. Custom was down because most people either were at the Games or out of town, but he didn't mind. It helped, of course, that the host nation outdid itself in the arenas. The athletes surprised the fans with their excellence and the fans perhaps surprised themselves with their fervour. The stadium was Homebush (Sydney) reincarnate, but without the infantile chanting. Usain Bolt cannot be said to have stolen the show, because it was his anyway. But his performance personified both the rarefied standard and the joie de vivre (to borrow from across the Channel) of these Olympics. Jessica Ennis was the British face of the Games, but the delightful Mo Farah became their envoy. There were many forms of winner. In the stadium, women from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, running in hijab, trailed in their rivals by hundreds of metres, but were cheered home to the echo. Their victory was to be even at the start line. For bodily challenged South Africans Oscar Pistorious and Caster Semenya, ditto. Sportsmanship was these Games' motif. There were notorious exceptions, but they served to prove the rule. British cyclist Victoria Pendleton was plainly devastated to lose a sprint final to bitter Australian rival Anna Meares, yet in the moment took Meares by the arm and held it up to the crowd in an age-old gesture of acclaim. London's Games had no finer moment. London's Olympics were not perfect, of course; nothing on this scale could be. But the faults were mostly endemic to the Olympics, not London particularly. There was the merest hint of a drug taint, for instance; will it ever go away? And the time surely has come to dump the tedious athletes' parade from the opening ceremony. There is an incandescent glow upon London today. At worst, the Games were a distraction from troubled times. At best, they might act as the UK's timely reminder to itself about what is possible when it puts its mind to it and its heart in it. Polling suggests that Britons think this was £9 billion ($A13.35 million) well spent, for now at least. The London Olympics, it can truly be said, were a right bang-up job." It's a shame that the Age's correspondent reserved one of his few criticisms for the volunteers. In my experience they were invariably cheerful and helpful. Games Makers indeed...they made the Games. FINALLY... Remaining with the Olympics theme, can I warmly recommend the stage version of Chariots of Fire which is currently running at the Gielgud Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue. The story - of Abrahams and Liddell at the 1924 Paris Olympics - is well known, even down to Vangelis's iconic score, but the staging - with up to a dozen actor runners hurtling at top speed round a makeshift track in, around and behind the audience - is amazing. Get one of the stage seats if you can, and be close enough to the action to smell the wintergreen embrocation!