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London Olympics 2012: 10 vivid Games memories Neil Wilson

Murder and magic… my Olympic story: Our veteran of 19 Games recalls 10 vivid memories

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UPDATED:

22:45 GMT, 24 July 2012

Masked evil: A hooded Palestinian terrorist on the balcony of the Israeli quarters

Masked evil: A hooded Palestinian terrorist on the balcony of the Israeli quarters

MUNICH — Sept 5, 1972

Security was not tight at the Athletes’ Village in Munich, as the Palestinian terrorists had discovered four hours earlier. I ran into the Village, wearing a British tracksuit hastily ‘borrowed’ from an athlete’s husband still asleep on the couch in my media apartment. The armed guard, seeing an Olympic accreditation card dangling round my neck, waved me through an open gateway, assuming I was an athlete returning from a morning run. Minutes later the village was shut to outsiders.

The only information I had from my London office was that someone had been killed, thought at that time to be a chef. I spent the next 13 hours in an upper floor of the Italian team quarters overlooking 31 Connellystrasse where the Israeli athletes had been taken hostage, communicating what I could see on the internal phone to a colleague in the media village who filed it on to London.

MONTREAL — 1976

Hard
to believe but the controversy of those Games was in modern pentathlon.
Boris Onischenko — ‘Dis-honest-Chenko’ as Fleet Street named the Soviet
— rigged a device in his fencing epee which registered hits when he
pressed a button. British veteran Jim Fox spotted something was up and
asked for the weapon to be examined. With the game up, Soviet officials
rushed their man out of the country but poor Fox was left devastated.

None
of Fleet Street’s finest had been present — the five-day event was
given little coverage and the fencing section none — and when they
arrived hot foot after news spread, they demanded a press conference.
The competition was stopped, Fox was called to account for himself and,
unsurprisingly, returned to one of his worst days, winning only 23 of
his 55 contests. Fortunately, two younger team-mates kept GB in
contention and all three ran a blinder on day five to win Britain’s
first gold in the sport. Years later Fox said: ‘It took an experienced
idiot like me nearly to lose the medal.’

MONTREAL — 1976

No beating around the bush: Jim Rosenthal

No beating around the bush: Jim Rosenthal

Only since Moscow have the press been excluded from the Athletes' Village. Before that we could wander into the British block at will. I conducted several interviews with British athletes seated on their beds. Jim Rosenthal, then covering for the string of BBC local radio stations, had a unique method of obtaining interviews for local consumption. He would stand at the door of the British block and intercept anybody passing in a GB track suit or blazer with three questions: ‘Who are you, what do you do and where do you come from’

TEST EVENT, MOSCOW — 1979

One year out from the Games, before the infamous boycott threatened, the world’s media descended on Moscow to view the test event, the Spartakiad. The basement bar in our hotel was an evening mecca for one and all in a city short on nightlife but for those not staying there transport home after the witching hour was a nightmare.

It was solved on one occasion for Britain’s chief athletics coach Frank Dick by a journalist friend pressing wads of roubles into the fist of the driver of a 56-seater coach parked outside which persuaded him to drive Dick in solitary splendour back to his hotel. The panic an hour later when the massed personnel of a US TV company found their booked transport to their studios missing was a Pythonesque moment.

MOSCOW — 1980

Never was tighter security imposed upon the media at an Olympic Games than in Moscow. Hundreds were accommodated in a single gigantic hotel, the Rossiya, then the world’s largest with more than 3,000 rooms. Entry was permitted only to the accredited and only through one door and airport-style X-ray machines.

Cold War paranoia affected some so much they turned televisions in their rooms to the wall in case they were being filmed. All felt cut off from the real world, an impression brought home when two Dutch journalists, seeking a night on the town, asked the stony-faced doorman where they would find the nearest nightclub. ‘Helsinki,’ he replied.

SEOUL — 1987

There are times when you cannot report what you see and hear because you are in a privileged position. Chatham House rules, the lobby writers call those moments. It happened to me when I was asked to represent the British media on a British Olympic Association recce of the Games venues one year out. Travelling with us was one of Princess Anne’s police bodyguards.

The detail he demanded of bemused Koreans went far beyond the need for her security. ‘Where is the nearest toilet’ he asked at the hockey venue. Why did he need to know ‘If she asks and I don’t know, it’s me who’s in the khazi,’ he replied.

US TRIALS, INDIANAPOLIS — 1988

The US media were never fond of Carl Lewis. Too calculating, too fond of himself. But he would go out of his way for the British, recognising probably that Europe was where his bread was most thickly buttered. Three of us approached his manager, Joe Douglas, when we arrived in Indianapolis for a British-only interview with Lewis and he promised we would have it when the Trials ended.

On the final afternoon, with still nothing arranged, we sought out Joe. ‘He’s has to do a dope test first, then he’s seeing his mother and then he’s flying by a private jet to appear on the David Letterman Show. But somewhere he’ll fit you in.’ The call came mid-evening to meet him at midnight in a restaurant in a shopping mall where he would be eating with his sister Carol. He talked to us on every possible subject for two hours and then went straight to the airport.

Busted: Ben Johnson breaks from the pack during the 100m final in Seoul

Busted: Ben Johnson breaks from the pack during the 100m final in Seoul

SEOUL — Sept 27, 1988, 2am

The news that Ben Johnson had given a positive test reached the media village as a drinks party was winding down. That day’s work was long done and the next was a scheduled rest day in the Olympic Stadium, so the worst case scenario had seemed a nasty hangover. Instead, as lights came on across the media tower blocks and word spread, the eight-hour time difference meant a new day’s work was beginning for the same day’s paper.

The Mail’s heroine of the hour, incredibly, was Carol Thatcher, daughter of the Prime Minister and guest at the party, who tore sheets from columnist Ian Wooldridge’s typewriter after he wrote every second paragraph of a lengthy opinion piece and dictated his words to copy-takers in London against the imminent deadline. /07/24/article-0-033846DD000005DC-625_634x448.jpg” width=”634″ height=”448″ alt=”Return to the ice: Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean took bronze in Lillehammer” class=”blkBorder” />

Return to the ice: Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean took bronze in Lillehammer

ATLANTA — 1996

Security was tight, and tighter still after a bomb in downtown Atlanta. Official media buses to the main press centre involved lengthy checks through X-ray machines but the Mail team, staying in an upmarket hotel reserved for officials, found that the bigwigs’ buses took a short cut where there were no checks.

All worked splendidly for a week until we boasted of our dodge in the bar one night. A Sunday newspaper back home revealed the flaw as an example of weak security that led to the bomb blast and, surprise, surprise, the Mail team were sent to join the long queues.

Bjorn Bergmann Sigurdarson held captive by Lillestrom

Everton and Wolves target Sigurdarson says he is 'mentally broken' and held captive

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UPDATED:

08:42 GMT, 15 June 2012

Everton and Wolves target Bjorn Bergmann Sigurdarson claims he is being held hostage at his current club Lillestrom.

The striker has been a Toffees target for months and David Moyes was hoping to bring him to Goodison Park for next season.

Held captive: Bjorn Bergmann Sigurdarson is frustrated at Lillestrom

Held captive: Bjorn Bergmann Sigurdarson is frustrated at Lillestrom

Stale Solbakken, the new Wolves manager, was also looking to pick up the Icelandic striker in a bid to get his side back to the Barclays Premier League.

TalkSPORT reported that Sigurdarson said: 'I just had a meeting with the board [and they are] forcing me to stay. [I’m] mentally broken [and] want to leave.'

The Norwegian side are expected to bring in around 4million for the 6t 1in 21-year-old forward.

Euro 2012: Polish special forces in training

Better safe than sorry! Polish special forces in spectacular show of strength ahead of Euros

Poland is investing heavily in security for next year”s European soccer championship despite downgrading the number of visitors it expects.

Commandos have been simulating a multiple hostage situation in case criminals target the world”s second largest football tournament, which is being co-hosted with Ukraine next June.

The government now expects some 800,000 football fans to visit their four host cities – Warsaw, Gdansk, Poznan and Wroclaw.

Armed and dangerous: Troopers storm a train as Poland

Armed and dangerous: Troopers storm a train as Poland”s Elite Special Forces Unit prepare for Euro 2012 with a week-long dedicated training programme

“We got above 100 million zlotys (20m) from the state budget this year that we are spending entirely on Euro 2012 security,” Polish police spokesman Mariusz Sokolowski said. “This money goes first and foremost for 600 new vans. Secondly, we are also buying helmets, epaulets, pads, shields, everything that a policeman is equipped with. Let”s just hope they won”t have to be used.”

The Polish police and special forces have also held a week-long training session to better coordinate their procedures.

Colonel Piotr Gastal, head of Poland”s top special forces unit GROM, said: “We are training for the things that our unit was set up to do, business as usual, but there are more preparations ahead of Euro 2012 as there is a need for more operators.

Hijack: The routines were to prepare against hostage situations on public transport

Hijack: The routines were to prepare against hostage situations on public transport

Hijack: The routines were to prepare against hostage situations on public transport

“The Polish police holds the main responsibility for security during Euro 2012, but in case of a multiple hostage situation our unit can enter as the police are not trained or equipped enough to handle that.”

Ready for anything: The machinery involved was formidable

Ready for anything: The machinery involved was formidable

GROM has rehearsed releasing 20 or more hostages from public transport and public buildings, such as hotels and train stations.

“We are not aware of any additional, specific risks in Poland, but the sole fact of organising such an event like the Euros may be a target and we have to be prepared for various situations,” Gastal added.

Poland scaled down the number of fans it expects to visit during Euro 2012 after last week”s finals draw meant more popular teams such as Germany and England will play in Ukraine.

“Still, I hope for some several hundred million zlotys of additional revenue from fans” spending during the games,” said Marcin Herra, head of the PL2012 company dedicated to coordinating the tournament.

Extreme lengths: Divers from the special unit also practised in the Baltic Sea

Extreme lengths: Divers from the special unit also practised in the Baltic Sea

Poland also pegged a large-scale building programme to Euro 2012 and is upgrading its antiquated road infrastructure for the tournament, largely thanks to European Union”s aid funds.

“These investments is worth above 96 billion zlotys (19.1m),” Mikolaj Piotrowski said. “This speeding up in infrastructure may add a premium of some 20 billion zlotys by 2020 to the Polish Gross Domestic Product, a premium we would not have if it wasn”t for the Euros.”