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Olympic moments that stopped the world

Michael Johnson breaks the world record for 200 metres at the Atlanta Olympics


By Eleanor Oldroyd:

When we ran our 'Olympic Moments that Stopped the Nation' programme on 5 Live Sport last July, with a year to go until London 2012, we had a fantastic response from listeners. It was a reminder of a very important fact - the glory of the Games is all about the sport.

Recalling the achievements of the likes of Sir Steve Redgrave, Kelly Holmes, and Mary Peters, and the never-say-die spirit of Derek Redmond, energized us all.

It's so easy to get bogged down in gripes about ticket availability, traffic concerns and questions about long-term legacy, and to forget the sheer human endeavour and inspiration that lives so long in our collective memories.

Cathy Freeman on the way to gold in 2000 in Sydney


So, as the countdown clock ticks into double figures, we're telling more incredible stories of past Games, and this time taking a more global view, with our Olympic Moments that Stopped the World.

I've spent the last few weeks talking to people who were there as history was made.

Moments of sheer, jaw-dropping talent - like Nadia Comaneci's perfect 10's in Montreal '76, Michael Johnson's total demolition of the opposition on the track in Atlanta '96, Bob Beamon's mammoth leap in Mexico '68, or Cathy Freeman, who met her destiny head on and fulfilled it as the world held its breath in Sydney 2000.




Moments which reflected a turbulent period in world history - like the Black Power salute, also in Mexico '68, or the so-called Blood in the Water match in Melbourne '56, when the world-beating Hungarian waterpolo team took on and beat the USSR, whose countrymen in the Soviet Army were at the time brutally suppressing the Budapest uprising.


Ben Johnson on his way to winning the 100 metres in 1988.


Moments of controversy - more Cold War undercurrents as the USA v USSR basketball final in 1972 ended in judging chaos and farce, and the 100 metres final in Seoul in 1988, known by some as the dirtiest race in history, as Ben Johnson cheated his way to gold.

Moments of tragedy - I will always be haunted by my conversation with Dan Alon, an Israeli fencer who fled from the terrorists who invaded the Olympic Village in Munich '72, but then watched in tears as his team-mates and colleagues were flown to what he correctly guessed would be their certain death.



We'll also hear from the man who has choreographed some of the most extraordinary spectacles in recent Olympic history - the so-called Master of The Ceremonies, Ric Birch, and Antoni Rebello, who shot an arrow into the Barcelona night sky in 1992, and sparked two decades of debate.

Antoni Rebello who shot an arrow into the Barcelona night sky in 1992


Barry Davies, who incredibly will cover his twelfth Olympics this year, will join me in the studio, as will Matthew Syed, who hasn’t clocked up quite as many yet, but is a keen observer of the sporting and political history of the Games.

Of course, like all lists, ours isn’t definitive, so we’re expecting to hear from you all about the world figures we’ve missed out - Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, Mark Spitz, for example.

And if we were making this programme in Nairobi, Budapest or Tokyo, we would undoubtedly be talking about incredible Kenyan long distance runners, Hungarian fencers or Japanese judokas.

So feel free to add your own nominees - but we can promise you some of the most compelling Olympic stories you will hear anywhere.

Eleanor Oldroyd is a 5 live sport presenter. You can hear our London Calling special "Olympic Moments that Stopped the World" on Thursday night on 5 live from 7.30pm.

Read more about famous Olympic Moments on BBC Sport.


  • Comment number 1.

    Yes we are all fully aware that the BBC/5live has the rights to broadcast the London Olympics but that doesn't mean we have to be bombarded with the usual over done hype and trailers every 5 minutes, it is tedious and counter productive.5live and your sporty chums may be interested but I have yet to find anyone who shares your enthusiasm.I would rather the billions spent could have been put to better use like not closing down hospital wards or making people in this country work until they are 66 or 68 to claim a basic state pension ! Whenever it is on I think many besides me will just switch off. Wimbledon,Euro Championships, Olympics ?Will there be any room for any news ? No wonder 75% of people think 5live is just a sports station.

  • Comment number 2.


  • Comment number 3.

    Must admit I AM looking forward to the volleyball competition at the Olympics and 5lives coverage.Well worth the entrance fee and I hope 5live give over a large proportion of broadcasting to what could be soon the number event at any Olympics.

  • Comment number 4.

    oh dear ' number one event ' that should read sports fans..

  • Comment number 5.

    I thought this country was bankrupt but still got billions of pounds for the London Olympics ? Is this a wind up ? Looking forward to hearing ' fencing ' on 5live radio.

  • Comment number 6.

    The Olympics ? In London ? Nobody told me about this ! I have hardly heard it mentioned on 5live recently........

  • Comment number 7.

    Yet more 2012 hype from the Beeb that the majority of the population couldn't care less about.

  • Comment number 8.

    Is there an Olympics in London this year?........... I'd never have known if it wasn't for the adverts every 5 minutes for it on 5live.

  • Comment number 9.

    It's probably the biggest event (sporting or otherwise) that Britain has ever hosted so I would suggest it deserves the coverage it's getting.
    I completely disagree with the suggestion that the whole country is apathetic about the Olympics (and I'm speaking as a northerner) It's the first Olympics where the all tickets have been sold out in advance and the outcry about the application process would suggest a great deal of interest. This week's FiveLive poll was all about the value for money aspect, which is a completely different argument.

    On the subject of last night's programme, I would like to congratulate FiveLive for 3 hours of compelling listening that I couldn't switch off. It also reinforced my opinion that Barry Davies is possibly this country's greatest living sports commentator.

  • Comment number 10.

    There are still loads of Olympic tickets left......... the only one to have sold out is synchronised swimming.


  • Comment number 11.

    The bad news is the London Olympics could cost up to £24 billion ......the good news is for the 5live presenters who will be entrenched in London and won't have to make the trip up too Salford for weeks.

  • Comment number 12.

    Five Live has commissioned Colin Murray to front a programme about former Olympians.

    In today's Daily Mail Controller Van Klaveran is described as being 'in thrall to Murray' while correspondent Charles Sale describes him as 'BBC Sport's most irritating broadcaster'.

    I know who I'm with.

  • Comment number 13.

    Why do so many people seem to have forgotten years of the evolution of the mind to confuse excitement about the Olympics with whether they should be in London at all. Of course we all know times are tough, but guess what, the event is going to happen. If Seb stood up tomorrow and said, look money's tight in the whole country and so we're cancelling the Olympics would we all be happy? I assume not and so we are where we are.

  • Comment number 14.

    Imagine if Paris had won, we'd still have lots of hype around current, previous and future Olympians, we'd have 'Paris Calling' We did with Beijing, Sydney and Athens (pause for everyone to ponder whether the Athens Olympics is in fact the sole reason for all of the current problems in Greece...) and we will in Rio.

    So please, let's all wander as to the cost and the juxtapositon of this vs benefit in terms of all the hotels, food, drink, soveigners, day trips around the country that these thousands of visitors will hopefully embark upon, with all the VAT and fuel tax etc that. But why not, quite seperatly just allow ourselves a short period of national pride and look forward to the 'greatest show on earth'?

  • Comment number 15.

    People love to bitch, moan,criticize, its almost a hobby to some people, the Olympics coming to London is fantastic, once in a life time opportunity, the Worlds top athletes coming to London, thousands upon thousands of visitors spending the Cash here etc etc, yet people would rather be miserable and Bitch about Mosey, Seb Coe etc etc, lighten up people!!!

  • Comment number 16.

    Why should we 'lighten up'? Why should anyone tell us how we should feel? It's this enforced jollity that non sports fans have to endure - we cannot escape the Olympics and we ceratinly cannot escape it even for a few minutes on 5live.

  • Comment number 17.

    ' If Seb stood up tomorrow and said look moneys tight in the whole country, so we are cancelling the Olympics,would we all we happy...... ?

    YES !! Hurrah !! I can think of far better ways to spend £24 billion,this country hasn't got !!!

  • Comment number 18.

    I listen to a lot of FiveLive and don't understand where the perception that the Olympics are being rammed down our throats 24/7 is coming from. Last week there was the excellent programme on Thursday night (if this hadn't been on we'd probably have had another football discussion) and the test torch relay event which was a news story. On a news & sport station I don't think that's overkill for the biggest news & sports event of 2012 and to suggest that you can't escape it for 5 minutes is ridiculous.
    I don't think that The Voice & Britain's Got Talent are newsworthy, but I understand that other people do so it's valid on a station that tries to cover everything.

    And to suggest that cancelling the games now would make the public happy is ludicrous. We've already spent £10bn and if we tried cancelling now it would ruin millions of people's summer, make the country a laughing stock around the world and ruin any chance of ever hosting any major event again (although I get the impression that would make some people happy!)

  • Comment number 19.

    ' If Seb stood up tomorrow and said look moneys tight in the whole country, so we are cancelling the Olympics,would we all we happy...... ?

    YES !! Hurrah !! I can think of far better ways to spend £24 billion,this country hasn't got !!!'

    The thing is binkie, the monies spent, cancelling the event now would be a a total waste, as I say - we are were we are...

  • Comment number 20.

    I live in London.

    I applied for tickets and received 0 (I have some for the Paralympics including, hopefully seeing Pistorius if he doesn't get in to the main Games).

    I can't wait for the Games or the peripheral things happening here.

    Wherever you live in the country you are still closer than most of the Chinese were, the Australians were, the Brazilians will be, etc etc.

    So stop complaining about it being too far away.

    Sit back and enjoy the spectacles that are going to unfold. Watch on big screens all over the place or, blimey, come to London and see some of the Cultural Olympiad 2012.

    And stop complaining and have some pride in what has been achieved. The athletes will be amazing, the buildings are awesome and the Games will be too.


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