Sandy Duncan

Athlete and Olympic administrator

Kenneth Sandilands Duncan, athlete, coach and administrator: born Crawshaw Booth, Lancashire 26 April 1912; General Secretary, British Olympic Association 1949-75; MBE 1950, OBE 1974; Honorary Secretary, Commonwealth Games Federation 1954-82; married 1941 Katherine Darwall (died 1955; one son), 1957 Dorothy Wentworth (marriage dissolved 1966); died London 18 June 2005.

Sandy Duncan was a stalwart of post-war British sport who ran the British Olympic Association as its General Secretary for 26 years. After his retirement, he was recognised internationally as a pre-eminent source of information on Olympic history and regulation. His death at the age of 93 cuts one more connecting thread to the post-war, "Ration Book" Olympics of 1948, just days before the International Olympic Committee meets in Singapore to determine whether London might again stage the Games.

He was also instrumental in guiding the career of Roger Bannister when he arrived at Oxford in 1946, and he was the track referee who sanctioned the pace making that played a pivotal part in Bannister's first sub-four-minute mile in 1952 - possibly the most famous world record in sporting history.

Duncan had a colourful career as an athlete, coach, administrator and as the chef de mission for the British team at 12 Olympics, summer and winter, between 1952 and 1972. He also worked as honorary secretary of the Commonwealth Games Federation from 1954 to 1982. He loved the ideal of the Olympics in their purest sense. His involvement with the International Olympic Academy, located close to the site of the ancient Games at Olympia, was heartfelt. He wrote:

It is hard to imagine a better way to bring some measure of understanding and friendship between the youth of many

countries than for them to live and work in peace and harmony together in such a wonderful setting, united in the love of sport.

Born in Lancashire in 1912, the only son of a doctor, he was educated at Malvern College and New College, Oxford, where he read Chemistry. He was awarded an athletics Blue in his first year, and was later to win both the 100 yards and the long jump in the annual match against Cambridge. He was also awarded a football Blue.

As a long jumper, Duncan was nationally ranked, finishing second at the AAA Championships in 1934, yet he was versatile enough to also make the AAA finals of the shot and discus. Internationally, he won a relay gold medal at the 1938 World Student Games, and he was selected for Great Britain in 1935 and 1936, when he ran 9.8sec for 100 yards. But a hamstring injury denied Duncan the chance to compete at the notorious 1936 Berlin Olympics - which he attended as a member of the British staff, at the invitation of Evan Hunter, the long-time British Olympic Association secretary whom he would eventually succeed. Duncan's assimilation into the British sporting establishment was begun.

Duncan served in the Royal Artillery during the Second World War, where he rose to the rank of major, and afterwards he taught at Bradfield and took up coaching, which led to a historic meeting with Bannister at Iffley Road track in the autumn term of 1946. Bannister, a gangling, teenaged medicine fresher seeking advice on his running, was beaten in his first mile race, running a modest 4min 53sec. "Stop bouncing, and you'll knock 20 seconds off," Duncan told Bannister. When Bannister next raced a mile, five months later, he clocked 4:30.8.

By the time of the 1948 London Games, Duncan was placed in charge of co-ordinating the Olympic Torch Relay from Greece, while as a coach he also converted Dorothy Manley from a high jumper to 100m sprinter, winning the silver medal behind Fanny Blankers-Koen. The following year, he succeeded Hunter as Secretary of the BOA. In 1984 he won the Olympic Award from the IOC.

Steven Downes

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