BEFORE the Second World War the British women's athletics team did not compete internationally except at the Olympics and the Empire Games, each of which came round once every four years. But in the post-war era women have been fully integrated into the sport, participating in nearly 20 different track and field disciplines, in internationals jointly with the men's team, in cup competitions and, latterly, at grand prix events. This transformation was due in large part to the work of Marea Hartman, for 30 years Honorary Secretary of the Women's Amateur Athletic Association. Hartman was one of the longest- serving and most influential people in athletics, an internationally respected figure, and Chairman for 13 years of the Women's Commission of the International Amateur Athletic Federation. And all her work for the sport was carried out in a purely honorary capacity, without remuneration.
Marea Hartman was born in London in 1920 to parents in the hotel trade. As a girl she joined the Spartan Ladies Athletic Club, and sprinted both for her club and for Surrey, winning a county gold medal. During the war she served with the Army in the Welfare Division. She was for more than 30 years a personnel officer at the paper manufacturers Bowaters, but spent most of her waking hours working for athletics. She became team manager of the British women's team in 1956, the year of the Melbourne Olympics. Hartman remained in that post until 1978, taking in another five Olympic Games, and the European Championships in those years, and managing the English women's teams at the Commonwealth Games (as the Empire Games became).
As team manager her task was to guide and reassure anything between 30 and 50 highly strung international athletes, often cooped up in a cramped games village. Perhaps the high point of her career was the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, when she was associated with Mary Rand's three medals (including the long jump gold) and Ann Packer's victory in the 800 metres.
While attending the Mexico Olympics in 1968, Hartman was selected Chairman of the Women's Commission of the IAAF. She remained in the post until 1981 and was an honorary life member of the commission. One of the stars of Hartman's team in Mexico was the 400-metre runner Lillian Board. In the succeeding years Board contracted cancer and Hartman was with her when Board died at a Munich clinic in December 1970. Hartman was largely responsible for setting up a trophy in Lillian Board's name which is still presented annually at the WAAA championships.
As Honorary Secretary of the Women's AAA, Hartman was effectively the honorary chief executive for women's athletics in the whole of Britain, her duties including the organising of the annual WAAA championships, both indoors and out. As Honorary Treasurer of the British Amateur Athletic Board, she found sponsors for BAAB international meetings and organised fund-raising. We served together on the BAAB and I found her support as a council member invaluable; she always emphasised the importance of correct behaviour in athletics, and campaigned against the use of performance-enhancing drugs and stimulants. She served on the board's working party on the subject and in January 1988 was one of the founder members of a new drug-abuse sub-committee.
When the administration of athletics in Britain was rearranged, and the British Athletics Federation created, in 1991, Hartman became President of the new AAA of England.
Marea Hartman was also in the forefront of British sport in general and was a member of the Executive Committee of the Central Council of Physical Recreation from 1972 and latterly its Deputy Chairman and Honorary Treasurer. She was appointed DBE in this year's New Year's Honours List for 'services to sport, particularly athletics'. She took a Corinthian approach to the present-day professional aura of sport. For her, sport remained a recreation rather than a source of income.
Marea Hartman was a white- haired, smiling figure - I envied her ability to produce to order for the cameras a genuine smile, rather than a smirk - and was known throughout the athletics world for her taste for Campari and soda, her favourite drink.
Although already ill, she attended both the AAA championships, at Sheffield, and the European Cup Final, at Birmingham, earlier this year. She was too sick to attend the Commonwealth Games in Canada, which ended on Sunday. But when I went to visit her last week, she was deeply interested in the progress of the Games and as alert and as concerned as ever at all that was going on in the sport she loved, and to which she gave so much.
- More about:
- British Cycling Federation
- Foreign & Commonwealth Office
- Track & Field