Golden age that inspired a life in sport

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The Independent Online

In spite of many days of boredom spent watching Royton play cricket in the Central Lancashire League with her father, she had taken me to Lord's the previous summer to watch Compton and Edrich. But she would have been relieved to discover that the greengrocer round the corner knew someone who had two tickets for the athletics at Wembley Stadium, and was willing to take along a little boy, rising 10, who wanted to see the spectacle.

We sat on concrete seats in the open air at the end opposite the Olympic flame. Because I can vividly remember two of the events I saw, I can date my day. I was there on 31 July - finals day for the 100 metres and the semi-finals of the 400m. My heroes were two runners I had read about in the papers: E MacDonald Bailey, a Trinidadian sprinter who had been in the RAF and was running for Britain, and Arthur Wint, who lived in England but represented Jamaica, and later became high commissioner in London.

Britain had two finalists in the 100m - Bailey and a rangy Scot called Alister McCorquodale. I was facing the runners as they came down the track and, although I could not tell which of the Americans had won, I did know that Bailey trailed in sixth, two places behind McCorquodale. This was the first occasion on which a photo finish was used. They decided that Harrison "Bones" Dillard, who was really a high hurdler, had beaten Barney Ewell in 10.3sec. It was an Olympic record.

If I felt upset, the excitement of seeing Arthur Wint made up for it. Wint was tall and slim, and his stride seemed twice as long as anyone else's. It took him into an easy second place in the 400m semi-final, and left an image which has not dimmed. I was left with an interest in athletics which has not faltered. Seb Coe is right about the Olympics. They do inspire a love that lasts a lifetime. It is delightful to think that there are some three-year-olds in London now who might experience the same excitement in 2012 as I did in 1948, early in a privileged childhood.

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