Local Olympian heading for London 2012

FOR Brampton man Donald Halliday, the Olympics opening ceremony on Friday will be particularly poignant.

Not only does it signal the start of long-awaited London 2012, it will mark the 40th anniversary of the Munich Games – where he competed in two major events.

Mr Halliday, 65, who represented Great Britain in the 100m and 4x100m relay, recalled: “That was the year the Israeli athletes were killed by terrorists. We didn’t know too much about what was going on because they cut the TV off in the Olympic Village.”

Controversially, the Games went ahead but it meant Mr Halliday got to race in front of a crowd of 75,000 people – making the quarter finals of his individual event and the semi-finals of the team race.

He said: “It was fascinating. I had been training for the Olympics for five years.

“You switch in to running mode and shut the crowd out and concentrate on one thing. “Looking back, after getting through the first round, I think I sat back. I don’t think I ran as well as I could have.”

He ran the race in 10.6 seconds – just under half-a-second slower than gold medallist Valeriy Borzov, who ran the final in 10.14 seconds, but almost a second slower than the current world record of 9.69 seconds set by defending Olympic champion Usain Bolt.

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“That was when there was no money in sport,” he said. “If I was running now at the level I was I wouldn’t have to work – I would probably have lottery funding or endorsements and sponsors. I have mixed feelings about the money in sport. Back then, I got time off work for competitions but I had to do all my training in my own time.”

Mr Halliday, who was awarded an MBE in 2001, said he was proud at having competed in the Olympics. In total, he put in 28 appearances for Great Britain, including two Commonwealth Games and three European Championships, and he won the AAA’s 100m title in 1973. His career best performance was 10.3 seconds and he won RAF and inter-service titles from 1968 through to 1978. His inter-service record, set in 1971, still stands today.

As part of London 2012, Mr Halliday and his wife Sara have been invited to an “Olympian Celebration” hosted by the Lord Mayor of London David Wootton, and he will take a group of local young adults to watch a day of events as part of the Ticketshare scheme. He will get to see track and field events at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, including the women’s 100m final and the second day of the heptathlon, when Team GB captain Jessica Ennis will be competing.