Page last updated at 13:17 GMT, Tuesday, 26 August 2008 14:17 UK

Keep it simple say 1948 Olympians

By Ingibjorg Thordardottir
BBC News

London 1948 ad
The 1948 London Olympics were run on a tight budget

British Olympians from 1948 say the Beijing Olympics have been more about showbusiness than sport.

But with a spectacular opening ceremony, well organised games and a record number of medals for Team GB, has Beijing raised the bar too high for London 2012?

"I've competed in four Olympic games and they have all done well without big opening ceremonies.

"The marching men of the guards would be great. Let's show something we have that nobody else has... And a great big no to any pop groups, it should not be made into a pop occasion. This is a serious thing."

That is the advice to the 2012 organisers from Dorothy Tyler MBE, 88, a veteran of four Olympic Games and the only woman in Britain to win an Olympic medal before and after World War II.

In 1948 she won silver in high jump.

The ever active Mrs Tyler, who still plays golf a few times a week, has been watching the Beijing Games on television - but she was not always impressed.

"It's always getting bigger and bigger. It's all getting too big," she says.

Dorothy Tyler MBE
Dorothy Tyler with her two young sons a month before 1948 games

"They are bringing in stupid events. Volleyball on sand [beach volleyball] and swimming upside down [synchronised swimming] is ridiculous. It's not sport and it's not something to be proud of."

Even the Olympic flame is too big. "It's not a flame," she says "it's a bonfire".

Mrs Tyler is also critical of Michael Phelps and others being allowed to take part in more than three events.

"It's like one man taking part in everything. I call it being greedy and it's very demoralising for other people who end up always competing for second place."

'Competing nude'

Husband and wife John, 83, and Dorothy Parlett, 81, both competed in 1948, although they did not get married until 30 years later.

John and Dorothy Parlett
John and Dorothy Parlett competed in 800m and 100m respectively

Mrs Parlett - then Dorothy Manley - won a silver medal in women's 100m. Mr Parlett competed in the 800m - but ran, according to him, a disappointing race and finished out of the medal positions.

"The Chinese wanted to wave the flag and show what a wonderful country China is. I don't think we need to do that... It needs to be simple, simplicity can be striking," Mr Parlett said.

Mr Parlett, who is a trained designer and worked for years in advertising, is also unimpressed by the logo for the new Games, saying it fails to capture what London is about.

"It's awful and it breaks all the rules of design. It's not even legible... I can't even see London on it," he says.

So he has decided to design his own alternative London 2012 logo that he believes is more in line with what the Olympics should be about - simplicity.

Olympic logos
Mr Parlett's own logo (left) contrasts with the official 2012 logo (right)

But it is the outfits, or lack of them, that women athletes now wear that has caught Mrs Parlett's eye.

"The dresses the women wear intrigues me, in 20 years they will be competing in the nude. In 1948 we had to make our own uniforms and it was only allowed to be four inches above the knee."

Grassroots important

Mr Parlett points out that the sports Britain has done particularly well in are expensive sports such as cycling, yachting, equestrian and rowing.

And so we touch on a topic that is close to their hearts because it is not just the Olympic ceremonies they believe need to go back to their roots, but also the developments of athletics.

Dorothy Parlett
Dorothy Parlett won a silver medal in 1948

"Sport has disappeared from schools," Mr Parlett says, "they need to be involved. Children need to get away from the screens and socialise at their own level."

The couple believe the disappearance of "stepping stones" such as club and county championships has been a major factor and that it will take a generation or two to get kids back into sport

Mrs Parlett says: "It was an eye opener for me that we only had one girl in the 200m, we are entitled to have three, but they could only find one girl."

During Beijing 2008 there has been much talk of medal tables, not least with Team GB getting its best results in a century.

But the old Olympians say that this emphasis is not in line with what the Olympic should be about, and Mr Parlett points to a photograph showing the slogan for the 1948 Olympics.

"The important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part. The essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well."

Back to basics

Doug Wilson, 88, who competed in the 1500m in 1948, believes that Olympic spirit is still alive, it just needs to be put at the forefront again with less razzmatazz.

Doug Wilson
Doug Wilson says there is too much emphasis on medal table

"It's been blown out of all proportion. In 1948 organisers did it all in their spare time. I remember a bank manager who did it in the evenings. They did a great job in terrible circumstances just after WWII," Mr Wilson says.

"London should go back to basics, the simplicity of the games. They should make it more idealistic and not just nation against nation. They should try to put over the Olympic ideal."

Mr Wilson said he had been thrilled when the Games were awarded to London two years ago but was now disappointed about the negative coverage, especially about how costs seem to have spiralled out of control.

"We will put on a good show in the end," he said.

"There are lots of problems to solve, there always are. But all the publicity so far has been negative, there must be something positive," he said.


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