Angus Carmichael circled
Ahead of the last Games in London, we interviewed former Olympians - swimmer Helen Yate and the late, great Scottish footballer Angus Carmichael - to find out what it was like to represent their country in post-war Britain at the 1948 London Games.
The swimming champion
Helen Yate from Plymouth was 27 in 1948 and represented Great Britain at 100m backstroke.
'I was picked after coming second in the National Championships,' remembers Helen. 'They were held in Scarborough that year and that meant there were 12 of us in the team altogether in the Women's Team.'
Being part of the Olympic swimming team was a far cry from what we know nowadays, though. 'I tried to find time to swim in my lunch hour and in evenings,' says Helen. 'We didn't have goggles and there were no sports psychologists or work in the gym that modern athletes do. We were just left to ourselves.'
So what about the Games themselves? Helen has very fond memories of the opening ceremony itself. 'We marched in behind the flag and watched the flame being lit, before the King (George VI) came out and gave his speech,' she says.
'It was very moving and, even then, I knew it was something very special. It was the first time I'd been in Wembley Stadium and the atmosphere was incredible.'
Helen then explains about their accommodation during the Games. 'We were all put up in a big house round the back of Victoria Station in Ecclestone Square,' she recalls. 'Sadly, we didn't get to know any of the other sportsmen and sportswomen.
The swimming events were all held in the Empire Pool, which is now far better known as Wembley Arena. In fact, the pool was last used at the 1948 Olympics. 'I'd swum there before,' says Helen, for whom the audience was no distraction whatsoever. 'There was a huge crowd cheering us on, but it didn't really bother me, or get to me.'
In the heats, Helen qualified for the semi-finals in 3rd place. 'It was all so different then,' she remembers. 'There were time judges at the end of each lane and place judges at the side of the pool, who could adjudicate in the event of a close finish.'
Sadly, she just missed out on a place in the final, coming in 4th in her semi-final. 'I was a bit upset, I must admit, but not desperately.'
So, at 91, what does Helen think about the 2012 Olympics and will she be going? 'Oh yes,' she says excitedly. 'The British Olympic Association has given me tickets to see some of the events and I'll be going with one of my fellow 1948 teammates, Elizabeth Church (a swimming finallist in 1948).'
And did Helen get any reward for her efforts in 1948? 'Well, I got a bit of time off afterwards, but we weren't paid, of course. It was the honour of representing your country.'
The Scottish footballer
Angus Carmichael was 24, when he was part of the GB football team at the 1948 Olympics.
'I was playing for Queen's Park in the Scottish 1st Division and we had a big game against Rangers at their stadium which the selectors came to watch,' recalls Angus. 'We had a strong team and we were all rigidly amateur, so for that reason 6 of us got the call-up for the team.'
'To be honest, the Olympics didn't really mean a lot to me at first and turning out at Wembley wasn't a big deal,' says Angus. 'Hampden Park was our home stadium in Scotland and is just as big as Wembley, so it all felt quite normal.'
'What a roar!'
However, Angus' memories of the opening ceremony were far from run-of-the-mill. 'The football team led out the GB squad, because we were big and thuggish-looking, I think,' remembers Angus. 'I'd never heard a roar like it when we walked into the stadium. It was quite marvellous.'
Sadly, Angus only got to play one match – the 3rd and 4th place play-off against Denmark, which Great Britain lost 5-3. 'I was never in (manager) Matt Busby's best books,' he says. 'I was 6ft 2in and he favoured shorter guys, around 5ft 8in/5ft 9in.'
'It didn't spoil my enjoyment of the whole thing, though. I had a great time and we all did as well as we thought we could.'
Tactics? What tactics?
And don't assume they any special strategy when they were playing. 'Matt Busby was a nice person, but didn't do anything for my football ability,' remembers Angus. 'We had no tactics, as such – we were just told to go on the pitch and play our normal game!'
The accommodation Angus experienced was pretty good, though. 'We were out at the RAF camp in Uxbridge [West London]. There was no drinking allowed, but the food was outstanding,' he says. 'We still had rationing, so it was things I'd never even seen before. The one downside was that we had to keep quiet at night, because there were always runners competing the next day.'
And his favourite memory? 'I remember a group of us going to a Lyons Cornerhouse Cafe in our uniform and we were treated like absolute royalty. That was an amazing moment.'
On 21 March 2013, Angus Carmichael sadly passed away, aged 87. Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.