Among those who died almost unnoticed this year were two great post-war runners: the UK’s Jamaican-born Emmanuel McDonald Bailey and France’s Algerian-born Alain Mimoun.
McDonald Bailey was the first of our great black sprinters and when he equalled Jesse Owens’s 10.2 seconds in 1951 became the only Brit ever to hold the 100 metre world record.
Finalist in the 1948 Olympics 100m, he was favourite in 1952 but took the bronze in a blanket finish with the American Lindy Remigino and Jamaica’s Herb McKenley.
Alain Mimoun was not the first long-distance runner from Africa but he was the start of their modern dominance and trashed the myth that “black men don’t go the distance”.
He took three silver medals in the 1948 and 52 Olympics behind Emil Zátopek before finally winning the 1956 Marathon gold in Melbourne’s blazing 100 degree heat.
In an Olympics marred by Cold War politics, boycotts and violence, Zátopek, a colonel in the Czech army, memorably saluted and embraced Mimoun in the stadium at the finish.
(Dr) John Cameron