News

Torch relay handovers were 44 years apart

John Rogers, when he carried the torch in the 2000 Olympic torch relay.
John Rogers, when he carried the torch in the 2000 Olympic torch relay.

JOHN Rogers could not have known history would repeat itself.

As a 23-year-old, he ran in the Olympic torch relay of 1956.

Fast forward 44 years and the 68-year-old was taking more significant strides, running in the 2000 Olympic torch relay.

"I was offered the chance to carry the torch again and I grasped it with both hands," he said.

"To do it twice in your lifetime is something quite remarkable."

John's fascination with the Olympics started when he watched black and white news reels of Australian track champion Shirley Strickland competing in London in 1948.

In 1952, he watched her claim her first Olympic title in Helsinki, which further cemented his interest in the international sporting event.

The spritely 80-year-old is keen to share his relay experiences, surrounded by a selection of memorabilia in his den.

Pride of place is the commemorative medal he received for the 1956 relay.

Not far away is the torch he carried in 2000.

His sporting inventory includes a basketball signed by Aussie players from Seoul 1988, Australian cufflinks from the 1972 Munich Games, and even a souvenir Barbie doll from Atlanta in 1996.

 

1956 OLYMPIC TORCH RELAY

Greek runners took the flame to Athens.

The flame was transferred to a miner's lamp then flown by Qantas Super Constellation aircraft Southern Horizon to Darwin, NT.

An RAAF English Electric Canberra jet bomber flew it to Cairns, where it arrived on November 9, 1956.

John Rogers (left) transfers the flame to Ernie Hay.
John Rogers (left) transfers the flame to Ernie Hay.

The torch design was, with the exception of the engraved city name and year, identical to the design used for the 1948 London Games.

The first runner was Con Verevis, a local man of Greek parentage.

The flame was relayed down the east coast of Australia using diecast aluminium torches, weighing about 1.8kg.

The flame arrived in Melbourne on November 22, 1956.

The Olympic Flame was lit at the stadium by Ron Clarke, who burnt his arm in the process.

JOHN Rogers embarked on a 27-hour round trip by bus, steam train and truck to make a six-minute dash into Australian sporting history.

The Rockhampton man ran a one-mile leg on the 1956 Olympic torch relay, the first in the Southern Hemisphere. At 2855 miles (4600km) it was, at the time, the longest ever undertaken in the modern Olympic era.

The hand-to-hand relay was run virtually non-stop, 24 hours a day.

It started in Cairns on November 9, 1956, and arrived 13 days, one hour and 53 minutes later at the gates of the Melbourne Cricket Ground for the opening ceremony.

John Bell carries the torch on the stretch from Croydon to Sarina.
John Bell carries the torch on the stretch from Croydon to Sarina.

His photo album traces the relay as it wends its way down the east coast to the Queensland-New South Wales border.

As he flicks through its pages, he brings each black and white image to life with a colourful account of the runners, some of their quirky encounters and the wonderful friendships forged along the way.

"There I am," he says, pointing at one of five sepia photos on a left-hand page. "I'm the little fella at the back there, handing the torch to Ernie Hay."

The absence of photos showing John carrying the flame is then explained.

"I was dropped out there by myself," he says of his starting point, 85km south of Home Hill.

"I waited for about an hour for the torch convoy to arrive."

Just getting there was an adventure in itself.

John travelled by bus to Ayr, where he boarded a steam train bound for Home Hill. He then jumped on the back of a flat-top truck and was taken "33 miles down the track" to his designated relay position.

The eager 23-year-old did not sleep a wink along the way.

John was stationed in Townsville with the RAAF 10th Squadron when he was nominated for the relay.

He trained on the Strand, carrying a house brick in his right hand to simulate the diecast aluminium torch he would have to carry.

Torchbearers had to be capable of running the mile in seven minutes.

That proved no hurdle for John, a physical training instructor.

He completed the distance in six minutes - on Remembrance Day, 1956. He can rattle off details so succinctly you can easily forget it happened more than 50 years ago.

Decked out in all white, John waited anxiously on the dirt road for the lead truck of the convoy.

As it rumbled towards him, he knew the torch itself was only minutes away.

Right on cue torchbearer John Petersen, of Ayr, ran into view, a trail of white smoke heralding his arrival.

The two men worked meticulously to transfer the flame and John strode into action - and into history.

"I got the torch about 9.30am," he said. "I remember it was pretty humid - probably about 90 degrees Fahrenheit."

"We were on the Bruce Highway but it wasn't a highway at all. It was a bush track posing as a highway."

Despite some rugged terrain, John's run was incident free.

"In all, it was a remarkable adventure and an experience not to be forgotten easily," he says.

"In fact, the flame still burns deep within me."

 

TALL TALES

A TORCHBEARER'S bloodied knee and a black-headed python gave rise to one of the most amazing stories reported from the 1956 Olympic torch relay.

A cheeky grin wrinkles John Rogers' face as he recalls the incident but he defers to fellow torchbearer Jim Lindley to give his account of events.

THE RELAY BEGINS: Con Verevis, from Cairns, sets out on the first leg of the 1956 Olympic torch relay.
THE RELAY BEGINS: Con Verevis, from Cairns, sets out on the first leg of the 1956 Olympic torch relay.

Jim explains he tripped and skinned his knee during his leg of the relay.

He was among five torchbearers being driven back to Rockhampton when the truck came to a sudden halt, the driver not wanting to run over a 2m black-headed python stretched across the road.

Fellow torchbearer Nedd Dodd jumped out of the truck, grabbed the snake and signalled his intention to take it home.

"We drove on," John said.

"Nedd and his snake were in the back seat and the rest of us were in the front because nobody was game to go near that snake."

On arriving in Rockhampton, the torchbearers were ushered into the local radio station for an interview.

The announcer got the shock of his life when Nedd strolled casually into the studio and draped the snake across the microphone.

"The next day in The Morning Bulletin, the snake had grown a metre and the story said a runner had been injured in the encounter," Jim said.

"That was me, the runner with the bloodied knee.

"Two days later, a Melbourne paper reported a number of the runners had been injured in an encounter with a 25ft (7.6m) snake."

Topics:  editors picks, history, relay, rockhampton




Blood donors needed in CQ as winter takes its toll

Sea Fm brekky host Pinky donating blood when CQ donation levels quite low in February this year.

Residents urged to help save someone's family, friend or a stranger

Tuna heads overseas for Cyclong Pam rebuild

L-R Russell Vea Vea, Norm Darth, Tuna Vea Vea, Graham Finlay, Glen Tatow and  Brian Roots at the Rockhampton Citzens and Masonic Club.   The club has helped raise money for victims of Cyclone Pam which hit Vanuatu earlier in the year.   Tuna Vea Vea will be goint to Vanuatu to donate funds.   Photo: Chris Ison / The Morning Bulletin

The Masonic Club in Rockhampton has been a big help

OPINION: DV guidelines here to help

Potts Lawyers director Bill Potts

DV guidenlines here to help

Latest deals and offers


Your Chance to Win

A Holiday to Kingfisher Bay!
Learn More

Zombies to march through Yeppoon main street

The 2016 CQUniversity Village Festival will this year feature its first ever ‘Zombie Shuffle’, a spectacle that will see hundreds of zombie participants stumble down the main street of Yeppoon and Anzac Parade in search of fun and braaains!

Hundreds of zombies to stumble down the main street of Yeppoon

Drowning Pool gig review at Max Watt's

Drowning Pool played Brisbane with A Breach of Silence and She Cries Wolf at the Max Watt's House of Music.

Drowning Pool prove that 'bodies' hit the floor when they play

#SaveMarinaJoyce: How ISIS theory took over youtube channel

One young Youtuber accidentally gave rise to a conspiracy theory

Talking whiskey with Jack Daniel’s master distiller

It all comes down to the distillery

SIXTY MILES AHEAD sign with Eclipse Records, prepare new album 'Insanity'

Sixty Miles Ahead sign with Eclipse. Photo Contributed

Sixty Miles Ahead to release new album on Eclipse

Thy Art Is Murder are killing it

See Thy Art is Murder on their killer tour happening right now. Photo Contributed

We talk with Thy Art is Murder about touring, babies, and new music

Date announced for Prince tribute concert

A Prince tribute concert will take place later this year

Queensland's $1 town goes under the hammer today

The township of Yelarbon is up for sale.

Unprecedented auction of town's business centre with no reserve

Work starts on $15M Caloundra apartment building

Turning the first sod at the Aqua View Apartments site in Kings Beach are (from left) husband-and-wife developers Alex Yuan and Stella Sun with construction company Tomkins director Mike Tomkins and Councillor Tim Dwyer.

Developers excited about addition to Kings Beach skyline

Iconic Denison St building sold for close to $1M

The Swan Hotel building in Denison St.

ONE of Rockhampton’s most iconic buildings has been sold

Unique Rockhampton bar hits the market

HOT PROPERTY: Cuban themed bar Chango Chango is up for sale.

Popular Rocky bar hits the market.

72-year-old Coast developer set to start new project

GREEN LIGHT: The Cosmopolitan has been approved for development at Cotton Tree.

Meet the Canberran set to deliver another chapter for Coast suburb

Plans revealed for 1500-lot 'master-planned community'

Precinct will be bounded by Boundary St and Shoesmith Rd