Games heroes inspire Olympic spirit

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 August, 2008, 12:00am

The slogan may be 'One World, One Dream', but there have been many memorable moments and great athletes over the years at the modern Olympic Games. Here at CitySeen, we are definitely ready to leave the politics of the Beijing Games behind and just stick to sports. For fun, we've decided to ask various local personalities what athletic hero from Games past and present they most admire and respect, and what outstanding achievements of theirs deserve gold for inspiration.

Shigekazu Sato, consul general of Japan in Hong Kong

'Since Hong Kong is hosting the equestrian events, it reminds me of a very important Japanese rider, Takeichi Nishi, who won the gold medal at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics in individual showjumping. After winning his gold, Nishi became very well known, almost like a hero, in the US and he had many good friends there, too. But when Japan got into the second world war, Nishi, as a military officer, had to join the war and his story ends in a tragedy on the famous Iwo Jima island. The American troops tried to persuade him to give in and they even took an American rider who participated in the same Olympics to ask him to surrender, but he refused. Nishi was killed in the action. Not only did Nishi sacrifice himself to the war, it also split up the friendship between the US and Japan.'

Phil Whelan, RTHK radio host

'I remember interviewing [Britain's] Olympic rower Sir Steve Redgrave just after he'd won his fifth gold medal. A great guy, I must say. He turned up in the studio one Saturday morning in a tuxedo having come straight from the Yacht Club ball. He slumped over the desk as I played a couple of songs. At the time people thought he was the best athlete in the world due to all the medals. I was trying to be clever and asked him about this. He said: 'No, they're just being nice'. I carried on and said: 'Why are they all saying it then?' He dug in his pocket and literally chucked a gold medal at me, saying: 'This is why!' I was stunned to be holding an Olympic medal. I explained to the audience what I was holding, then grabbed my empty coffee cup and smashed it to pieces against the studio wall as though I'd smashed his medal. 'Er ... sorry Steve,' I said. There was a pause and he just replied: 'It's ... it's ... broken!'

John Meehan, artistic director of Hong Kong Ballet

'My Olympic hero is the Australian 1,500 metres swimmer Grant Hackett, who won gold in Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004. He will be trying to be the first male swimmer to win a gold medal in the same event at three consecutive Olympics. To compete at this elite level for this many years shows a wonderful commitment to his sport and is truly inspiring to me. He is my Olympic hero.'

Matthew Gregory, director of Around The World In 80 Days

'I went through quite a few names from when I grew up in the UK, such as Linford Christie, Daley Thompson and Steve Cram, but after consideration I've plumped for an incredible group of people: the Jamaican bobsled team. They entered their first Winter Olympics in 1988 and then, in 1992, were ridiculed by many as being without a chance, until of course they finished ahead of teams from the United States, Russia, France and Italy. Despite being outmatched, the determination of these novices - five team members who were pilots, engineers and from the Jamaican military - shone through. They won the affection of the spectators and were magnificent champions of the Olympic spirit.'

Simon Tam, wine educator and consultant

'My new hero is from the third day of this year's competition. Italian Matteo Tagliariol is the new Olympic champ in men's epee. You might have only seen the three-second highlight of him ripping off the protective mask to reveal a sweat-drenched face, but it brought back memories to me of more than 25 years ago when I scored the victorious point in an Australian championship. Most people just have an image of fencing as something in the past, like the Three Musketeers, Errol Flynn and men with very long ... swords shish-kebabing each other. But modern fencing is like an extremely physical game of chess. It has kind of inspired me to go back to the sport. I still have the Kevlar jacket. I just wonder if my Chinese tailor can enlarge it by, say, five inches.'