Bush poet John Major with some of his Olympic memorabilia.
Bush poet John Major with some of his Olympic memorabilia. Brett Wortman

Golden moments years apart

NOT many Australians can say they have attended two Olympic Games on home soil in their lifetime.

But bush poet John Major attended both the 1956 Melbourne Olympics and the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

And he's been glued to the television set in his Mapleton home all this week for the 2012 London Games.

His impressive collection of Olympic memorabilia includes seat cushions from both Games held in Australia, plus Olympic and Commonwealth Games tickets, programs, photographs, stamps, and newspaper clippings.

The septuagenarian was only 18 when he attended the Melbourne Olympics at what is now known as the MCG, driving all the way from his home-town of Baralaba in central Queensland.

He remembers high jump silver medallist Chilla Porter letting him into the Olympic Village, and it was there that John mingled with the other Aussie athletes.

"It was so much more relaxed back then," he said.

"There was no security at all like there is now.

"Athletes didn't get paid back then. They did it for the love of the sport alone."

In the lead-up to the Sydney Olympics in 2000, John and his wife had decided not to go, but John was already regretting he would miss golden girl Cathy Freeman's 400m track final.

"Tickets had all sold out and I was starting to kick myself," he said.

John had played rugby league with Cathy's father in Woorabinda, near Rockhampton, and knew the family.

A few months before the Games, John was in Winton performing poetry.

There, he met sports commentator Norman May, famous for calling "Gold, Gold for Australia! Gold!" at the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

"We got to chatting, there in the Winton pub, and I told Norman that I wasn't going," John recalled.

"He said to me, 'John, mate, you've gotta go'.

"Then I got an offer to appear in some TV commercials for the Olympics, and ended up scoring tickets to Cathy's race."

Even though Melbourne was his favourite Games, he describes Freeman's win in her pet event as his greatest Olympics memory.

"It was a race that just had to be won … my heart swelled with pride," John said of her victory under pressure, with the weight of Australia on her shoulders.

John was inspired to write a motivational poem, titled Going for Gold, which he has performed to athletes and schools around Queensland.

 

Excerpt from a poem about the Olympics by Robert Raftery - WE'RE GOIN' FOR GOLD

Get out there, get at 'em and rip 'em apart

with the blood of your country ablaze in your heart.

The medals are yours mate,

to have and to hold; and mate ...

stuff the silver ...

We're goin' for gold!

 

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