« The Queen WAS amused! | Main | “Imitations of Iberia” »

The First Seventy Years: 41 – The Olympic And Commonwealth Games Committee

...Wherever I drove in Malawi I would see numerous people walking or cycling. Many would be transporting goods to market; some would be making their way to a town in search of work. Women would carry goods on their heads and babies on their backs. Such scenes would be replicated throughout Africa.

One characteristic distinguished Malawi from other nations. Almost everyone would be walking barefoot. In other countries they would at the very least be seen wearing flip-flops...

Eric Biddulph and his family settle into their new life in Africa.

To read earlier chapters of Eric’s autobiography please click on
http://www.openwriting.com/archives/the_first_seventy_years/

I always ensured that my weekends were kept free of academic work. Saturday mornings were taken up with the trip to Kandodo Supermarket in the centre of Blantyre. The week's shopping completed, a visit to the Ice Cream Centre followed, a firm favourite of Jane and Paul. Here we would spend a pleasant hour sitting in the shade of a tree whilst they played on the swings and slide.

Goodwin would finish work Saturday lunchtime until Monday morning. Saturday afternoons invariably found us up at Chancellor College swimming pool. During the hot season which preceded the rains in October and November we would drive up Ndirande Mountain. Looking down on Blantyre, some 800 metres below, it provided an escape from the oppressive heat.

Saturday evenings were taken up with either a dinner party or a visit to a cinema.

Sunday morning usually saw us rising early. Eight o' clock was the normal time I sought to get the day's cycle race underway, but more about this aspect of life later. The event was usually over by 10.30 by which time it was becoming hot. A quick cleanup back at the flat and we were off to one of our favourite destinations for the remainder of the day.

Zomba Plateau and Milange were our two premier locations. The former, sixty kilometres away, involved a ten kilometre drive up from the then capital city of Zomba. The latter was one hundred kilometres, just over the border in Mozambique. The Zomba drive was on a tarred road, but Milange was predominantly un-surfaced.

During the rainy season between November and April water tended to make channels as it attempted to drain away. The heaviest rain fell between noon and one o'clock. As the hottest part of the day had yet to arrive, there was a tendency for the rain to evaporate quickly and the resulting channels became hard baked. This made for a very rough road. I quickly learned that the only way of getting a reasonably comfortable ride was to drive over these corrugations at around eighty kilometres an hour.

Wherever I drove in Malawi I would see numerous people walking or cycling. Many would be transporting goods to market; some would be making their way to a town in search of work. Women would carry goods on their heads and babies on their backs. Such scenes would be replicated throughout Africa.

One characteristic distinguished Malawi from other nations. Almost everyone would be walking barefoot. In other countries they would at the very least be seen wearing flip-flops.

The cultural environment of the expatriate white community was influenced by the presence of a number of South Africans and Rhodesians. The resulting racist tone affected the dominant ethos in the Blantyre Club. As a consequence I never joined.

My daughter had been enrolled at St Andrews Primary School. I never held the school in high regard. A number of the teaching staff were the wives of expatriates from Southern Africa. Many of them had never undergone teacher training. The pupils were almost all the children of expatriates, most of them white with a sprinkling of children of diplomats from African countries.

It did not take long for me to begin to gravitate towards those who lived and practised a non-racist perspective on the world: David Gray, a solicitor teaching in the law faculty at the university, Moira Wood, Vic Newcombe.

In addition to my involvement with cycling development, I began to lend a hand as an official of the Malawi Athletics Association. Saturday meetings at the Kamuzu Stadium witnessed me measuring long jumps, raising the bar for high jumpers, measuring distances achieved by shotputters and many other tasks.

I was recruited on to the Olympic and Commonwealth Games Committee. The primary reason for my presence on the Committee was to speak on behalf of cycling. As we moved closer to July 1972 it became clear that my remit was about to become much wider.

Raising money to finance the participants’ travel to Munich to compete in the Olympic Games became a priority. BOAC’s offer of two free return flights to the UK gave a boost to the sale of raffle tickets. Tailoring skills were quickly learned in measuring up the successful competitors for a uniform.

Athletes, cyclists and boxers eventually made up the party. It was the experience of a lifetime for all of them. Flying was almost unheard of then as now for such poor people. The scale of wealth on display in Germany must have been an-eye opener for them. The Committee consisted of a majority of Malawian citizens, only Vic Newcombe, the National Sports Officer and myself being expatriates.

Categories

Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.