Reporting on the London Olympics twice

Patrick Rowley is the only journalist to cover both London ’48 and London 2012. 

Patrick Rowley in group shot

Patrick Rowley, second right, with the National Hockey Museum management

Tomorrow, Patrick will receive an award from the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) for being one of the few journalists to have covered more than 10 Olympic Games. Patrick has reported on the Summer Olympics 14 times since his first Games in London 1948.   

Patrick’s childhood cricket team captain was also the editor of the Middlesex Chronicle, a paper that wasn’t going to feature the ’48 games due to a lack of local participants. Patrick, then 14, managed to convince them otherwise and reported on those Olympics from the perspective of a schoolboy, he recalls: “Everyone was poor and skinny. I’d never been out of the country before and all of a sudden there were all these people from different nations who were happy to be able to travel again. There really is no comparison with the Games today.”

Patrick agrees with the AIPS’ president who said reporting on the Olympics is both exhilarating and exhausting, and at 78 his focus has changed from covering many sports to just hockey, a sport he is covering as a freelance for French news agency Agence France-Presse and the Sunday Express. Patrick spoke to Cision after watching his first hockey match of the day on television: “To catch it at the stadium I would have to get up at half six in the morning and I don’t get back till half one. The only way to get some sleep is to watch the first game at home.”

Working as a freelance for most of his life, Patrick served 50 years writing for the Guardian, a publication he started at as a tea boy, and also worked for the Telegraph, The Sunday Times and the Observer. He has been present at some of the Summer Olympic’s most memorable moments including Bob Beamon’s legendary leap of the century at Mexico ’68 and Fanny Blankers-Koen’s dominance at London ’48. Patrick later befriended Fanny, someone he described as, “The Usain Bolt of her day”.

The most infamous memory from the games is of the Munich Massacre. Patrick remembers arriving and being told by his sports editor to camp outside the Israeli headquarters with the advice, “don’t get yourself killed”. He waited for hours before he was relieved by another journalist, and it was after that the disastrous events of the hostage situation unfolded, something that has been with Patrick ever since.

Patrick has many achievements to his name outside of the Olympics: he founded and chaired the Hockey Writers’ Club in 1972; helped set up the AIPS’ Hockey Commission; compiled The Book of Hockey and created the National Hockey Museum. On 2 August 2012 he will be honoured as the journalist who has reported on 14 Summer Olympic Games, a number only exceeded by Germany’s Gustav Schwenk with 15, and recognised as the only reporter to cover both London ’48 and London 2012.

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