The Taking Part



Tim Franks recalls the 1972 Olympics and the triumph of Dame Mary Peters in the Pentathlon and asks those who strove to beat her what impact being an Olympian had on their lives.

For millions of British viewers the grainy picture of Mary Peters giving her all in the final event of the Pentathlon in the Munich Olympics was the brightest moment of a games lit up by Mark Spitz and Olga Korbut only to be blighted by the massacre of Israeli athletes.

But for those taking part in the Pentathlon this was their moment, their chance to take part in Olympic competition. The impact of winning on Dame Mary Peters is a familiar story but what of the others who made up that field, the German Heide Rosendahl who lost out by the blink of an eye, or the Canadian Diane Jones who gashed her leg on the hurdles in the first event. And he goes further into the field hearing from the other British athlete Anne Wilson who was well placed after the first event, and Margaret Murphy, the Republic of Ireland's only competitor. And way back down the field Lin Chu-Yu.

In this unique view of those two days of competition and the lives that followed Tim hears what it meant to be an Olympian and how those memories have played out over forty years since Mary Peters smile shone across the Stadium in Munich on hearing, from her rival Heide, that she'd triumphed.

So was it enough to Take Part or are their nagging frustrations still about the tiny margins between winning and losing or the giant chasms between the competitors supported by their national sporting bodies and those, like Margaret Murphy who relied on the goodwill of local schools and a generous priest who cleared a run up to a temporary sandpit so that she could work on her long jump.