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Henry Alfred ‘Harry’ Gordon CMG AM
9 November 1925 – 21 January 2015
Honoured as a Member of the Wall of Sporting Legends on 28 November 2015
Harry Gordon was a storyteller – one of the greatest.
Across a decorated journalistic career that spanned 73 years, Harry’s stories brought truth to readers from so many different platforms. They came from the front line of battle as a war correspondent in Korea; from the front row seat at every Olympic Games through Helsinki (1952) to London (2012); and from the seat of power as an influential newspaper editor.
In his later years Harry’s storytelling seat would be in his comfortable home at Main Beach on the Gold Coast. Those fortunate to be in his company would hear fascinating excerpts from an amazing life filled with incredible people, places and incidents - all the while Harry’s expressive face, twinkling eyes and warm welcoming smile keeping whoever was in front of him captivated and entertained.
Harry was born in Melbourne in 1925, the son of a dockworker. As a child he was taught to tap dance by his mother (Marjorie) and to box by his father (Harry Snr). He was a middleweight boxing champion at Melbourne High School.
Harry’s distinguished journalistic career began when he was 16 as a copy boy at the Sydney Daily Telegraph. In 1949 he began working at The Sun News-Pictorial as a general reporter and the following year was sent to cover the Korean War from the front line.
Harry’s determination for the truth to be told surfaced here, when he would fly to Japan to dictate copy for a particularly good story so as to evade a strict United States censorship regime.
Soon after, he began a long and passionate affair with the Olympic Games. It started when he was sent to report on the 1952 Games in Helsinki. Harry loved sport, but the Olympic Games sparked an even deeper emotion. He went on to cover every Olympics until his death in 2015.
He was appointed the official historian of the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) in 1992. He wrote numerous books, many about the Olympics, including the landmark work Australia and the Olympic Games. His final work, From Athens with Pride, an update of the original, was published in 2014.
In 1999 he was awarded the AOC’s highest award, the Order of Merit and in 2001 he received the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) highest honour, the Olympic Order for his outstanding service to the Olympic Movement. In 1993 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM).
During his journalistic career, Harry was also one of Australia’s most influential media personalities. In 1968, he was appointed Editor of The Sun News-Pictorial. He used his newspaper to head a campaign titled 'Declare War on 1034' to reduce car-related fatalities (the number is a reference to the number of road deaths in Victoria in 1969). The campaign was successful and in 1970 the Victorian State Government introduced a mandatory seatbelt law requiring car users to wear seatbelts. This was the first such law in the world.
Harry Gordon passed away in January, 2015, aged 89. He is survived by his wife Joy and children Sally, Michael and John.
Ronald William Clarke AO, MBE
Honoured as a Member of the Wall of Sporting Legends on 28 November 2015
Born into a sporting family in Melbourne, on February 21 1937, Ronald William Clarke, would run a very different athletic path, to his father Tom and brother Jack, who both played senior football for Essendon in the VFL.
Clarke made his mark, in middle distance running and was arguably Australia’s greatest. But he achieved so much more – an author of seven books, a philanthropist, a former Gold Coast Mayor, fitness advocate and champion of charity, who embraced life, seizing every day until the very end.
Clarke was revered internationally in the 1960s for holding every world record from two miles to 20km - a feat unmatched by any other athlete to this day. He ran an astonishing 17 official world records and was rated by many as the greatest distance runner of his era.
He was also a part of a very famous incident, which is regarded one of the greatest moments of world sportsmanship and resulted in a larger-than-life commemorative sculpture called ‘ Sportsmanship', erected directly across the road from Olympic Park in Melbourne.
In the 1956 Australian championships, he was leading halfway through the mile when he clipped the heel of NSW runner Alec Henderson. Clarke was sprawled on the track in front of world record holder John Landy whose attempt to hurdle him resulted in a slice to Clarke’s arm from a spike.
Landy stopped, went back, helped Clarke to his feet and apologised. Clarke said he was fine and urged him to keep going. Landy, by then 30 yards behind, resumed the chase and, in a tremendous burst of speed, caught the rest of the field and won. It was thought had he not stopped, Landy would have surely set a world record.
At the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games Clarke won bronze in the 10,000m behind American Billy Mills and Tunisia’s Mohammed Gammoudi.
In 1965, at the peak of his career, Clarke competed 18 times in eight countries during a 44-day tour of Europe. He set 12 world records, nine of which were established within an incredible 21 days.
By the 1968 Mexico Olympic Games, Clarke had already set a world record of 28 minutes 15.6 seconds for the 10,000m and was tipped to win the event on the first day of competition.
But the stadium was more than 2,000m above sea level and the low oxygen level inevitably caused problems for athletes not used to competing at high altitudes. Of the 37 starters in the event, seven were mountain men from countries such as Kenya, Ethiopia and Mexico (who went on to fill five of the first 10 places).
Clarke's plan was to stay with the leaders and then press forward over the final 2,000m. When he tried to do so, however, he felt as if he had run into a brick wall. He staggered on, grey and almost unconscious, to finish sixth, but collapsed at the line.
After 60 litres of oxygen and an anxious hour for the team doctor and spectators, many of whom were in tears fearing the worst, Clarke recovered consciousness. 13 years later it was discovered that he had ruptured a valve controlling his heart muscle, leaving him with a weakened heart that later required surgery.
While Clarke’s quest for Olympic gold eluded him, a remarkable gesture by fellow champion Emil Zatopek to give Clarke one of his own four Olympic gold medals, said much of the respect those in the athletic world held for him.
Zatopek handed Clarke a package at Prague airport saying: “Look after this. You deserve it.” Inside was the gold medal Zatopek won for the 10,000 metres at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, reducing Clarke to tears when he opened the parcel at the airport restroom.
Clarke’s career spanned three Commonwealth Games – Perth 1962, Kingston 1966 and Edinburgh in 1970 – producing four silver medals and two Olympic Games – 1964 Tokyo where he won one bronze medal and 1968 Mexico.
After retiring from the track in 1970, Clarke, a chartered accountant, introduced brand names such as Adidas and Nike to Australia. He set up a chain of gymnasiums and published a series of books about sport, while he and his wife Helen raised three children Marcus, Monique and Nic’.
On 15 March 2006, he was one of the final four runners who carried the Queen's Baton around the MCG during the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony.
In his dual capacities as Mayor of the City of Gold Coast and as a world-recognised Australian running legend, he was an integral member of the successful Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Bid team.
He was a presenter of the winning Bid Book to a special Commonwealth Games Federation executive committee meeting in Kuala Lumpur in May 2011 and in November that year he travelled to St Kitts and Nevis when the Gold Coast was announced Host City for the 21st Commonwealth Games.
Clarke won widespread admiration for his philanthropy, which included donating part of his mayoral salary to charity and setting up a bus service to transport cancer patients to hospital. It was named Monique’s Bus, after his daughter who tragically lost her battle with breast cancer in 2009.
Clarke will forever be remembered for being the final torchbearer to light the Cauldron at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. But those closest to him will remember his passion for sport, the dignity with which he carried himself on and off the track and, most of all, his absolute dedication to his family.