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t is often said, man is a political animal. A lot of people say it so there must be truth in the statement. Beneath that statement must lie the fact, man is a competitive animal. Politics is about opposition and without a competitive nature would we care to disagree?
One of my favourite theories on life is, we have achieved so much because we are lazy. Almost everything we implement is a labour saving device of one type or another. Perversely the march of all this technology has not really given us the freetime we all thought it would. Anyway this is not a soapbox for my ludicrous ideas.
All three elements come together in the Olympic Games.
Hitler refused to present him with the gold medals and is rumoured to have stormed from the stadium.
If there is anyone out there that believes the Olympic Games is not a political showcase must not have been involved in recent history. The Russians and the Americans determined to boycott one anothers games and before that Hitler (I did not say it had to be successful) all hijacked the games for political ambition.. I am not going to go through all the venues proving the political nature of this travelling circus but even the decision of where to hold the games is political.
There is also the fact the eyes of the world are going to be focused on the games for that few weeks every four years. This unfortunately means extreme views can be expressed, often in extreme manner, to ensure publicity is gained for ideas which in the ordinary course of events there would be no reason for a sane person to ever contemplate. It is one of those facts that you can stop almost anything but a madman.
Competitive nature is pretty darn obvious, or at least it better be, when it comes to this sport. The fact the Capitalists are keen as mustard to beat the Communists happens to be something of a side show for the men in suits, the competitors wish to win, or set personal bests.
Maybe 'lazy' is not quite the word to use for these people but just look at the march of technology and how it plays such an important factor in the winning of medals. Chris Boardman is probably a fantastic cyclists but anyone saying the hi-tech bike he used did not give him a competitive edge did not see the piece of science he hurtled around the track on. He got more speed out of the thing for the same amount of effort the other riders were expending. The same will be true for any sport which has an element of technology within it (name one that doesn't).
Then there is the thorny issue of performance enhancing drugs. It happened, it happens, it'll happen.
The modern Olympic games has evolved over the last twenty or thirty years from something which countries tried to avoid because of the sheer financial burden it placed on the economy to something everyone wants because of the massive earning potential of the event. Television has been largely responsible for such a turnaround in fortunes.
What it does mean though is trade cards dealt more efficiently with the Olympic games than did cigarette cards.
Brooke Bond, Olympic Greats  40 cards is a good set as an introduction to this subject.
Now it has to be accepted there was something of a drop off in the overall quality of Brooke Bond cards around this period of time but this is not one of those sets. It was based around high quality action pictures of the subject involved with the reverse of the card giving brief biographical details and why they get to be one a set of Olympic Greats.
The use of photographs mean there are cards in black and white as well as colour and some show the age by the grainy texture.
Given the subject matter of the cards each person deserves a place in this article but that really is not practical, to find out just how long that takes check out, you should have a look at the four articles covering the set, The World of Tomorrow, and that is dealing with inanimate objects. To do this set justice would take at least four times as long I predict. It is for this reason I have run a checklist down the side of this article, it gives you an idea of the depth of talent in this set.
Some of the names are instantly recognisable and all should be familiar At number 4, Jesse Owens was the fellow who out Hitler's nose right out of joint in the 1936 Berlin games. Hi-jacked by Hitler as a showcase for the master race a black American walked off with half the gold reserves of the games. The four golds were for 100 metres, 200 metres, long jump and sprint relay. Hitler refused to present him with the gold medals and is rumoured to have stormed from the stadium. As a note on technology nobody was using starting blocks in the 100m Olympic final at that time. The writing on the wall should have been clear for all too see as in 1935 he set six world records in the space of 45 minutes.
What makes this set nice is the fact there has been a genuine effort to include as many Olympic disciplines as possible within the remit of the set and as many periods as possible. Obviously there are events which are not mentioned but that is only natural in a 40 card set.
Jesse Owens is one of the names that is going to be forever great and so is Bob Beamon. Mexico City, 1968. If I need to say more I'm not going to. Although the card does suggest the record was going to potentially last until the 21st century, it didn't but it got pretty close.
It is strange how people take different paths, Muhammad Ali, card 21, perhaps the greatest sports icon of the twentieth century won the gold medal (under the name Cassius Clay) in the Rome Olympics 1960. The card notes he was so proud of the achievement that he wore the medal constantly around his neck for three months. I am only telling you what the card says.
The next card deals with Teofilo Stevenson, a mighty Cuban who won two boxing golds. The card notes, 'His punching power has prompted experts to predict he could win the world championship if he turned professional.'
Whilst on the subject of heavyweights, Vasiliy Alexeyev has to be mentioned. The card notes his 80 world records and two Olympic titles, 1972 & 1976, unbeaten since 1970. The card does not mention at one time he was the most decorated man in the USSR but none of this matters because I heard once that his stomach was such that it could stop a bullet. That last piece of information might be more fiction than fact but it is what I remember him for more than anything else.
Cards 24 & 25 deal with swimmers, card 25 being Johnny Weissmuller, 5 gold medals and 1 bronze culled from his appearances at the 1924 and 1928 games. During the 1920's he was the first person to swim the 100m under a minute and the 400 metres under five minutes.
The card notes he remains world famous as Tarzan in the films of the same name.
So we come to Mark Spitz. An even greater tally of gold, 9, 1 silver and 1 bronze. Most came from the incredible Munich games of 72 when he swam in 7 events, won seven golds and set 7 world records in the process. I was not going to include these two in this article but for one thing they have in common. Films. Spitz retired in 1972 and took to film acting. As the saying goes, 'like a brick to water'. Two of his films have been nominated in 'The Worst of Hollywood' class. Well you cannot be good at everything you do, but it is a good idea to know when you are bad at something.
Card 31, David Wilkie (more famous for being bald now and not having the sense to accept it, preferring to hang upside down instead in an effort to promote hair growth, well at least that was what he was doing last time we met.) I am not sure what he is doing in this set of cards but rather like other British entrants I feel there is more national pride than Olympic great in their choice. Perhaps I am wrong. Anyway the fellow is Scottish and managed to give Great Britain its first male swimming record for 68 years when he won in Montreal. He had spent four years training in the USA prior to this.
Have you noticed I have not mentioned any women yet? Something of a poor show given they get equal billing within the set itself, there are 15 cards depicting women and one where a woman gets equal billing by virtue of the fact she is one half of a skating pair.
So lets back track through the set to redress this slur.
Nadia Comaneci, 3 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze.
Who cares for statistics, she was the first gymnast to be awarded the perfect 10.00 in Olympic competition and perhaps became the most famous name of the Montreal games. You can never beat a first.
This was all possible because of Olga Korbut (card 18) who set the world alight in the 1972 Munich games.
Of course since that time we have learnt about the misery and the heart ache that was behind these great Russian achievements of the time. The fact there is greater fuss made about training a circus elephant is an example of how complicated things are.