Bradford's hopefuls in 1948 Olympics

West Riding's hopefuls, as featured in the T&A

Audrey Rennard, later Audrey Beever, who was the youngest member of Great Britain’s gymnastics team in 1948

First published in Remember When? Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Photograph of the Author by , Assistant Editor (Content)

Now that Britain has passed the 100-day milestone until London hosts the 2012 Olympics, discussion of this great international sporting event will doubtless get ever more fevered.

But do any readers remember the last time the Olympics came to these shores, back in the summer of 1948?

Much has changed in the world since then but, in other ways, perhaps not so much – the 1948 Games were dubbed the “austerity Olympics” as Britain struggled to get back on its feet after the long years of the Second World War.

But there’s nothing like a major sporting event to take people’s minds off their troubles. And back in 1948, Bradford was waving the patriotic flag as it shipped off a team of athletes to join in the Games in London.

There was a large West Yorkshire contingent in the shape of the women’s gymnastic team and one of them, Audrey Beever (then Audrey Rennard), of Baildon, was the youngest team member at just 15.

In 1998 she was invited to a celebratory event marking the 50th anniversary of the games to meet the Princess Royal. At that time she told the T&A: “I was just so much younger than my team-mates that I needed to get permission from the local authorities so I could go.

“We came ninth out of 12, but I really enjoyed the event. It was just an honour to be chosen. We used to practise every day. We were so dedicated, and trained at Saltaire Ladies Gymnastics Club at Victoria Hall.

“Sometimes we would sneak in to the hall late at night to perfect our skills.

“One time I climbed through the window and got stuck.”

Mrs Beever, who gave up competitive gymnastics after the world event and became a keep-fit instructor, retired from teaching in 1996.

Also there was another Baildonite, Irene Williams (nee Hirst), who was 18 in 1948. She said: “It was great to perform in front of so many people, but I remember it being so hot that Scouts in the audience were fainting.”

Mrs Williams also represented her country in the 1952 Helsinki Games. She retired competitively from the sport, but became an advanced gymnastics coach at Nab Wood Sports Centre.

On the eve of the 1948 Olympics, the Telegraph & Argus printed a large “good luck” message to the 16 local athletes it dubbed, ‘Hopes from West Riding’.

Perhaps some of them are reading today, or are remembered by some of our readers.

They are: Athletics – Miss Muriel Platt; Cycling – Gordon W Thomas; Football – Harry J McIlvenny; Gymnastics – Dorothy Hey, Dorothy Smith, Pat Hirst, Audrey Rennard, Vera Parson, Clarice Bell, Irene Hirst; Water polo – Roy Garforth; Weightlifting – Sydney Kemble; Wrestling – H Parker, Raymond Cazaux, JW Taylor, J Mortimer.

A report in the T&A on Monday, August 2, said that the aforementioned H Parker in the wrestling squad had to sit out the event with an injured arm, and watched the last of his team-mates eliminated from the freestyle heats.

And Clarice Bell of the gymnastics squad returned home, the T&A said on Monday, August 16, after the closing ceremony, “disappointed and somewhat disillusioned”.

Why? “The British team felt an inferiority complex when they saw the magnificent athletes from competing countries,” said the report. “The men were like ‘bronzed gods’ and the women were tall, tanned glamorous beauties.”

In 2006, the National Media Museum staged an exhibition of photographs and memorabilia from the 1948 Olympics, which was visited by Lord Coe, chairman of the Olympics organising team.

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