The Olympics’ biggest fan
Athletes spend years training in the hope of making it to the Olympic Games. Harry Nelson has made it to a record 18.
The 90-year-old resident of Torrance, California and, arguably, the world’s most dedicated Olympic spectator, saw his first Games in 1932 as a child in Los Angeles. Apart from Berlin 1936, when he was still in school, Nelson has been to every Summer Games since.
This took sacrifices – Nelson even delayed his honeymoon by a year to coincide with a trip to Melbourne in 1956.
“My wife Dee understands. We met through watching track and field. London is her twelfth Games, this is something we’ve done together.
Nelson was among the few Americans in Moscow in 1980, after refusing a Presidential order not to attend.
“To me, I really believe the Olympic Games helps bring countries together, not in a professional sense but in terms of the honour of competing. I think conflict would be avoided if people just took the trouble to get to know each other.”
One chance encounter at the 1956 Games, however, remains a highlight: “I met Jesse Owens at a cocktail party given by the US ambassador..”
“I said hello to him and mentioned that I’d been at school with Tony Draper, one of the other three men to win gold with him in the 4x100m relay at Berlin. He was a delightful man, a great man, no doubt about it.”
Nelson’s remembers London’s 1948 Games, the so-called “austerity Games” of 1948 well: “People were pretty desperate in those days. London had been bombed, it was very grey. Now I’m impressed.”
Will he go to Rio? Nelson’s unsure: “At 90 you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I tell youngsters, you’ve got to make the most of every day. Be the best you can, you only go through life once.”