Abrahams, winner of the 100 metres, had a longer life, but a briefer athletics career. It came to an abrupt end the year after the Paris Olympics when he broke his leg while long-jumping and returned to the legal profession. Later he was a journalist and BBC commentator, revolutionising the athletics rulebook and campaigning for such advances as the photo finish and electronic timing. Known as the grandfather of British Olympics, he was also the timekeeper for Roger Bannister’s historic four-minute mile in Oxford in 1954.
Daughter Sue says it was not until she was older that she came to realise who and what he was and learnt to idolise him. “Because he was so tied up with everything he did, whether it was with athletics or the National Parks, we didn’t see an awful lot of him. We lived in Bishop’s Stortford, about 40 miles from London; when we got up in the morning he had gone to work, and by the time he got back home at eight or nine, we’d gone to bed.”
Whatever the differences in their lives, both women agree the gold medals meant an enormous amount to their fathers and their descendants. But what of the medals themselves? Liddle’s daughter Patricia admits to having neglected them for years. “It was all a great upheaval. He didn't come back. My mother was working. There were three of us children. She did re-marry eventually. Things got moved and mixed up. We had several baskets of medals, including the Olympic ones, but we didn’t pay much attention to them. I had three children, my sister had four and the third had two. When we couldn’t decide what to do with the medals, we agreed to ask Edinburgh University, where my father studied, to look after them. And that’s where they are now on display.”
They came by post, she recalls, as the medals’ rims had to be embossed with the winners' names, the event and date. Sue Pottle nods, adding that there was insufficient postage on her father’s package and he had to pay the balance. Her father had his gold displayed in a little wooden frame, with the signatures of the other competitors including bronze medallist Arthur Porritt of New Zealand, father of environmentalist Jonathon Porritt.
But where is that medal now? In a subplot that would intrigue Chariots producer David Puttnam, Sue fears it was stolen and then melted down or dropped into a drain by an individual who bore the family a grudge. As for the remainder, she and her brother sold them to the then Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed in 1989 for £25,000. “I suppose,” she says, “our father, if he thought we would be helped by the sale, would have agreed to it.”
We shan’t see their like again, shall we? The mould that made them has gone the way of that medal. Both women nod and agree that their world is gone for good. This is not all bad news since Abrahams was subjected to anti-Semitism of a sort hard to imagine today. At his public school, says Sue, he was compelled to attend chapel and yet forbidden from reading the lesson.
Patricia thinks her father Eric would have been dismayed by the professional athletics of today. “Everything has become so national now,” she says. “You have to do it for your country. He was the fastest on the day. Not every day, but that day. That was enough for him.”
The digitally remastered Chariots of Fire is released in cinemas from 13 July
The Real Chariots of Fire is on ITV1 tonight at 9:00pm