You were 19 when the Games last came to London, in 1948, but you didn’t compete. Why not?
There was a feeling at the time that if runners exposed themselves to too much competition early on in their careers, they would never reach their potential. Although that may or may not be true, I decided to save myself for the 1952 Olympics.
What did you do instead?
I got a job as the assistant to the chef de mission for the Olympics, and I actually made a small contribution to the Opening Ceremony. The teams were preparing to parade around the stadium and for some reason it became clear that there was no Union Jack for our team. There was absolute panic. The chef de mission ordered me to find a flag. I knew he had a spare one in his car. Fortunately I had a jeep with an Army sergeant as a driver. First of all we had to find the car in the car park. Then when we located it we had no key, and I had to smash the window with a brick. A policeman came over, I think to arrest me, and this sergeant had to tell him what I was doing. Next we had to rush back to the stadium. The crowd was so dense, I had to get out of the jeep and run. I don’t know how I made it, but I did.
So, four years later in 1952 you competed – what happened?
The organisers decided that instead of having a heat, then a day’s rest, then the semi-final and final, they would have all three on consecutive days. I hadn’t expected it and so I didn’t train as hard as the other European runners, especially as I was a medical student at the time. I came fourth in the 1500m and, even though I broke the British record, such was my disappointment that I weighed up whether to retire, which I would have done had I won the Olympic gold. But I decided I would go on for another two years until I qualified as a doctor.