Olympic swimmers needed a history lesson

Australia's swimming team at the 2012 London Games might have had more success if they had had a better understanding of their predecessors' traditions.

Disappointing performances by Australia's swimmers at the 2012 London Olympics might have been partly due to a poor understanding of the history and strong traditions of their predecessors.

Olympic historian Harry Gordon believes a better knowledge of the spirit of Australian teams at past Games might have helped prevent the internal ruptures in London that left the swimmers bringing home only one gold medal, from the 4x100m women's freestyle relay.

"A lack of respect for the past converted into a lack of inspiration," Gordon said at the launch of his latest book From Athens With Pride - The Official History of the Australian Olympic Movement 1894-2014.

Gordon, the Australian Olympic Committee's (AOC) official historian since 1992, quoted late friend and AFL coaching great Allan Jeans: "To know where you are going, you need to know where you have been."

To that end, Olympic champion and former 1500m world record holder Herb Elliott joined Gordon to officially launch the book in Sydney on Friday.

Gordon said he was pleased to see the new leadership team at Swimming Australia was installing a fresh culture, reconnecting with the sport's impressive history and legacy.

This included the introduction of numbered team pins, similar to the Test cricket team's baggy green caps, that would recognise all Olympic swimmers from the past.

Pin No.1 will go to Freddy Lane, who won two gold medals at the 1900 Paris Games, while three-time Olympic 100m freestyle champion Dawn Fraser will have pin No.86.

As you would expect from a former journalist, war correspondent, newspaper editor and executive, Gordon pulls no punches in acknowledging the at-times difficult relationships between Australia's senior Olympic officials Kevan Gosper, John Coates and Phil Coles.

It details how Gosper, now an honorary member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), was not initially in favour of Coles being appointed to the IOC, that Coates and Coles took a long time to forgive Gosper for his support of a proposed boycott of the 1980 Moscow Games, and how long-time friends Coates and Coles fell out over Coles' temporary suspension from the IOC after the Salt Lake City Olympic bid scandal.

It also reveals how Coates, now an IOC vice-president, secured $100 million from Sydney Olympic Games minister Michael Knight in return for the AOC giving up profit entitlements and budget control of the 2000 Games. That deal ensured the AOC's financial independence and a war chest to fund future Olympics.

Source AAP

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