Chichester’s Mr Athletics show he has a lot of bottle(s) at Olympics

Graham Jessop, second from the right, with some of his fellow officials at the Olympic Stadium
Graham Jessop, second from the right, with some of his fellow officials at the Olympic Stadium
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PLENTY of medal winners at the 2012 Olympics showed they had a lot of bottle – but no-one had quite as many bottles as Graham Jessop.

The Chichester athletics stalwart was given a key role at the London Games looking after the personal drinks for competitors in the marathons and long-distance walks.

Jessop, well-known locally on the athletics and Rotary Club circuits, was in charge of the team looking after drinks to everoyne taking part in the two events, both the men’s and women’s races.

That made receiving, labelling, storing then distributing hundreds of bottles during the races - a logistical challenge that thankfully passed off smoothly.

His role also gave him the chance to see much of the athletics first-hand - including Golden Saturday, when GB won three golds in about an hour.

“It was all a terrific experience - one I’ll never forget,” said Jessop. “Although I and many other officials had very important jobs, we were able to enjoy the atmosphere of the games and take it all in.”

Jessop, 64, and his team were based in the fitness centre and swung into action the day before each of their events when competitors and coaches were able to deliver their drinks.

The team had to make sure bottles adhered to rules about quantity and advertising, although were not involved in testing what was in the bottles.

“I had 15 to 18 Gamesmakers working for me and for the racing we were based in Cornhill. They were a fantastic team and we got through our duties without any problems,” he said.

“For the marathons, each runner was allowed nine bottles, each holding just under a litre. So if you start to multiply that, you realise what a job we had.

“My role meant I had a pass to the Olympic Stadium and I saw a lot of the action. On Golden Saturday I was kept busy with drinks until about 8.15 but I got to the stadium just in time to see Jessica Ennis win gold. Then the golds for Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford followed.

“As someone who’s been involved for a long time in athletics, it was amazing to be there - the most amazing hour of my life. The atmosphere in that stadium was like nothing I’d ever experienced.

“Whoever had the vision for the Olympic Park deserves huge praise - it was all superbly set out. And the Gamesmakers were so welcoming.

“Just being in the Olympic village was special. I think the Games have done a lot for Brtain, never mind a lot for sport - and for a significant number of sports. You can see new interest in sport, and in athletics, everywhere, including in Chichester.”

Jessop is chairman of the England Athletics National Council and sits on the board of England Athletics.

He has been chairman of the Amateur Athletics Association and Chichester Runners, making his way up through Sussex and South of England ranks to national level after coming to Chichester 30 years and helping organise major local athletics events, which he still does to this day.

STEVE BONE