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By Patrick J Toner.

The following account is from a hardcopy of Patrick’s recollection of his time at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games. When Rick Littlewood died on 24 July 2018, Patrick, becoming less mobile and struggling to speak more than a few words at a time, prepared, with Mrs Carol Toner’s assistance on keyboard, a eulogy including this account. It was never used.

As it appears here, it has had some editing from the original, focusing more on the events in Munich and less on events just prior. The start finds a 32 year old Patrick Toner taking his leave from a couple of New Zealand merchant navy junior officers with whom he had travelled from Dover to Munich. Shortly after, he lost his wallet.

The following day I bid farewell to the two Kiwi ‘likely lads’ and made my way to the Olympic village where I contacted NZJF’s only entry, Rick Littlewood. I had volunteered to be Rick’s training partner. As ever, the cash strapped NZJF could only afford to pay for one entry, plus a coach, in the form of Jack Fielding. Jack was a very pleasant and popular man, a real gentleman. He was also a very small man and getting a little long in the tooth. Although he did his best, he was no match for Rick, even a Rick who was trying to be gentle but of necessity just had to practice his take-down routines. Rick’s liaison lady in the Olympic complex, a buxom, blond American born, German speaking Rhine maiden, soon procured a pass for me to gain entry to the training venues. She was unable to procure me a pass for the accommodation areas. Rick soon found a way to smuggle me into the complex by a cunning use of the elevators. A spare bunk was organised in with the wrestlers and I was soon ‘living the life of Reilly’.

Every day I would go to the training venue with Rick who would practice his routines on me until he was satisfied. Afterwards, we would sometimes kid the Russian team by pretending to spy on them, which had them hastily erecting screens around their practice area. They were clearly not amused, and I’m sure that had we been caught doing this in the Soviet Union, we would have been off to the nearest gulag! Because I was not a competitor, I was free to practice with the members of other teams. With the exception of the middleweights (Rick’s weight) I had been associated in Japan with Ray Ross, the coach of the British team and Des Farrington, the Canadian team coach. Both coaches made me very welcome so I was able to practice plenty of randori with some very good competitors. Later in the afternoon, when the coach dropped us off back at the village, Rick would organise the players to mob the security staff which enabled me to slip back in.

When the New Zealand rowing team won their gold medals a lot of the Kiwis held a big party, and when Rick and I returned from training, quite a lot of them had already written themselves off. I was quite pleased to see the wrestler in my room, who has made it quite clear that he resented my presence in the village, and even more so after he got knocked out of the competition in the early stages. He had flaked out with his head in the toilet, cushioned by his own vomit. The party went on for most of the night and possibly helped to mask the drama being enacted next door to us!

The next morning I opened the door of our unit to go to breakfast, only to be roughly shoved back in by a policeman brandishing a sub machine gun. There was no explanation, just a gutteral “Use the rear window”. The dining room was agog with rumours. Something had happened to the Israeli team who occupied the unit next to the NZ team. The whole Olympic village was virtually shut down and we were confined to our units. There were armed guards at both the front door and our rear balcony which overlooked a vast underground concourse. We gave the guard at the rear an occasional bottle of beer and in the afternoon he allowed Rick and I to join him on the balcony for a chat. On one occasion, he ducked below the parapet. Rick and I, rather foolishly as things turned out, stayed standing and had a good view of the coach carrying the Israeli hostages and their PLO captors passing just under our balcony. The rest is history.

The following day, the games were suspended for a week as a mark of respect for the slain Israeli team. As always after such incidents the increased security measures made it extremely difficult for me to move in and out of the village. In any case my money had arrived from the UK and I could afford to live outside again. So Rick and I caught a train over the Alps, heading to Italy. Our first stop was Innsbruck where we booked into a hotel and visited the local Judo club. Rick, as usual, put on a good show and impressed the locals, both as an Olympian and the fact that he had lived and trained in Japan for so many years. His newaza and takedown were a revelation to them. Afterwards the club provided some funds for one of the English speaking female club members to take us to a nightclub, which was very kind of them.

The next morning we continued on our journey southwards over the Alps to Italy and decided to get off the train at a town called Bressanone in South Tyrol. The area had apparently been part of the Astro-Hungarian Empire until the end of the First World War, when the maps of Europe and the Middle East were redrawn and this part of Austria had been given to Italy when the defeated Axis countries were divided up and parcelled out to the victors. Consequently, the inhabitants still considered themselves Austrian and 70% of South Tyroleans continue to speak German as their first language. This was good for me as I had retained some German from my two years living in the Rhineland during the occupation days and later as a minute part of the NATO forces. A small, hilly place, about half the size of Kent in the UK, South Tyrol is an idyllic enclave of medieval castles, steepled churches, apple orchards and vineyards. An Austrian territory for eons, it has been an Italian province since the First World War, though no-one seems to have told most of the half million inhabitants. When you walk into a shop there is always a moment of sizing up before you decide to go for a “Buongiorno”, a “Guten Tag” or even a “Grüss Gott”.

The only memory I have of events in Bressanone was that it was the place where my very useful little Canon half frame camera was stolem. I’d gone into the bank to change some money and placed the camera on the counter beside me. During the few minutes carrying out the transaction my camera disappeared! As there were no members of the public in the bank at the time it could only have been thieved by a staff member. Complaints to the bank teller were met with raised eyebrows and a Gallic shrug of his shoulders. I indignantly marched off to the police station only to get the same response. When the policeman couldn’t even be bothered to note down the particulars of the camera I had to agree with Rick that it was gone forever. The frustrating thing about losing the camera was that it contained the almost complete photographic record of my trip since leaving New Zealand. Having lost the only two items of any value I possessed – first my wallet and then my camera – I could now relax having nothing left worth stealing.

Despite the apparent lawless nature of Southern Europe I wanted to continue further into Italy proper, however Rick was missing the ambience of the Olympic village, so we retraced our steps back to Munich.

As one might expect, security at the village had been tightened so much that on our return, for the first few days, I never even tried to gain entry. I was still legal for entry to the training venue and there was enough food and drink of the healthy kind freely available to sustain an army. As for accommodation, hotels were expensive, and mostly booked out for the duration of the games, whatsmore, I have always objected to paying high prices just to kip in bed for a few hours. Some kind person told me about a school that had its classrooms filled with bunk beds, where itinerants such as I could, for a few pfennigs, get a clean mattress, blanket and a pillow. As one of my travelling companions from Dover had discovered on his first night in Munich, sleeping rough or being vagrant without visible means of support ensured a one way trip in a paddy wagon! Nothing was being allowed to sully the Bavarian capital’s pristine streets.

Another visitor from the NZJF was Jim McPhee and his wife Adrienne. Jim was a heavyweight competitor at the 1966 Oceania championships. Jim had since exchanged his judogi for a smart, double breasted blazer embossed with the Olympic committee’s five ring logo and all his battling since has been of a verbal nature around the committee table. I seem to recall that Jim was on his honeymoon at the time. On several occasions we met outside the village at a restaurant-cum-bar.
The beer arrived in huge steins which were promptly replaced as soon as one had finished. Many litres of Louwenbrau were downed by our group that evening. When the huge waitress brought the bill, the amount of beer she claimed we had drunk surprised even us! It was yet another case of ‘rip off the tourist’, but how can one dispute it? Luckily, our Stirling born Scot, James, who was also a banker had, unbeknownst to us been keeping a tally, a complete detailed record of all food and drink brought to the table. The big frau angrily decided to bluff it out, but Jim was adamant, and sober to boot! So Jim saved us all more than a few marks that night.

After a few nights sleeping in the school, Rick moved me back into the village again. This time I was to stay with the cycling team, who were certainly more accommodating than the wrestlers. Monty Hollows was the cycling team coach, a publican and the brother of world famous eye surgeon, Fred Hollows, who had pioneered a no nonsense, cheap method of cataract removal for the afflicted poor in third world countries.

In the Judo competition, Rick achieved eternal fame in Japan, if not in his home country by fighting Japanese champion, Sekine to a draw after six minutes. Rick lost on a flag decision. Sekine lost to Oh of Korea before fighting through the repecharge to the final and defeating Oh in their second bout of the day.

With the Judo events completed, Rick could afford to eat and drink again, so we all went to a restaurant in town, where the Louwenbrau flowed freely while we stuffed ourselved on bratwurst and kartoffel salad. Unfortunately I had booked and paid for a sleeper on the night train to Rotterdam, though my mates did everything possible to detain me! With barely twenty minutes to go, I had to tear myself away and make a mad dash for the station, where I threw myself on the train ‘in a bath of sweat’ with seconds to spare.

NB: I have edited this as little as possible. Just a few small changes for the sake of clarity and some sentence structure. The section on meeting Jim McPhee may be out of place in the timeline of events, though I have left it in its place.

Cameron Clarke. June 2024