Steve Ovett: Chariots of Ire

September 1, 2008

A blog post in 2008 noted that a film could be made of the Coe/Ovett story. This week there were press reports that the film was actually going to be made. According to the Guardian

The Perfect Distance, Pat Butcher’s 2005 book about the professional rivalry between Steve Ovett and Sebastian Coe, is set to be turned into a movie for 2012.

Original post [Sept 1st, 2008]:

Steve Ovett thrilled a nation with his middle-distance track battles with Sebastian Coe. He has since relocated in Australia as a sports commentator with a pungent style of a Geoff Boycott

You can see on U-tube Ovett’s famous battle with Coe in 1983.

I’m not sure if this warrants a Leaders we deserve blog post. It may just suggest a ‘compare and contrast’ theme of two athletes one who became a sporting and political celebrity, and another who didn’t.

Over the last few weeks, British viewers had a rich diet of Olympic news and opinions from Beijing. From time to time the vaguely familiar gaunt features of Steve Ovett appeared. His role appeared to be to puncture the euphoric bubbles blown by the other British commentators.

He continued this role with some enthusiasm subsequently. In an interview (BBC Five Live, Sunday August 31st 2008] he repeated his view that the British Athletics performance at the Olympics had been dire. The interview was playing in the background, and I did not recognise Steve’s voice. The speaker semed to me to have an Australian accent. His argument was that the Brits had done worse than the Australians at the Olympics if you compare money invested, not to mention population.

It was quite a shock when the interviewer asked the interviewee whether he would like to take over the job of operations director for Sport GB (or UK). No, was the reply, they wouldn’t want me. (Not, what qualifications do I have for the job).

That was a bit of a puzzle, only resolved at the end of the interview. The pseudo-Oz was Steve Ovett, now gainfully employed in Australia as sports advisor and commentator.

The newly converted

Was this the behaviour of the newly converted? If so, what sense can be made of it?

Is it too simplistic to say that the fierce competitive drive during his career became a personal feud between the rough Ovett and the smooth Coe? That the subsequent rise and rise of Seb Coe and decline in Steve in the public gaze contributed to his views?

That there is a film in there, perhaps to be called Chariots of Ire?


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