It was at the Montreal Olympic Games on Sunday 18th July, 1976 that the first perfect 10 ever recorded in Olympic gymnastics was achieved up by Romania’s 4-foot-11, 88-pound Nadia Comaneci on the women’s uneven parallel bars. She later said that:
I don’t run away from a challenge because I am afraid. Instead, I run toward it because the only way to escape fear is to trample it beneath your feet.
Two other of her comments at the time are also worth recording:
Hard work has made it easy. That is my secret. That is why I win.
You should also appreciate the goodness around you, and surround yourself with positive people.
On Saturday 4th June 1977, five young British men – all members of the West London Aviation Group – were released from jail in Athens. They were accused of spying and had spent ten weeks in prison for plane-spotting. Their original sentence was ten months but they were released after ten weeks on the condition that they would pay heavy fines. The men were simply interested in planes. The Greek police and courts did not understand that collecting serial numbers of aeroplanes was a hobby.
The Greek authorities could not understand what these young men – all in their twenties – were doing. Each had to pay a fine of £555 to obtain their release. Other plane spotters have had similar experiences.
Apparently Greek agents had tailed the spotters’ rented car as it travelled from airbase to airbase, parking on public highways as the occupants noted down aircraft numbers. When they swooped on the departing Britons, the security police accused the men of taking notes which might describe the layout and features of the military runways they had visited. The five were immediately taken for interrogation by the Greek central intelligence agency.
“It was good cop, bad cop, just like you see on TV. One interrogator would be quite nice and then the other one would turn nasty.”
After 48 hours of questioning, the five were put on trial.
“We were very nervous. We had no idea if they were going to release us or put us away for 20 years.”
During their brief court appearance, the spotters attempted to convince Judge Stephanos Matthias that the taking of aircraft serial numbers was a genuine hobby in the UK (likening it to the Greek passion for football) and that it was not a cover for espionage.
“How can this silly, tasteless and costly game be a hobby?” retorted the judge.
While even Wing Commander Ioannis Marinakis – chief of air force intelligence and a prosecution witness – said the group acted “amateurishly”, all of the defendants were found guilty of violating security regulations under article 149 of the Greek penal code.
“They wanted to make an example of us. They didn’t want us going home and telling other plane-spotters about all the great numbers we had collected. That would have opened the flood gates.”
It was on Friday 13th March – unlucky for some, but not for others – 1970 that the British Conservative Party celebrated a big majority in a by-election in Bridgwater, Somerset. ‘So what’ one might say.
The ‘so what’ was the historic fact that, for the very first time, 18 year olds were now allowed to vote in Parliamentary elections in Britain! The new legislation had come into force in January 1970 completing the updating of voting in Britain. Up until that point, you had to be 21 years old before you were eligible to vote. In fact it was only in 1928 that women had been given the same voting rights as men. Up until 1918, they could only vote when they had reached the age of 30.
Twenty-one had always been the point at which young people ‘attained their majority’ or ‘came of age’. At this age they were regarded as adults and were allowed to vote and could get married without permission from their parents. When moves were made to lower the voting age to 18 it was considered a bit controversial, as some people felt that it was too young!
This result was totally unexpected as opinion polls had predicted an easy victory for Labour on the back of a healthy economy and large pay rises. However – on 18th May Harold Wilson called a general election for 18th June. His Labour Party lost that election to Edward Heath’s Conservatives.