Bannister should light the flame - Simpson’s Soapbox

In this photo taken Monday, Feb. 27, 2012, Sir Roger Bannister is photographed at his home during an interview with the Associated Press, in Oxford, England. Roger Bannister remembers the four minute four-lap race on a cinder track in Oxford in 1954 that still stands as a transcendent moment in sports as if they were yesterday, still as vivid in his mind today as that afternoon more than half a century ago. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
In this photo taken Monday, Feb. 27, 2012, Sir Roger Bannister is photographed at his home during an interview with the Associated Press, in Oxford, England. Roger Bannister remembers the four minute four-lap race on a cinder track in Oxford in 1954 that still stands as a transcendent moment in sports as if they were yesterday, still as vivid in his mind today as that afternoon more than half a century ago. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
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HAS someone got the inside track on the identity of the iconic British sportsman or woman who will light the Olympic flame in London at this year’s Games?

There could be some weight to that theory, given the fact that Sir Roger Bannister has been backed from 33-1 to 3-1 to be granted the honour, though rower Sir Steve Redgrave could put his oar in and justify his current William Hill odds of even money.

If it comes to Olympic achievement between Bannister and Redrgave, then it would be no contest.

Bannister competed in only one Olympics – in Helsinki in 1952 – and finished out of the medals (fourth) in the 1,500 metres behind the long forgotten Luxembourg athlete Josy Barthel.

Sir Roger dodged the opportunity to compete in the 1948 Olympic Games the last time they were held in London, as he did not feel he was sufficiently prepared and experienced.

By contrast, Redgrave could be described as possibly the most accomplished Olympian of all time, regardless of the country.

Redgrave competed in six Olympics and won gold in five of them.

But in terms of sporting legacy, Bannister would be the perfect choice to light the flame – he achieved what at the time was almost regarded as impossible, namely breaking the four minute barrier at that never-to-be-forgotten night at the Iffley Road track in Oxford, in 1954.

Driven, but self-effacing, Bannister went about the task of breaking the barrier with an analytical brain worthy of a man later to go on to be a distinguished neurologist.

No disrespect to Redgrave, but Bannister, now 83, crosses the generations and his name and athletic attainment is imprinted on the British psyche.

The nostalgia pull for Bannister is over-powering.

Incidentally, anyone fancying a long shot for lighting the Olympic could go for Wayne Rooney, who is a 122-1 shot with William Hill.

In truth, though, the only things that Rooney will be lighting this year are the candles on son Kai’s third birthday cake...