From the starting blocks to the ballot box

GLORY DAYS: Menzies Campbell winning 100 yards at Centenery field day at Craiglockhart.
GLORY DAYS: Menzies Campbell winning 100 yards at Centenery field day at Craiglockhart.

FORMER sprinter, now MP for North East Fife, Sir Menzies Campbell has recalled his Olympic memories for a BBC television series.

Shown on the BBC Parliament channel to coincide with the London 2012 Games, ‘First Past the Post’ features interviews with Sir Menzies, who competed at the 1964 Olympic Games held in Tokyo, and five other Olympian parliamentarians.

Once the fastest man in the country – holding the British record, between 1967-74, for the 100m with a time of 10.2 seconds - Sir Menzies, now aged 71, talked about his experiences at the Tokyo Games where he competed in the 200 metres and 4x100 metres relay.

Humorously, he divulged the details of his pre-race diet, a far cry from athletes of today’s scientifically measured-out portions.

He revealed: “We ate everything because it was not long after the post-war age of austerity when things were rationed...we were encouraged to eat fruit and things of that kind, but had no special advice or assitance on that matter.

“If I had a big race coming up, my mother would give me steak the night before and on the morning of the day of the race; switched eggs with hot milk, a dash of nutmeg, and, believe it or not, a small shot of brandy.”

Speaking of his switch from sport to politics, the former Liberal Democrat party leader, who at the time of competing in 1964 was studying for his second degree at Glasgow University, and worked part-time as an apprentice solicitor, said the nature of performing in the political arena was much different to competing in the sports field.

He continued: “The 80,000 people by and large are fans; they are interested, they recognise effort and they encourage achievement.

“If you are the leader of the third party standing up in the House of Commons, you can be pretty damn certain the other parties are very slow to recognise achievement.”

While as a politician Sir Menzies has raced into the lead, in Tokyo he was less fortunate.

After winning his heat, he struggled in the second round and went out. The 4x100m relay squad was much more agonising.

Despite breaking the British record, they came eighth out of eight teams but were remarkably only 0.6 seconds behind the USA who won gold.

Of the Games, Sir Menzies added: “I heard Robbie Brightwell, the team captain, saying there are only two ways to come here. One is to be a no-hoper and enjoy yourself and the other is to be a medallist, and that is absolutely right.

“To come fourth, or even in my case ,to be a relay finalist, its a great experience but we are highly competitive people and once you get there, then the medal is the thing,”

‘First Past the Post’ is available at www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer.