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Monday, July 30, 2012

Recognizing a giant of the industry


Staff writer

LONDON — Thousands of journalists are filing stories from the Main Press Centre (MPC) during the London Olympics. All of them would be wise to list John Rodda as an admirable figure, a role model in this cut-throat business of scoops and deadlines.

Appropriately, Rodda, who beat deadlines with panache for nine Olympics for the Guardian, is honored in the MPC. This is The John Rodda London 2012 Main Press Center Workroom.

He spent more than a half-century with the Guardian, specializing in boxing and athletics coverage. He passed away on March 3, 2009, but his legacy endures.

"Behind the scenes he helped (London 2012 chief Sebastian) Coe and his campaigners win the 2012 bid," wrote Kevin Mitchell in a moving eulogy that appeared in the Guardian in 2009.

"I learned so much from Rodda about boxing," Mitchell revealed. "He not only knew the shenanigans of boxing as an industry but was immersed in the sport's history and its skills."

Rodda, who was 78 at the time of his death, reported from the 1948 "Austerity" Olympics, London's second opportunity to host the global extravaganza.

It wasn't easy.

"He had to strike matches in the back of the wooden press box to illuminate his final report," the Guardian noted in his obituary.

Rodda witnessed long jumper Bob Beamon's otherworldly record of 29 feet, 2½ inches at the 1968 Mexico City Games. Four years later, he was there in Munich when terrorists delivered a lethal combination of death and fear. And his final Olympic stories were completed at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

"Above all, John was an outstanding and influential news reporter whose reports and books inspired his many friends and colleagues at home and around the world, setting exceptional standards in journalism," the plaque bearing his name reads.

To those who know him best, the above words remain spot-on.

"Nobody, in athletics certainly, and very few in boxing, was better informed than the Guardian's masterly double-sport correspondent," Mitchell wrote.

More than three years have past since one of the giants of the industry passed away, but he will not be forgotten. Yes, of course, many will remember him in London throughout the next two weeks, swapping stories about Rodda's reporting and anecdotes about the man as well.

Heaven knows, there will be no shortage of stories to tell.

Indeed, Rodda had a remarkable life.



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