Robert, Manager at Stoke Mandeville Sports Centre was heavily involved in the organisation of the 1984 Paralympic Games.

An Interview with Robert King

The 1984 Stoke Mandeville Games - making it happen

In the early days we just used to put out a few chairs at the edge of the field, but after 1974 we started hiring a portable grandstand; as more and more foreign dignitaries were attending we had to improve things. For 1984 we had the covered stand you can see and two open stands, one on each side of it. You can see the dais where the VIPs opening the games would stand – in this instance Prince Charles; on the left the games flag is flying and in the background you can see the flags of all the participating nations.

We had to arrange the embassy receptions and the stadium seating plan for about 40 different countries. It was very important that we got it right. I remember my wife helping me do it on large sheets of paper on the dining room floor because it was so big. Somehow they all had to be fitted into the central 300 seat stadium and we had to try and make sure each country was equally and fairly positioned. I remember there were all sorts of minor diplomatic problems; the Egyptian representative was Admiral Latif and we could never really find out just how many of his wives or his extended family he was expecting to bring with him. Then there was a real problem with the USA. All of the participating nations would have their flag flying on a separate pole at one side of the sports ground. At the last minute we discovered that the Stars and Stripes flag they had supplied was considerably larger than all the other nations and we had to go round Aylesbury buying flags for all the others of the same size so the difference wouldn’t show.

Download a pdf of the full interview here

Extracts from the full interview where Rob details first becoming part of the Games, the problems he faced after the Munich Olympics hijacking and dealing with Prince Charles hosting the 1984 Games…..

When I was introduced to Sir Ludwig, the first thing he said to me was ‘Forget you were ever a Civil Servant’! 'Poppa’, as  we came to call him, hated red tape - I  had joined the staff, after working for the Ministry of Technology at the Rocket Propulsion Establishment at Westcott ,so I could understand his concern, working for a charity was going to be a new life for me.

Building the Stadium in 1969 needed someone with influence and drive, and 'Poppa' had both - he didn't bother with junior officials, he often rang Harold Wilson or Jim Callaghan when he needed help…..

International Games were held each year. Sadly, the games following the Munich Olympics hijacking in 1972, changed everything. I remember my wife and I went to Heathrow the following year to welcome the teams, The Israeli team were understandably very 'jumpy' and insisted the coach that we arranged to meet them, did not stop. So, we drove around the perimeter road with the coach full of Israeli security staff, until they felt safe to continue their journey to Aylesbury Agricultural College where they were staying and were guarded night and day……

Prince Charles officially opened the games. One of my tasks was to liaise with the RAF, to fly the prince in by helicopter. We used the playing field at Bucks County sports club and special security cover had to be arranged I can remember sitting in the helicopter during a 'trial run' and listening to the complex things that have to be solved for a Royal visit and thinking,

Thank goodness I don't have to do this too often!