Past Olympian: Jonathan Janson 

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Jonathan Janson was part of the three-strong Dragon team that won bronze at Melbourne 1956 in Bluebottle, belonging to HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. Having also competed at Rome in 1960, where his boat finished seventh, Jonathan went on to serve on the International Jury at four Olympic regattas.  In 1990 he was awarded the IOC Olympic Silver Medal for services to the Olympic movement. Jonathan, 79, he lives on the Isle of Wight and enjoys motor cruising.  

“It was a pure accident that I ended up competing in an Olympics Games,  I’d  never had a great dream to go.  It was just pure chance that we were the leading crew when I was sailing with the skipper of Bluebottle, who had been seconded to look after her by the Duke of Edinburgh, and ended up being selected for the Games.

“The whole thing was an absolute adventure. In those days you didn’t fly half way round the World without very good reason, so to go to Melbourne was one thing and then to compete in an Olympics was marvellous. It took four days to get there from London. 

We landed in New York the night Eisenhower won the US Election, then we flew to San Francisco and while all the rowers and hockey players went and trained, we converged on the St Francis Yacht Club and had a lovely time. We surfed on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu on our stop there and then the plane broke down twice! What with getting through immigration in Sydney we were exhausted when we reached Melbourne.  

“The opening ceremony at the Melbourne Cricket Ground was the most amazing experience. We assembled for the march past and were next to France. A number of the French girls’ shoes went missing and there was a terrible scene! I was 26 and don’t think I had a moment to myself, the Australians were tremendously hospitable!

We won a medal because throughout the regatta in Port Phillip Bay there had been lightish winds but then we had one heavy day and we won the race meaning we won bronze. It was certainly nice to win a medal but it didn’t change my life one bit. I was happy with my lot and the medal was just a nice addition.  

“We were the last of the real amateurs in 1956. We all paid our own way and enjoyed ourselves and being part of an Olympics. By Rome 1960 there were just the very first few signs that the sport was becoming more professional; there were one or two nasty protests and individuals were beginning to be supported by national authorities. 

It was inevitable that the British team became much more professional.  

“Of course sailing and the Olympics as an event have continued to change dramatically since then and are now completely professional. Everyone is looking at how they can make as much money out of it as possible because as with everything else yachting has become a business. I think it was inevitable that the Olympics and sailing would go this way and there was no alternative but to keep up with events. 

The World has changed since 1956 and with governments now putting large sums of money into sport to achieve international success and the international prestige that goes with that success there are new pressures we never had.  

“Did that mean we enjoyed it more? I don’t know as I’m sure the athletes competing today enjoy their sports but I know I personally much preferred competing when it was entirely amateur and after Rome, the shift towards professionalism occurred very rapidly.  

“We were on our own in Melbourne and rather enjoyed that but I understand that being able to increase public support for the sport nowadays will help the sailors attract more sponsorship and funding to help them be even more professional and hopefully successful.”