Photograph by: Mark van Manen, Vancouver Sun
4 x 440-yards relay — silver medal 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games
Aug. 7, 1954 still stands as the single most-significant track and field day ever experienced by Doug Clement.
That’s a remarkable statement, given the thousands of track meets he has witnessed since.
Barely 21 at the time, Clement saw Roger Bannister defeat John Landy in the much-anticipated Miracle Mile before watching British marathoner Jim Peters famously collapse on Empire Stadium’s track before he could finish the race.
Then Clement stepped onto the track himself and captured a silver medal as part of Canada’s 4 x 440-yards relay team.
A memorable day indeed.
“The drama of Jim Peters alone was unbelievable,” said Clement, now a fit 81-year-old “retired” doctor who remains very active in B.C.’s track and field community along with his wife Diane, a former world-class athlete herself.
He won a track scholarship at the University of Oregon and competed in two Olympics and two Commonwealth Games, but Clement describes himself as a “journeyman” athlete who felt like a hero in Vancouver 60 years ago.
“Suddenly you were recognized and accepted as being something big, right in your hometown,” he said.
Clement, who was born in Montreal and raised in Vancouver, compares the atmosphere surrounding the British Empire and Commonwealth Games with the positive vibe that accompanied the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
“If there was any infighting about holding the Games, it disappeared once the actual event started,” he said. “Vancouver was introduced to the world and the world was introduced to Vancouver.”
Clement feels the 1954 Games helped the city evolve from its former status as a quiet provincial community with a distinct bias toward all things British.
“At the time, Vancouver was really a logging and fishing town, and when loggers came into the city for the weekend, it was a zoo downtown,” he said. “I think the Games brought us into a new era, and I don’t know if it’s recognized by the public that way because there are very few of us (Games participants) around now.”