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07/19/2012

Olympic gear? For Graham Bezant in '72 it included a 500mm mirror lens, a green marker and wine.

Steve Russell - Staff Photographer - @RussellPhotos

My trip to London is less than a week away.

The arrival of my Olympic credential starts the clock ticking with much left to do.

I have a new camera to learn and a new workflow to figure out as well.

But, the first thing I double checked, well triple checked was to make sure that my credential had the all important "EP" classification.

The EP is the designation for Photographers, writers credentials just have an E on them.

While researching a story on a group of  Canadian water polo players who witnessed the tragic events in Munich I came across  the work of retired Toronto Star photographer Graham Bezant's work from those games.

Munich-014
Canadian high jumper Debbie Brill jumps, Graham Bezant shot this image with a 500 mm mirror lens giving it the interesting background. 

Graham's biggest problem was when he discovered on arrival that his credential was incorrect. The credential he was issued was a reporter's pass, good for the press box and mixed zone,but, not access to any of the photo pits. 

Nothing could be done! He called the paper and they told him to do the best he could with the reporter's pass.

I'm sure they didn't think that he would do what he did!

"I scrutinized Jim Proudfoot’s pass and saw the main visual difference was a green diagonal strip across the top of pass," remembers Bezant from his home in Australia.

"I went to local supermarket and got coloured marker pens in all shades of green. I went back to my room and placed sticky tape across the Olympic pass to cover areas to stop any bleeding of marker pen. I coloured the pass using two or three different green markers using some wine to lighten the tone. I removed the sticky tape and went to the main stadium to see if it would work. It did and I was in home free," Bezant recalls. The danger was that, "The back (of the pass) distinctly stated reporter so if folks at gate saw that, I was done!

It worked until the hostage crisis, all passes were checked after that, he removed the green strip for two days until the intensive checks were relaxed. Bezant didn't leave leave anything to chance, "I made sure I got to the venue just as the race I needed was about to be run or activity to start, lowered my head as if in a big hurry and showed the pass without stopping. This lowered the risk of them finding an issue."

 

1972 Gee Munich Olympics
Graham Bezant in the photo moat at the Stadium. 

Bezant remembers that one astute official knew something was up with his pass.

"I was bailed up at the main stadium three days later with an official who checked the back of my pass and said something in German I could not understand. A second official who spoke some English told me the pass was fraudulent. I pleaded my case stating it wasn’t. They even had printing swatches for colours of passes and checked my colour. Even though it had faded a little it was seemingly okay by them, but the back of the pass stated reporter, not photographer."

 "One official even licked his hands and rubbed the green strip and nothing came off as it was alcohol fast. There was no ridge so he could not work out what had happened.  But he called the police by two-way to have me arrested and so I picked all my gear up and proclaimed, you now have made me miss the only race I came all the way from Canada to cover. I threatened that once I got back to the press building I would be making a complaint and it would probably end up as an international incident. Not what the Germans needed after the disaster with the hostage taking. The official who understood English ended up having a difference of opinion with the first official. They yelled and screamed at each other and then the English speaking official dismissed me, “Go ahead – sorry for any inconvenience.”"

1972 MUNICH0002
Graham Bezant's Munich pass with the green strip he made with a green marker and wine.

Some of Graham Bezant's pictures from the '72 Olympics

Munich-008
The Olympic flag is marched into the stadium.

Munich-011
The Canadians arrive!

Munich-006
Folks stream into the stadium before the Opening Ceremonies.

Sr-RichardThompson-24
Jack Gaudie tries to get a shot on goal against a strong Yugoslavian team.

Munich-015
Runners including Abby Hoffman compete.

Munich-016
Debbie van Kiekebelt participating in the long jump.

Munich-012
 Leslie Cliff won the silver medal in the 400-metre individual medley event and Bruce Robertston won the silver medal in the 100-metre butterfly final.

Munich-005
A Canadian coach talks to police during the hostage crisis.

Sr-RichardThompson-26a
An athlete trains during the hostage crisis.

1972 Munich GB Mike Burns
Dig those lenses, Graham Bezant, second row right, in the photo moat at the stadium.

2012 GB Munich PassGraham Bezant in Australia with the green marker pass and several others.

 

I will be covering the London Olympics, keep an eye on this space over the course of the games for blogs or keep an eye on my twitter feed for updates, @RussellPhotos 

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What a great tale!


Nothing much changes in life. Graham might have less hair, and his beard may be grey, but he still shoots amazing photographs (if only for himself and friends), and still uses wine to lighten the tone. A great mate.

Amazing work Uncle Grey, you are so talented.

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