Warming up for the Olympics in 1979

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There’s always in a bit of excitement as the Olympic games approach. While none of the contests held at the Nuthurst ‘pre-Olympics’ event were ever likely to make it big on the world stage, they were certainly a lot of fun.

The Nuthurst Challenge Cup was contested in September 1979 and included the likes of the monkey race, three-legged race, sack race, wheelbarrow race and egg-and-spoon race.

The races were held at St Andrew’s School and the winner of the cup was eight-year-old Craig Dean, who amassed so many points from his races, he beat 16-year-old Peter Van der Borgh into second place by just one point.

Reading the report in the County Times, it was clear no one was taking the competition entirely seriously.

After describing young Craig’s success, the report stated: “Not so successful, but highly amusing, were the contestants’ efforts in the mother and child pick-a-back race, which ended in a spectacular double somersault for one unfortunate couple when the son failed to carry his mother one step.”

It added: “While teas were being served there was a demonstration of shot-putting by the junior Sussex shot-put record holder, Graeme Taylor. And an open competition followed for those who wanted to try and match Graeme – but they failed abysmally.”

At least they tried, County Times reporter of 1979, at least they tried!

Among those who tried and succeeded in the races were: Hilary Thomas, who came first in the flat race for five and six year olds; Sally Christian and Eliza Clarke, who won the three-legged race in the same age group; and Robin Sharp and Matthew Van der Borgh who won the wheelbarrow race.

Does anyone recognise any of the children in the photo?

Elsewhere in 1979, a council-run lottery was proving rather popular. The report in the County Times didn’t say which council was running the lottery but all 40,000 tickets had been sold, leaving a net profit of £5,000 after all the prizes had been handed out.

The prizes ranged from 50p to £500 – and, considering a Mars bar only cost around 12p in 1979, even the smallest prize represented a week’s pocket money.

One headline from 1979 which could easily be dropped into today’s news was “Cutbacks will mean cold, dark winter”.

The government of the day had ordered all county councils to save money – and some rather extreme measures were introduced, which were laid out in a report in the County Times.

Schoolchildren and council staff shivered at their desks until November, when people in council-owned buildings were finally allowed to switch on the heating. Between May and September, no lights were allowed between the hours of 10am and 3pm; and, when the heating was turned on, it had to be kept at 62F (16C).

Here’s hoping the autumn and winter of 1979 were particularly mild!

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