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Golden moments for photographer John Giles
Veteran photographer JOHN GILES was in charge of the London 2012 Olympics for the Press Association. But he still found time to take the stunning images here
THE London Olympics generated iconic sporting images of courage, elation, triumph and despair. Some of the very finest of those images – photographs that travelled around the world – were taken by a photographer from North Yorkshire.
Veteran Press Association snapper John Giles, who lives just outside York, was in charge of the 25-strong team of PA photographers who covered the Games.
A good deal of his time was spent making sure his photographers were in the right place at the right time.
But he also had time to take some stunning photographs, a few of which we reproduce here today.
There were three truly golden moments for him at this year’s Games: Yorkshire’s own Jessica Ennis winning heptathlon gold; Chris Hoy picking up his second gold of the games, in the Keirin, to become Britain’s all-time greatest Olympian; and Mo Farah cementing his place in Olympic history by winning his second long-distance gold of the Games, in the 5,000 metres.
As a Yorkshire photographer, John has photographed Ennis at sporting events all around the world. She’s a wonderfully down to earth, straightforward young woman who never lets all the hype and glory go to her head, he says. “She’s like the girl next door – except that she’s not.”
There were those who doubted that she could win the heptathlon. “But I always knew she would. I had total faith in her.”
It was obvious how much it meant to her, winning Olympic gold in her own country, he says. She doesn’t normally celebrate – but she couldn’t help lifting her arms in triumph as she crossed the line in the final event, the 800 metres. And then she kissed her gold medal on the podium. “She doesn’t normally do that. It showed what it meant for her.”
Farah and Hoy, in their second events, looked as though they might be overhauled. What lifted them both, and carried them on to their second victories of the Games, was the “wall of sound” from the spectators screaming them on, John says. He loved the expression on Farah’s face – hands on head, eyes opened wide in stunned, joyous disbelief – as he crossed the line. As for Hoy’s second medal, it was the only time in the Games when, for a brief moment, he lost his photographer’s detachment, John admits.
As Hoy walked up to get his medal, all the photographers were snapping away – all except John. “I was clapping,” he says. “Someone said to me, ‘Shouldn’t you be shooting this?’ and I said, ‘Yes, in a minute’.”
Other images he treasures include the GB women’s hockey team, pictured just after they scored against South Korea; and a crash on the BMX track. You can see the delight written all over the faces of the hockey players, he says: particularly the woman in the foreground, who is screaming so hard the sinews on her neck stand out. As for the BMX shot, he loves the haphazardness of it, and the fact that the 2012 symbol is captured in the background.
His favourite photograph of all from the Games, however, is a very different one: a private moment in the life of the greatest athlete of all time, Usain Bolt.
He is a hugely charismatic athlete, followed wherever he goes by legions of fans, John says. There were hundreds of photographers at each of his finals. But at the end of the 200 metres, Bolt suddenly, for a very brief moment, managed to shake everybody off.
He returned to the lane in which he’d run the race – lane seven – knelt down, and kissed the track.
In all the hubbub that was a moment for the man himself, John says – and he captured it. “If I had to choose one picture from the Games, it would be that.”
John, 63, retires in November after the best part of a quarter century with PA. But covering his home Olympics was a great way to go out, he says. “It doesn’t get much better than that.”