1948 diving champion to drop in at Olympics

Peter Heatley with one of his medals
Peter Heatley with one of his medals
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When diving champion Sir Peter Heatley took part in the Olympic Games, the Second World War had not long ended, rationing was still in place and the event was opened by King George IV.

Now, aged 87, he is to return to London to watch a new generation compete.

Peter Heatley pictured in 1950 diving in Bangor, Northern Ireland

Peter Heatley pictured in 1950 diving in Bangor, Northern Ireland

Sir Peter is one of around 120 athletes who represented Britain at the 1948 London Olympics – known as the Austerity Games due to the economic climate and post-war rationing – who have been offered the chance to apply for free tickets.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea for the athletes to be given the opportunity to go back,” said the Leith-born grandfather and father of four.

“The core of the games is much the same, but everything is a bit more sophisticated now.

“Going to London will certainly bring back memories.”

The retired civil engineer finished fifth in the 10 metre highboard diving at Wembley stadium and was also in the three metre springboard, finishing 13th. In 1952, he went on to compete at the Helsinki Olympics in both events again.

Peter’s interest in swimming and diving began after he was taken to the baths at Leith Victoria as a young boy.

“When they opened the open air pool at Portobello when I was about 11 years old, it was a great opportunity for diving,” he said.

His skills went from strength to strength and he went on to become Scottish champion, before being selected for the Olympic event.

The Games had just returned after a 12-year hiatus as a result of the War. “The last time they had the Olympics was in Berlin in 1936. The average age of competitors was older then than it is now, because there were quite a lot of people, including myself, who felt they had missed the opportunity to compete in what would have been the 1940 or 1944 games.”

Over the years Sir Peter – who features in Scottish Swimming’s Hall of Fame – has collected a haul of medals.

He won three golds, a silver and a bronze at the three Commonwealth Games between 1950 and 1958 in diving, and has attended 16 Commonwealth Games out of a total of 19 events in various capacities.

Awarded a CBE in 1970 and a Knighthood in 1990, he is the patron of Commonwealth Games Scotland and life vice- president of the Commonwealth Games Federation.

dawnmorrison@edinburghnews.com