John Rodda, The Guardian’s former athletics and boxing correspondent who covered 10 Olympic Games, has died aged 78 after a long illness.
Rodda retired in 1995, but continued to write. His career started at the South London Press in 1946 aged 15, with his first Olympics the 1948 London games.
Writing for the Sports Journalists’ Association website – in what is thought to be his last published piece – Rodda said of those games: “I struggled with a box of matches to telephone my final piece on the games to Dixon’s News Agency, for which I received the sum of 31s 8d per day.
“Not bad for someone on £2 15s per week from a local paper.”
He joined the Manchester Guardian in 1950, and became athletics correspondent in 1959, succeeding Larry Montague.
In the 1968 games, in Mexico City, he witnessed the student massacre and narrowly missed a bullet fired by the military junta.
He also covered the Munich massacre four years later, wearing an athlete’s tracksuit to gain better access, and reported on Muhammad Ali’s “Rumble in the Jungle”.
Rodda was also influential with London’s 2012 Olympic bid, telling organisers: “The most important aspect of the bidding committee’s work will relate to human interaction.
“Facilities, ability and security are important issues but eventually the members’ personal preferences will decide the winning bid.”
Lord Coe, who masterminded the bid, told The Guardian yesterday: ‘”The thing about John was that he absolutely loved athletics.
“He had an absolute passion for it. We also shared a love of boxing – he was a great boxing writer, too – and we shared many great conversations about the two sports.”
Steve Ovett – whose book Rodda co-authored – told the SJA: “It’s very sad news. John was well respected and had many friends.
“I just remember, when we were working on the book, he would look over his reading glasses at me and chuckle at the rubbish I was coming up with.”
Rodda is survived by his wife, Yveline, their daughter, Lucy, his five children from his first marriage to Alice, and his 11 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.