Mirror to the World

Author

admin

Browse pages
Current page

1

Current page

2

Current page

3

Current page

4

Current page

5

Current page

6

Current page

7

Current page

8

Current page

9

Current page

10

Current page

11

Current page

12

Current page

13

Current page

14

Current page

15

Current page

16

Current page

17

Current page

18

Current page

19

Current page

20

Current page

21

Current page

22

Current page

23

Current page

24

Current page

25

Current page

26

Current page

27

Current page

28

Current page

29

Current page

30

Current page

31

Current page

32

Current page

33

Current page

34

Current page

35

Current page

36

Current page

37

Current page

38

Current page

39

Current page

40

Current page

41

Current page

42

Current page

43

Current page

44

Current page

45

Current page

46

Current page

47

Current page

48

Current page

49

Current page

50

Current page

51

Current page

52

Current page

53

Current page

54

Current page

55

Current page

56

Current page

57

Current page

58

Current page

59

Current page

60

Current page

61

Current page

62

Current page

63

Current page

64

Current page

65

Current page

66

Current page

67

Current page

68

Current page

69

Current page

70

Current page

71

Current page

72

Current page

73

Current page

74

Current page

75

Current page

76

Current page

77

Current page

78

Current page

79

Current page

80

Current page

81

Current page

82

Current page

83

Current page

84

Current page

85

Current page

86

Current page

87

Current page

88

Current page

89

Current page

90

Current page

91

Current page

92

Current page

93

Current page

94

Current page

95

Current page

96

Current page

97

Current page

98

Current page

99

Current page

100

Current page

101

Current page

102

Current page

103

Current page

104

Current page

105

Current page

106

Current page

107

Current page

108

Current page

109

Current page

110

Current page

111

Current page

112

Current page

113

Current page

114

Current page

115

Current page

116

Current page

117

Current page

118

Current page

119

Current page

120

Current page

121

Current page

122

Current page

123

Current page

124

Current page

125

Current page

126

Current page

127

Current page

128

Current page

129

Current page

130

Current page

131

Current page

132

Current page

133

Current page

134

Current page

135

Current page

136

Current page

137

Current page

138

Current page

139

Current page

140

Current page

141

Current page

142

Current page

143

Current page

144

Current page

145

Current page

146

Current page

147

Current page

148

Current page

149

Current page

150

Current page

151

Current page

152

Current page

153

Current page

154

Current page

155

Current page

156

Current page

157

Current page

158

Current page

159

Current page

160

Current page

161

Current page

162

Current page

163

Current page

164

Current page

165

Current page

166

Current page

167

Current page

168

Current page

169

Current page

170

Current page

171

Current page

172

Current page

173

Current page

174

Current page

175

Current page

176

Current page

177

Current page

178

Current page

179

Current page

180

The budget was huge, the organisation immense. Anthony Howard was the man charged by the Daily Mirror with turning rally bulletins into news

Once upon a time, Fleet Street thrived amid rivers of alcohol, old Spanish practices, the chatter of telex machines and the aroma of hot lead. But its firm grip on advertising revenues and its prime position as provider of news and entertainment faced an increasing challenge as independent television began flexing its muscles from the mid-1950s.

Amid the doom and gloom of the Harold Wilson era – characterised by industrial unrest and the devaluation of sterling – national morale got a much-needed fillip when England beat Germany in the 1966 World Cup final at Wembley.

Two years later, at the instigation of Daily Express proprietor Sir Max Aitken, the first 9600-mile London-Sydney Marathon began from Crystal Palace. The idea was to cheer everyone up, boost circulation and nurture exports to the 12 countries en route.

After high drama towards the finish, Andrew Cowan and his Hillman Hunter came through to claim the £10,000 prize and acres of ink. Paddy Hopkirk finished second. Quietly observing all this from behind a cloud of Havana smoke was Australian ad-man Wylton Dickson, the brains behind the 1966 World Cup Willie mascot, who had a chance encounter with Hopkirk at a drinks party in Chelsea. Hopkirk recently reminded me: “Wylton asked what my game was. I said professional rally driver, and he asked me what a rally was. So I explained, mentioning the London-Sydney.”

Dickson put two and two together and came up With 10: how about the mother and father of all motoring contests running from the previous World Cup venue to the next London to Mexico City in 1970? Next question: what kind of organisation was big enough and silly enough to risk putting its financial muscle behind such a hare-brained scheme?

Why, the Daily Mirror of course. In those days, it stood like a colossus in its purpose-built Holborn Circus HQ, and its five million-odd daily circulation was the world’s largest. Dickson made his pitch, saw his idea deftly appropriated, and found himself confined to the shadows.

As the complex, highly-politicised worlds of motor sport and the media converged the resulting ego clashes were analogous to the Large Hadron Collider. My good fortune was to be a Mirror foot soldier in the thick of all this, charged with maintaining rally news flow to the 22 countries from which the 106 entrants arrived.

This involved crucial journalist skills such as smoking, drinking and keeping very unsocial hours – long before Blackberries, wi-fl laptops, e-mail or digital photography existed. For I was captive between the varying time zones competitors were in from day to day and the deadlines of British and foreign media as far afield as Argentina, Australia and Thailand all anxious for stories.

Appropriately, the start was scheduled for Wembley Stadium where Bobby Moore was to dig up a sod of hallowed turf for re-planting in the Aztec Stadium. Raymond Baxter the voice of BBC’s Tomorrow’s World (not to mention motor racing) was signed to give the startline commentary. Then some bright spark decided the event had to be more family-friendly, and hired Ginger Baker’s Air Force jazz-rock band at huge expense to play a 20-minute gig at the halfway mark. Nothing was too good for our readers.

There was further consternation when Ginger and the boys over-ran, oblivious to frantic signals to cease. They were just getting into their stride when power to their amplifiers and huge speakers was cut.

Writing Where they are – day by day for the official programme (left price 4/or 20p) was pretty exhausting, I quipped to colleagues. So doing the real thing was bound to be a touch arduous. With exquisite understatement, IPC Newspapers chief Edward Pickering remarked: “I understand that the tougher a rally is, the more it pleases competitors. Even as a non-expert it seems clear to me that the Daily Mirror World Cup Rally is going to make a lot of competitors extremely happy.”

The ‘warm-up’, the brisk week-long 4500-mile tour of (what is now) 15 European countries, was an hour ahead of London. Once in South America, the remaining 11,500-mile route was three to seven hours behind us, which mostly entailed waiting late into the night for any snippets that could be cobbled into stories and telexed to grateful distant recipients. So I lived just around the corner in the Waldorf Hotel for a month, and sustained my stamina by refuelling regularly at the Stab-in-the-Back, where there was a reliable telephone.

Shipping the cars from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro took a couple of weeks, and just to keep things on the boil the Mirror hosted a major black-tie thrash for 200 thirsty automotive luminaries at London’s Savoy Hotel. I don’t know where they found the money, but we sure knew how to spend it.

Ironically, given what it was spending, the Mirror missed out on one benefit. Fleet Street rivals had essayed spoilers by sponsoring likely front-runners. The Evening Standard and Woman each backed contenders for the ladies’ prize, a baffle that the Standard’s Rosemary Smith, Alice Watson and Gineffe Derolland won. The Daily Express and Sunday Express rode with a factory Ford Escort apiece, the Express scooping third place with Rauno Aaltonen and Henry Liddon. The Telegraph Magazine drew the best cards, however, winning with the Escort driven by Hannu Mikkola and Gunnar Palm.

The Mirror’s overall rally budget was supposedly £250,000, but the smoke and mirrors department eventually had to find £1 million plus, a vast amount of money in those days. Inevitably, the post-mortem found it was a jolly good jape that underscored the Mirror’s prestige with established readers and advertisers. But it could scarcely have built new circulation or revenues in Latin America or mainland Europe, and it was maybe the last of Fleet Street’s serious such extravagances.

You may also like

Related products