20121103

Shelves groaning under weight of new Olympics books - none heavier than David Miller's 'magisterial' history

The sports book market has a Super Thursday of its own this week, with the memoirs of three Olympic superstars launching simultaneously on November 8, when autobiographies of Jessica Ennis, Bradley Wiggins and Lord Coe will be competing for the biggest display stands at bookstores up and down the land.


Their appearance will sound the starting gun on the pre-Christmas sales rush if it is not already under way.  Shelves are groaning a little more every day now with the release of new titles.

None more so, literally, than those stacked with the latest version of David Miller's mammoth Official History of the Olympic Games and the IOC, Athens to London, 1894-2012, published by Mainstream.

This is the third - arguably the fourth - edition of the veteran journalist Miller's unrivaled tome, which first appeared in 2003 to mark the return of the Games to Athens in 2004, was updated ahead of the Beijing Olympics in 2007 and has been further revised to include London 2012. Published in April this year ahead of the Games, this version includes a detailed account of how the latest medalists achieved their goals.

At 720 pages long, it weighs in at almost three kilos, which almost certainly entitles it to a line in the record books of its own as the heaviest book about the Games.  A combination of statistical records with anecdotal history, it has been described by more than one reviewer as magisterial in its authority.

Then again, Miller has few peers when it comes to first-hand acquaintance with Olympic history.   A journalist since he left  Cambridge University in 1956, former chief sports writer of both the Daily Express and The Times -- and at 79 still a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph sports pages -- he has attended 19 summer and winter Games.

While it is undoubtedly the giant among the official Olympic Games publications that have marked the London Games, it might struggle to rival London 2012: The Official Book, which served as a preview and guide to the summer spectacular. More than 36,000 copies were sold, according to Nielsen BookScan, putting it among the bestselling sports book of 2012, only just behind diving pin-up boy Tom Daley's pictorial autobiography, My Story.

Not surprisingly, the Olympic theme makes its presence strongly felt right across the list of new publications.  In the last 90 days, there have been more than 150 new sports books with a connection with the Olympics.

Noteworthy among the latest are James Cracknell's Touching Distance and Ian Thorpe's This Is Me, both of which come with deeply personal subplots to the stories of Olympic success.


Cracknell, the double Olympic gold medal-winning rower, tells the harrowing story -- with the help of his wife, the television presenter Beverley Turner -- of how his life has changed since he suffered serious brain damage while taking part in the cycling stage of an endurance event in Arizona, when the wing mirror of a petrol tanker struck his head.

Thorpe, the multi medal-winning Olympic swimmer, reveals the battle against depression and alcohol problems that he managed to keep secret during the peak years of his career but which he now feels free to discuss.

The Australian legend of the pool failed to qualify for London 2012, despite coming out of retirement with the express purpose of reaching the required standard.  But at least he was spared the necessity of revising his story to include a clutch of new medals.

Sir Chris Hoy, on the other hand, rendered his 2009 autobiography incomplete by winning two more golds on the cycling track, making him Britain's most decorated Olympian in terms of gold medals won.  Helpfully, there is a new, updated version in paperback, published by HarperSport.

On Amazon:

The Official History of the Olympic Games and the IOC: Athens to London 1894-2012, by David Miller  (Mainstream)
Touching Distance, by James Cracknell and Beverley Turner (Century)
This is Me: The Autobiography, by Ian Thorpe (Simon & Schuster)
Chris Hoy: The Autobiography (HarperSport)
My Story, by Tom Daley (Michael Joseph)

Browse more new books at The Sports Bookshelf Shop

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