The passing of an Olympic legend: Judy Patching

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Passing of Olympic legend: Judy Patching
15 February 2009

The Australian and Oceania Olympic Movement is mourning the death of Julius (Judy) Patching AO OBE. Judy passed away in hospital on Friday aged 92.


To so many he was the foundation stone on which the Australian Olympic movement is built and Olympians past, present and future owe Judy a great deal.


Judy was a respected team official and one of Australia’s greatest sports administrators. He was involved in every Olympic Games since Melbourne 1956, where he was the chief starter in the Olympic stadium.


Fifty-two years later he accepted an invitation from the Australian Olympic Committee to participate in the Beijing 2008 Torch Relay leg in Canberra. At age 91, Judy carried the Torch up to the Australian War Memorial. He was one of 80 runners participating on Anzac Day eve. The occasion held added significance for Judy, a navy veteran of 13 years.


His Olympic record has earned him respect and admiration throughout the world. He was Secretary-Treasurer and later Secretary-General of the Australian Olympic Federation (Committee) between 1974 and 1985.


Before heading up the AOF he was the Athletics Section Manager on the 1960 Rome Olympic Team, Assistant Chef de Mission at the 1964 Tokyo Games and Chef de Mission at Mexico 1968 and Munich 1972. At Sydney 2000 he was the deputy mayor of the Olympic Village.


Speaking from an international rowing meeting in South Africa AOC President John Coates said, “I know of no Olympic or sporting official who was more loved by the athletes in his teams than Judy Patching.”


“He devoted much of his life to the Olympics and I’m sure he would say it has been a labour of love.


“He has always been a good friend, a gentleman and a most loyal supporter. He was much loved and the Olympic movement owes him so much.”


Judy proudly told people of his record in “56”, not one false start, except when he handed the gun to a junior to send the marathon field on its way. He figured no-one could bugger-up the start of the marathon.


He officially retired in 1985 but even aged 90 he still attended the annual general meeting of the Australian Olympic Committee and continued to provide advice to sporting administrators.


His 90th birthday tribute back in January 2007 was attended by many outstanding administrators and athletes including Australia’s greatest female track athlete and dear friend Betty Cuthbert. IOC President Jacques Rogge recorded a video tribute for his dear friend.


Judy was the Australian Olympic Team Chef de Mission during the most difficult episode to confront the Olympic Games when the Palestinian terrorists invaded the Olympic Village in Munich.


He supported the then IOC President Avery Brundage’s decision that the “Games must go on”. He saw Brundage’s simple announcement, and the episode it represented, as fortifying the Olympic movement.


Judy lived in Point Lonsdale near Geelong in Victoria. His beloved wife Betty, whom he married in 1940, died six years ago after 63 years of marriage. He is survived by his sons Bruce and Colin, six grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.