Following in dad’s Olympic footsteps
Shouts of ‘Brave Malta’ at stadium
With Malta and much of Europe still scarred by war, a dashing Francis Zammit Cutajar proudly carried the Maltese flag into Wembley Stadium during the opening ceremony of the 1948 Olympic Games in London.
Sixty-four years later and it was the turn of his son Paul to attend the Olympics in London as the official photographer of the Malta Olympic Committee.
“It was quite emotional being at the opening ceremony and imagining my late father entering the stadium with the flag all those years before,” Paul said.
A 24-year-old Francis carried the flag as the trainer and great friend of 100-yard sprinter Nestor Jacono, Malta’s sole Olympian that year.
When the tiny Maltese contingent entered Wembley, enthusiastic applause broke out and shouts of “Brave Malta” could be heard from all sides of the famous stadium.
“My husband was very proud of that moment,” said his widow Lina, who married Francis just a few months after his return from London.
“There was a roar of applause when the people in the stadium saw the Maltese flag with the George Cross. It was a great honour.”
The 1948 Olympics were dubbed the Austerity Games due to the backdrop of rationing and economic problems in war ravaged London.
No new venues were built and athletes – all amateurs – were housed in existing accommodation.
The 2012 Games, on the other hand, are estimated to have cost £9.3 billion to stage and have been criticised in some quarters for their reliance on corporate sponsorship.
Nevertheless, Mr Zammit Cutajar thinks his father would still recognise the Olympic spirit that he discovered in the UK capital all those years before.
“You still see great friendship and camaraderie among the athletes and spectators. Of all the big sports and sporting events, the Olympics are probably the one event that has not strayed too far from its roots,” he said.
Francis passed away in August 2008, aged 84. He and Nestor remained great friends to the very end.