Returning from the World Athletics Finals with his friends, Andy Norman, 64, died unexpectedly on Monday, August 24, 2007. Definitely the most powerful man in athletics in the 1980s and early nineties, Andy had stayed involved in the sport he loved…..
If ever there was a man of complex character and wit, it was Andy Norman. I had heard of him, and witnessed his influence of the sport for years, but finally sat down with him at a Norwich United meeting last year. As charming and quotable as ever, Mr. Norman gave me a couple of thoughtful comments on the sport he loved and ruled for over a decade.
Norman was married to Fatima Whitbread, the great British athlete and javelin record holder, they had a son named Ryan. In the 1980’s Norman was the Promotions officer of the British Athletic Federation, the predecessor of UK Athletics. In that role, he also put on major events in the UK, including the London GP at Crystal Palace.
In the 1980s, when star power in the United Kingdom in athletics was legendary and the sport was at its zenith in Europe, Andy Norman was agent, meet director, friend and foe, all rolled up into one. His athletes, who understood his temper and his outlook, still respect and care for him. Many federations and meet directors and agents for that matter believed that Andy Norman ruled the world. . Norman represented the likes of Steve Ovett, Fatima Whitbread, Colin Jackson, Linford Christie and Jonathan Edwards, to name a few.
In 1994, after track writer Cliff Temple committed suicide, despondent over a failed marriage and questioning, as many do, meaning in a public life, many blamed Norman for his hand on threatening Temple about a series of articles on Fatima Whitebread, that he had written. Norman, who was also keeping the British federation afloat, was let go from that position and chased out of the sport. The results were a witch hunt of spectacular dimensions.
Norman did not go away. He worked on a series of meetings in South Africa and was given credit for keeping the European championships in Budapest afloat. His real friends stayed fast, and he was with some of them when he died. At the time of his death, Andy Norman was working as the advertising commissioner for the IAAF at the VTB World Athletics Finals. His attention to details, his concern for the sport was apparent at many athletics meetings in Eastern Europe and South Africa as well during decade since he left the British Federation offices.
Our sport has had some colorful characters, and Andy Norman was one of them. By enjoying their color, their larger than life personas, one is not approving of their actions, but one is admitting, that at the time, Andy Norman, for better or worse, had a huge influence on the sport of athletics. His ability to get young and developing athletes from the UK into meets helped develop a generation of Great Britian’s athletes.
In recent years, Norman had worked for the IAAF and major meets in the role of advertising manager. Notes on message boards around the sports world abound with recollections of Andy Norman. They all have one thing in common-how much the writers will miss his spirit and vitality.
For more information: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/more_sport/athletics/article2525429.ece
For a related story from UK athletics: http://www.ukathletics.net/press-centre/news-archive/september-2007/article-34/
For a related story from the IAAF: http://www.iaaf.org/news/Kind=2/newsId=41859.html