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Black Gold

By NZ On Screen team
16th July 2012

 Black Gold

Black Gold

 NZ On Screen team

By NZ On Screen team


The quest for black gold

For a small country from the edge of the world, achievements on the Olympic stage are badges — silver fern-on-black — of national pride: precious moments where we gained notice (even if it was Mum’s anthem playing on the dais). This legacy collection draws on archive footage, some rarely seen, to celebrate the stories behind Kiwis going for gold.


Kiwi athletes chasing Games glory

 The Glow of Gold

This film surveys Kiwi Olympic success to 1968. Superb footage covers triumphs from running men Lovelock, Halberg and Snell, long jumper Yvette Williams, and more rare archive gems. The doco also meets athletes heading to Mexico 1968, including rower Warren Cole, who would go on to win gold.

 Peter Snell - Athlete

With the man himself commenting, this NFU classic tells Peter Snell's story up to just prior to his Tokyo triumph. "It always gives a feeling of exhilaration to run in the New Zealand all black singlet." Includes priceless shots of Snell running in Waiatarua's bushy hills and vaulting farm fences.

 Pieces of Eight - A Quest for Gold

This gripping doco follows the efforts — from brutal 'erg tests' to pub raffles — of the New Zealand rowing eight to win gold at Los Angeles 1984. The eight, coached by the legendary Harry Mahon, had won the past two world champs and were expected to repeat the triumph of the '72 Munich eight.

 1990 Commonwealth Games promo - Join Together

This epic Lee Tamahori-directed promo for the 1990 Auckland Commonwealth Games imagines the stirrings of Games spirit in the mud of the Western Front, 1917, as soldiers from various British Empire nations (Bruno, Tony Barry, a young Joel Tobeck) race behind the lines to see who is the fastest.


Jack Lovelock was the first NZ track athlete to win an Olympic gold. He did so spectacularly: winning the Berlin 1500m in front of Hitler and 120,000 spectators. In this short film the race is contrasted with his enigmatic death, falling in front of a train from a New York subway platform in 1949.

 On the Run

This award-winning film showcases running coach Arthur Lydiard's influential methods — building stamina to complement speed — through the example of his acolytes, including Olympic 1,500m champ John Walker. Beautifully filmed, a highlight is Jack Foster's exhilarating Tarawera scree slope descent.

 Games 74

This ambitious National Film Unit chronicle of "the friendly games" covers a range of events (including famous runs by John Walker and Dick Tayler) but often bypasses the pomp and glory approach; daring to talk to the injured and defeated. The closing ceremonies feature the athletes gathering to "join together".

 This is Your Life - Peter Snell

In 2000 Texan sports scientist Dr Peter Snell was surprised with the 'Big Red Book'. The tribute to NZ's greatest athlete revisits Olympic triumphs and world records, reunites Snell with Rome 800m medallists, Opunake locals, and coach Arthur Lydiard; and reveals a performance enhancing drug: Fanta.

 The Games Affair

Set during the 1974 Commonwealth Games, Games Affair was a children's fantasy-thriller. Remembered fondly by 70s kids — especially the jumping sheep and deflating-John Bach SFX — the story follows three teenagers battling a professor who's experimenting on athletes with performance enhancing drugs.

 This is Your Life - John Walker

Bob Parker ambushes champion runner John Walker at a dinner at Trillos nightclub in this This is Your Life. Walker is classically laconic as he's led through his mile world record, the epic 1974 Commonwealth 1,500m final and Olympic gold at Montreal in 1976. Bayi, Coe, Scott and Snell pay tribute.

 Remember '74

This TVNZ documentary sees Keith Quinn looking back on the Christchurch Commonwealth Games of 1974. Various competitors weigh in with their memories, including 1,500 metre winner John Walker and powerlifter Graham May.

 Pictorial Parade No. 123

Snell sets two world records on the grass track at Lancaster Park, in the 800 yards and half mile. "I was almost horrified at the pace ... I was had it by the time I reached the back straight ... I just went on on the thought of that world record." Snell's coach Arthur Lydiard is also interviewed.

 Join Together - The New Zealand Commonwealth Games Story

This doco charts Kiwi participation in 18 Empire and Commonwealth Games up to Melbourne 2006; with emphasis on the NZ-hosted Games in Auckland (1950, 1990) and Christchurch (1974). A cavalcade of gold medallists (Yvette Williams, Dick Tayler, Anna Simcic, Neroli Fairhall) recall their glory days.

 1950 British Empire Games

The 1950 Empire Games was held in Auckland. This remarkable footage starts with the arrival of the teams, on metal flying boats, DC-3s and cruise ships, and shows athletics, boxing, swimming, rowing, fencing, the marathon and more. Future-Olympic champ Yvette Williams wins the 'broad jump'.

 Pictorial Parade No. 24

Members of the New Zealand team for the 1954 Vancouver Empire Games are profiled in this NFU film. Yvette Williams demonstrates the long jump technique — filmed in slow motion — that had made her an Olympic champ and world record holder, and there's a brief shot of a young Murray Halberg.

 This is Your Life - Mark Todd

Mark Todd is the subject of the first NZ edition of This is Your Life. Weeks earlier at Los Angeles 1984, Todd and mount Charisma had won NZ's first equestrian gold medal. It includes Todd's agonising wait, cigarette in hand, for US rider Karen Stives to make a mistake that would give him victory.

 The Years Back - The Thirties (Episode Three)

Bernard Kearns presents a survey of NZ life in the 30s in this episode of the NFU archive-based series The Years Back. Included is Jack Lovelock's gold medal triumph at the Berlin Olympics, where the black singlet with silver fern, and famous 'Lovelock kick' unfurled into NZ's consciousness.

 John Walker - The 3.49.4 Man

On the eve of a much-anticipated Montreal Olympic showdown with his great rival Tanzanian Filbert Bayi, this profile traces the career of mile world record holder John Walker. The Bayi race never eventuated due to an African boycott of the Olympics in protest at NZ sporting ties with South Africa.

 The Right Track

This instructional film for runners — fronted by Olympic 5000m silver medallist and world record holder Dick Quax — looks at implementing the techniques of coach Arthur Lydiard. Quax, Dr Peter Snell, John Walker and other Lydiard protégés look at the science and practice, from training to race day.

 Triumph of the Human Spirit

Fronted by Paul Holmes this documentary follows the New Zealand team at the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta. It was the most successful team to date with a haul of nine gold medals, six silver and four bronze (and 44 personal bests). The doco broke ground screening in a primetime slot on TV One.

 Via Satellite

Playwright Anthony McCarten's film is a portrait of a family under the media spotlight. The comedy/drama stars Danielle Cormack in two roles — as a swimmer on the cusp of Olympic glory, and as the twin sister back home — looking on as her family struggles with second-hand performance anxiety.

 Turn of the Century

Via comprehensive archive footage this doco traces the history of skiing in New Zealand. Winter Olympic representation in Oslo in 1952, and Sarajevo 32 years later (with Simon Wi Rutene) marks the evolution from the days when carrier pigeons were used to report snow conditions from ski fields.

 Pictorial Parade No. 124

A segment in this edition of the Pictorial Parade visits the Auckland Athletic Champs at Eden Park, where a water-logged grass track makes the going tough. Peter Snell wins the half-mile and Murray Halberg wins the three-mile race. "you know Mother I think he'll win", deadpans the narrator.

 Attitude Special: The Journey of the Wheelblacks

This Attitude special follows Murderball stars The Wheelblacks over four years as they prepare for the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing. The doco follows the wheelchair-armed rugby team from their 2004 Athens gold medal win, through their various international competitions in the lead-up to Beijing.

 Pictorial Parade No. 131 - Top o' the Town Race

This Pictorial Parade excerpt has reigning Olympic 800m champion Peter Snell participating in an Auckland charity road race (roadsters also include Bill Baillie and Barry Magee). Snell is in the bunch early on, but coming down a crowded and wet Karangahape Road he is of course, "the man to watch".

 Weekly Review No. 350 - New Zealanders for the Olympics

This NFU film meets the NZ team preparing to leave for London 1948, by boat. Each of the seven members is profiled (Maurice Crow's weightlifting demonstration is a highlight) in this reminder of an era when athletes had day jobs. Despite narrator Selwyn Toogood's enthusiasm, the team failed to win any medals.


In this drama Alex (Lauren Jackson) is a champion teenage swimmer determined to win selection to the Rome 1960 Olympics while dealing with great performance and romantic expectations. The NZ-Australia co-production was adapted from Tessa Duder's eponymous coming of age novel.

 Weekly Review No. 431

Alongside pieces on Wellington Zoo's new elephant, diverting the Hutt River, and goat eradication on Mt Taranaki, this segment of the NFU's long-running Weekly Review series looks at making of apparel for the 1950 Empire Games, including singlets "dyed in the traditional black".

 Twelve Days Of Glory - The Forgotten Athletes

Presented by Paul Holmes, this doco follows the 13 kiwi competitors at the Barcelona 1992 Paralympics. Swimmer Jenny Newstead won four gold medals, as the determined athletes headed into a more professional era. As Cristeen Smith says: “We’re not ‘having a go,’ we’ve trained for years to get here.”

 Pictorial Parade No. 77

The race to build a new hotel at Mount Cook to replace the original Hermitage leads this Pictorial Parade edition. The recording industry is booming and the cameras visit a vinyl LP pressing plant; and the NZ team for the 1958 Cardiff Empire Games gets ready to fly out with high hopes for medals.

Black beauty

Black beauty

London 2012 Olympic broadcaster Eric Young muses on the "joy of black" and its patriotic prod for Kiwis. Read More >

Official NZ Olympic Team site

Official NZ Olympic Team site

The official site for the London 2012 Kiwi Olympic team: a proud chapter of the gold-on-black legacy. Visit the official NZ Olympic site >

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