Chris Wilson July 26, 2012
Reg McKay, of Duffy, with a photo of his brother carrying the flag for the Australian Olympic team in 1948. Photo: Karleen Minney
His brother was the target of ''controversy'' as Australia's flag bearer at the 1948 London Olympic Games, so Canberra's Reg McKay chuckles at the debate now raging over who will carry Australia's flag on Saturday morning.
Mr McKay this week rediscovered an Olympic and family heirloom that had hung above a pub bar in Melbourne's Collins Street for almost 30 years and had been lost in his triple-car Duffy garage for more than a decade.
It's a stained, torn, unframed black-and-white photo of his late brother, Les McKay, leading the Australian Olympic team into London's Wembley Stadium at the opening ceremony for the 1948 London Games.
It's a rare photograph of the entire 1948 Australian team.
''What do you notice?'' Reg challenges.
He then goes on to reveal the source of the 1948 controversy - that the entire Australian team was out of step with the boy scout out front leading the team's march.
Les and the team had their left legs forward as the boy scout had his right. And so they continued, out of sync, for the entire lap of the Olympic stadium.
''I remember seeing the newspaper headlines - Australian team out of step,'' Mr McKay laughed.
''It was the first Olympics after the war, it was a military era and to march out of step was unforgivable. My dad [Reg senior] put it up in the [family-owned] pub [in Melbourne], it was a conversation piece for years. There was always debate about who was in the wrong, the boy scout or Les.
''I opened it up [on Tuesday] and couldn't believe it, I thought it was long gone.''
Les McKay was actually James Leslie Darcy McKay, named after Australia's boxing legend.
But surf life-saving and water polo became his sports, and he was chosen to represent Australia in the latter at the 1948 Games. McKay was a giant of a man who, as reports at the time say, used to swim in Port Phillip Bay with a four-gallon drum attached to his belt so he was forced to develop a powerful stroke just to stay afloat. A decorated war veteran, returning from World War II as a major, McKay had been chosen to carry Australia's flag because of - according to Reg - his military background and therefore his ability to wave the flag appropriately.
Australia's flag bearer for these Games will be revealed tomorrow, but the selection process has been inflamed by debate of gender inequity. Beach volleyball Natalie Cook says she will sit out the opening ceremony in protest if a woman isn't given the honour.
Reg McKay wouldn't miss it for the world. ''All we seem to read is controversy, it's such trivial things.''
Not like marching out of step.