Philip Barker

British Olympic Association (BOA) chairman Sir Hugh Robertson was among the sporting figures to pay tribute to Queen Elizabeth II after news of her death at the age of 96 today.

"As patron of the BOA, her support for the Olympic Movement in this country and, in particular, the London 2012 Olympic Games cannot be underestimated and shall never be forgotten," he said.

Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne in 1952, when flags were lowered to half mast at the Oslo Winter Olympics which opened only a few days after the death of her father King George VI.

Queen Elizabeth II became BOA patron and some 20 years later, even gave assent for them to use a royal crown in a new crest above the symbolic figure of Britannia.

It was perhaps appropriate that the London 2012 Olympic Park should ultimately be named in her honour, because there was perhaps no Olympic moment which captured the Queen’s sense of fun quite like her enthusiastic participation in the 2012 Opening Ceremony.

As the Ceremony began. a filmed sequence showed actor Daniel Craig most famous for playing '007... James Bond' arriving at Buckingham Palace.

The crowd in the stadium and billions of television viewers around the world gasped as it was revealed that it really was Queen Elizabeth II sitting at a desk.

She turned to say the immortal line, "good evening Mr Bond."

Then joined by her beloved corgis, she walked with Craig along the corridors of the Palace.

The pair were then filmed boarding a helicopter for a ride across London.

As it circled the Olympic Stadium two parachutists leapt out.

At the very instant they landed, Queen Elizabeth II made her entry into the Royal Box.

The Queen's arrival in the Royal Box at London 2012 ©Getty Images
The Queen's arrival in the Royal Box at London 2012 ©Getty Images

There was astonishment from both her grandsons Prince William and Prince Harry.

"Both of us were slightly surprised with our grandmother's secret hobby that she had of parachuting, which went down unbelievably well," Prince Harry said later.

It transpired later that the only condition Queen Elizabeth II had imposed was that she be allowed to choose her own outfit for the performance.

This was a pink dress which was a slightly different shade to that she had worn when she opened the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

In 1976, she did so in both French and English, to become the only Head of State to open an Olympics in two separate countries and the first to do so in a language other than her mother tongue.

Her first direct connection with the Games had come in 1948, when she was still Princess Elizabeth. The Hellenic Olympic Committee made her a gift of the lynchnos used as part of the ceremony to kindle the Olympic Flame for London.

It was the year when her first son, Prince Charles, now King, was born, and she watched the proceedings at the Olympics with interest as Windsor Great Park even hosted the road cycling race.

Throughout her reign Queen Elizabeth II was known for her great love of horses.

Her absence at such events as Royal Ascot and the Derby this year were keenly felt by racegoers.

The 2022 race coincided with the weekend of her Platinum Jubilee but she watched on television at Windsor.

Although a devotee of the turf, she never did own a Derby winner though she came close to glory in 1953, the year of her coronation.

That year her horse Aureole was beaten by Pinza ridden by Sir Gordon Richards.

Queen Elizabeth II was to have better fortune in another equestrian setting three years later.

Queen Elizabeth II was a keen fan of horse racing and regularly attended major meetings in Britain during his reign, including Royal Ascot ©Getty Images
Queen Elizabeth II was a keen fan of horse racing and regularly attended major meetings in Britain during his reign, including Royal Ascot ©Getty Images

In 1956, Olympic events for horses were held in Stockholm because of strict quarantine regulations in force in Australia at that time.

She was the guest of King Gustav VI Adolf and the Swedish public were captivated by news of her arrival in Stockholm on board the Royal Yacht Britannia.

She travelled to the stadium for the Opening Ceremony in an open carriage, accompanied by the Swedish King,

During a rainy cross-country section of the eventing, Queen Elizabeth II, accompanied by her younger sister Princess Margaret, watched as the competitors rode past.

Her own horse Countryman V was ridden by Bertie Hill and excitement mounted as it became clear that the British team were on course for a gold medal.

Queen Elizabeth II held a celebratory reception on board the Royal Yacht to set the seal on a memorable few days.

She continued to follow equestrian events at the Games with great interest.

In 1971, her daughter Princess Anne won European Championship gold riding Doublet.

Queen Elizabeth II had the happy duty of making the presentation.

At one stage, it seemed likely that the Princess might even be chosen for the Munich 1972 Olympic Games. 

In fact she did make the team for the next Olympics in Montreal.

Queen Elizabeth II was also in Canada that year and after opening the Games, she watched Princess Anne compete. 

Princess Anne onboard Goodwill during the 1976 Olympics in Montreal ©Getty Images
Princess Anne onboard Goodwill during the 1976 Olympics in Montreal ©Getty Images

The Princess finished 24th riding Goodwill, despite a fall during the cross-country phase.

In 1991, Queen Elizabeth II was part of another Olympic occasion alongside her daughter, now known as the Princess Royal.

This time it was an International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session held in Birmingham's new International Conference Centre.

"Happily I shall be in a good position to receive a first-hand report," she joked in her speech.

This was in reference to the fact that in the audience was her daughter, now an IOC member.

In 2004 Buckingham Palace was even the setting for an Olympic medal ceremony, held to honour eventer Leslie Law after the original gold medallist Bettina Hoy of Germany had been disqualified.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip watched as the medal was presented by Princess Anne.

The following year when the IOC Evaluation Commission visited to assess London’s bid to host the Olympics in 2012, Queen Elizabeth II gave her endorsement by hosting them at the Palace.

She later hosted the IOC again, a few days before the opening of London 2012, fulfilling a promise made in the earlier visit.

Queen Elizabeth II was a regular visitor to the Braemar Highland Gathering for almost 80 years ©ITG
Queen Elizabeth II was a regular visitor to the Braemar Highland Gathering for almost 80 years ©ITG

She had also welcomed the Olympic Torch to Windsor Castle where she watched 74-year-old netballer Gina Macgregor pass the Flame to 12-year-old Phil Wells.

In that Olympic year, Queen Elizabeth II's granddaughter Zara Tindall won silver in the team eventing.

Queen Elizabeth II's own introduction to sport had come at the age of seven, when she attended the Braemar Highland Gathering in 1933.

Over the years she has regularly made the short drive from her Balmoral residence.

This year’s gathering took place only four days ago. 

Queen Elizabeth II's absence was seen as an an indication of her failing health.

Robert Lovie, who traditionally sings the national anthem for the gathering, asked Prince Charles "to relay to Her Majesty that we miss her presence today and send to the Queen our warmest Highland greetings."

Charles had previously represented Queen Elizabeth II at other occasions including the Opening Ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games and had read the message which Queen Elizabeth II herself had consigned to a specially designed Baton and which had travelled to all 72 nations and regions of the Commonwealth.

"Throughout her long life and reign, her extraordinary dedication and service to the Commonwealth has been an inspiration to so many, including all our Commonwealth Games athletes and officials," Commonwealth Games Federation President Dame Louise Martin said.

"Her Majesty’s vision for the Commonwealth as a diverse and united family of nations will continue to inspire us - and will remain our mission and duty for the benefit of all athletes and communities, through the power of sport."

Ill health had rarely interfered with Queen Elizabeth II’s duty but by a twist of fate it had prevented her attending the Games for the first time in 1958, the year the Baton containing her message was inaugurated.

The Queen consigned her message to the Commonwealth Games Baton one final time last October ©Getty Images
The Queen consigned her message to the Commonwealth Games Baton one final time last October ©Getty Images

She had been scheduled to close the Games which in 1958 were held in Cardiff.

Instead she sent a recorded message in which she announced her intention to make Prince Charles, Prince of Wales.

Queen Elizabeth II did finally attend the Commonwealth Games for the first time in 1970 when they were held in Edinburgh.

Thereafter she was present at every Games until 2006.

On many occasions, she arrived halfway through the Games to close them but she also made the opening declaration at Edmonton 1978, Victoria British Columbia 1994, Manchester 2002 and Melbourne 2006 where Harry White, a youth ambassador for "Plan Australia" delivered a special greeting. 

"Your Majesty during the past 54 years of your reign, you have been the glue that has held us all together in the great Commonwealth of nations, in good times and bad times, the love and great affection that we all hold for you is spread across one-third of the world’s population, in our Commonwealth," he said.

Then Dame Kiri Te Kanawa sang Happy Birthday to Queen Elizabeth II.

Queen Elizabeth II conferred awards on many illustrious sportsmen and sportswomen.

It was said that she particularly admired Precious McKenzie, a South African born weightlifter who won gold for both England and New Zealand.

Weightlifter Precious McKenzie, centre, was said to be a favourite of The Queen ©Getty Images
Weightlifter Precious McKenzie, centre, was said to be a favourite of The Queen ©Getty Images

Legend has it that she was late for an engagement because she had become so absorbed in a competition in which McKenzie was competing.

Queen Elizabeth II presented England captain Sir Bobby Moore with the football World Cup in 1966.

Sir Bobby famously wiped his muddy hands before shaking hands with her.

Although not a football fan, Queen Elizabeth II was said to have asked FIFA President Sir Stanley Rous, "how long to go?" in the closing stages as the match reached its exciting conclusion.

She also twice presented the Rugby World Cup to the winning captain.

Nick Farr Jones, who received the trophy in 1991 and John Eales in 1999, both captained Australia.

Queen Elizabeth II also made regular visits to Lord’s Cricket Ground where the flag of the Marylebone Cricket Club was lowered to half mast tonight.

In 1977, Queen Elizabeth II was scheduled to attend the final session of play in the Centenary Test match between Australia and England in Melbourne.

Despite concerns that the match might finish too soon, the royal party arrived to witness an exciting finish in which Australia beat England by 45 runs, the same margin as in the very first test match 100 years previously.

Fast bowler Dennis Lillee then broke protocol by asking for an autograph.

It is said that a signed photograph was eventually sent to him.

The same year, Queen Elizabeth II attended the ladies' singles final at Wimbledon to witness Virginia Wade's victory over the Dutch player Betty Stove.

It was a rare visit to Centre Court, but a memorable occasion.

Other sports are set to announce their own tributes to a monarch who for 70 years was a part of the very sporting fabric of both the British nation and the Commonwealth.