“I accidently opened one; I was just curious. I opened it and there was a picture of a young girl in Afghanistan, and it showed that she was dead. Her hand was a few inches from a doll.
“There was two ways you could look at this. I felt very sorry for the child and the parents, but I also felt very angry that I got this letter with this sort of information in it.”
Wells refused to be influenced by the government, aware that the Games represented his best chance to win 100m gold and convinced his actions would have no bearing on the conflict in Afghanistan.
“It was quite difficult to deal with, but you have to look at these things sensibly. I just felt that, whether Allan Wells was at Moscow or not, it wouldn’t have made any difference,” he said.
“It was a very difficult decision and it was left up to the individual athletes. We all felt that politics shouldn’t have been in the Games at all.”
Taking inspiration from Edinburgh 1970
It could so easily have been a historic 100m/200m double for Wells in Moscow. His explosive start put him in with a real shot at gold in the 200m final, but he was hunted down and pipped on the line by Pietro Mennea of Italy. Still, a gold and silver medal represented a superb return.
Two years later, Wells won 100m gold at the Commonwealth Games in Brisbane, but it was the experience of volunteering at the 1970 staging of the Games in Edinburgh that lit the fire within him and gave him the drive to make it to the top of the athletics world.
“It allowed me to see first-hand the real attitude in world-class athletics,” he added. “I saw Don Quarrie winning the 100m and 200m. I saw Lynn Davies, Marilyn Neufville running the 400m, a new world record.
“It was a phenomenal experience, a phenomenal atmosphere. To be in that atmosphere with the athletes at that time was just incredible, something that I thought I’d never actually experience again.”