It was easy enough for Spanish photographer Rafael Segui to capture Olympic history, however, sharing it with the world was quite another thing. As part of our story behind the photo series, he tells SPIKES his role in announcing a Spanish sporting legend to the world.

“This was 1980 at the Moscow Olympics. All of us non-Russian photographers were well aware of the possible problems we might face in order to process our black and white and colour films.

“To develop in black and white I had brought with me everything I needed to turn my hotel room into a darkroom. When I got to Moscow I found the problems we were up against to develop the colour material had further increased: due to the American boycott the main renowned brands of photographic equipment many of us relied on, had stayed away from the games.

“At the end of each day, I managed to develop my black and white films while the colour films were sent to the Novosti agency.

“I arrived on 28 July 1980. During a conversation with the Spanish race walker Jordi Llopart he told me 'Rafa, make sure your camera's ready because the day after tomorrow there's going to be some big news'.”

Moscow Mascot ()

MOSCOW MASCOT: Jordi's prediction went on to bear fruit. Ahem.

“And so, on the evening of the 30th, Jordi came into the stadium behind the East German Hartwig Gauder, celebrating his silver medal in the 50km race walk.

“I realised that I was the only Spanish photographer in front of our Olympic medallist.

“I took a lot of pictures, as many as I could. At that time, motor drives could only take 2.5 frames a second and some of us were still on manual cameras which you had to shoot and wind-on by hand.

“I should explain, there was a really peculiar set of circumstances involved. Alfredo Benito, the photographer for the Spanish sports daily Marca had unfortunately been involved in an accident. The bus taking us from the handball arena to the press conference had braked sharply and Alfredo had ended up in hospital with a broken rib, while Paco Alguersuari, from the EFE press agency, had left the stadium as he had to urgently wire a series of photos from other events, a hugely complicated process during Moscow 1980.

“I was therefore the only Spanish photographer remaining. My instinct told me that Jordi's comment two days earlier was going to bear fruit [at that time, the races which left the stadium were not shown on the screens inside, meaning that no one knew the result until the very end].”

Llopart SPIKES ()

¡Heeeeeeeere's Jordi! – Rafael's iconic shot of the winner

“The reigning European champion was right. Here was Jordi, wearing a white vest bearing the colours of the Spanish flag and navy-blue shorts, with a radiant smile and his arms raised in triumph.

“It was no mean feat: this was Spanish athletics' first Olympic medal.

“I shot loads, as much as I could, in both colour and black and white, without thinking at any moment what was going to happen later. I got back to the press centre where they told me that at that time of the evening no more photographic material could be accepted for processing until the next day, meaning a 24-hour delay.

“I went to the hotel and set about developing the black and white, all the time thinking about what to do with the colour films. That was a stressful two hours – on the one hand, the black and white had come out fine, the problem was the colour.

“While the black and white film was drying, I left and returned to my room on numerous occasions, pacing the long corridors of the Moscow Grand Hotel, where all the journalists were staying, trying to come up with a solution to my problem. At the end of one of the corridors there was a fantastic view of the Kremlin – at that moment I wasn't able to fully enjoy it, but it did inspire an answer to my dilemma.”

Lloporta was the reigning European champ going in to the Moscow Olympics courtesy of this performance in Prague two years previous

“It was gone midnight when I called José Manuel Sotelo, who worked in the office of the newly-elected President of the IOC, Juan Antonio Samaranch. He answered the phone and quickly suggested a solution. After checking matters, he told me 'First thing in the morning, go to the Airport. Juanito, the President's son, is flying back to Barcelona, he'll take the films for you'.

“So that's what I did. I put the black and white negatives in their protective sheets, together with the colour film canisters, in an envelope and, without getting any sleep, I went straight to the airport.

“The young Juan Antonio Samaranch Salisachs, himself now a member of the IOC Executive Board, took my films back containing the historic shots of Jordi Llopart.

“The next day, the photos were published in the now-defunct daily Dicen, as well as in Mundo Deportivo and La Vanguardia.