Sussex Business: The Eagle Has Landed!
Britain’s first and last ski jumper, landed softly in a room full of Sussex Business people, ready to hear a story which was, moving, endearing and profound. This was the second in a series of Business conferences organised by the Chamber of Commerce with a number of interesting speakers each with their own distinct personal message to a Sussex membership eager to listen.
Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards came to fame at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics entering the Ski jumping event, a sport that Britain had never really competed in. Although coming last, he broke British records on landing, with cheers from the international crowd and waves from Eddie at the top of the 120-foot slope, before hurtling down at speeds of around 60 mph. Edwards was caught up in a cauldron of sympathy, amusement and admiration from everyone watching around the world. It wasn’t just Britain who took this man to their hearts but our foreign friends, appearing later on America’s ‘Johnny Carson show’ sitting next to Film Star Burt Reynolds. Eddie received more laughs and respect than a professional comic.
In Finland, a personality wrote a song in tribute to Eddie, inviting ‘The Eagle’ over to sing it with him, which led to a fifty-date tour of foreign countries. ‘Fly Eddie Fly’ was released in the UK making 50th place in the charts ‘which beat my 58th place in the Calgary Olympics’ joked Eddie. In demand, all over the globe, Edwards became a surprise celebrity making worldwide public appearances and with that came a massive increase in finances, sadly most of this he lost through weak investments and trusting the wrong people. Something Eddie talks about in his two- hour theatre show.
The backstory prior to the Olympics is just as fascinating as what occurred afterwards. Being obsessed with ski jumping, he borrowed his mums’ car, went down to Switzerland (without telling her where he was going) with little money or equipment to train on their large ski slopes. While there he bumped into the French national ski team who gave him a new ski suit, later the Austrian team, giving Eddie new ski’s. He managed to stay free in a place which turned out to be Switzerland’s equivalent of Broadmoor. And with little money for food he scrounged in bins from waste left by a scout camping group. It was amazing as the true stories came out one after another, leaving one a gasped or in hysterics.
The revival of interest in Edwards has partially been due to the recent film ‘Eddie ‘The Eagle’ starring Hugh Jackman which further gives an insight into his life and has been met by critical acclaim. Eddie sold the rights to the film many years ago but it has taken this long to bring it to our cinemas. He wasn’t involved much in the filming but he has been continuing his adventures around the world promoting it. If ever there was a message ‘Never give up on your dream’ this must be living proof.
Eddie spent the whole day at the conference talking to everyone, keen to listen, taking notes from the other speakers, mixing with delegates over lunch and posing for selfies afterwards. An incredibly normal, down to earth guy without any ‘airs or graces’, (as he showed in his ski jumping career), taking life as it comes giving it a go and quietly following his dream with an all-important sense of humour to laugh at oneself.
This is the real reason why Eddie remains in people’s hearts. In a digital world of snap-chat, Instagram, Facebook, Google, blogging and downloading we sometimes forget a basic principal of personal business, being likable and trustworthy. Two attributes Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards wins a double Gold medal in.
Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He lectured at Southampton Solent University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences, he has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.