Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Olympics come home!

The opening ceremony of the London Olympics takes place tomorrow .I will watch intrigued to see what they come up with..In the weeks to come there will be wall to wall coverage of every Olympic sport.
The BBC will understandably spend millions covering all the events, on a multitude of sites, and I would expect them to do it well.

 I haven't seen what the projected audience figures around the world will be but they must be massive.

It is  Baron Pierre de Coubertin who is deservedly given the credit for founding the modern Olympics but what is less well known is that he got his inspiration from   Dr William Penny Brookes from Much Wenlock in Shropshire see here
Brooks who was decades ahead of his time was convinced that sport would make local people healthier and that exercise was essential to a healthy life style. To that end he campaigned vigoroulsy for PE to be taught in schools, and for that reason too,Dr Brookes  founded the Wenlock Olympian Society which staged their first games in 1850. It was on Brookes  insistence that"the Games  was open" to the working classes   despite pious people complaining  that this  would mean having  a large number of scantily-dressed young men performing in front of women. It was felt that such an event would cause drunkenness, rioting, lewd behaviour, and that men would leave their wives.".... None of these things appear to have happened( because of the games!)

Following the success of the Wenlock Games the first Olympian games were held at Crystal Palace in 1866 drawing a crowd of no fewer than 10000.The legendary cricketer W.G. Grace took part in the hurdles 

Baron Pierre de Coubertin  was invited by Dr Brookes to Much Wenlock to see the Wenlock Olympics in 1890 and spent time talking to and learning from his  enthusiastic host ,who also became his friend. Drawing inspiration from his visit  the Baron determined to re start the ancient games and the first modern Olympics were held in Athens in 1896.
Brookes was not present having died just a few months earlier but Coubertin  said of him

“If the Olympic Games that modern Greece has not been able to resuscitate survive there today, it is due not to a Greek, but to Dr W.P. Brookes. It is he who inaugurated them 40 years ago, and it is he, now 82 years old but still alert and vigorous, who continues to organise and inspire them.”
Baron Piere de Coubertin, 1890.

We can learn a lot from William P Brookes about the importance of vision and how critical it is, whatever the odds, of persistence in pursuing that vision

The Wenlock games still exist today see here


  1. I am a citizen of Greece and I have to say that I am really annoyed and fed up with all this Nonsense . So , according to the article ,to the late mr Brookes the Olympic games owe their modern existence ( entertaining global TV audiences , enriching companies such as Coca Cola , etc ...). So what ? Does this make britain home of the Olympic games ??? the games are as much British as the Parthenon marbles stolen by Elgin and currently displayed in the British museum....

  2. Thanks for your thoughts anonymous -you are entitled to your views of course