Friday, 27 July 2012

From the Archives: How Britain Re-Invented the Olympics

Olympic mascot, Wenlock,
named in honour of Much
Wenlock's "Olympian Games"
 Peter Galliver explains how the modern Olympic Games might never have taken place had it not been for Britain.

 Arguably, the Olympics have been a feature of English sporting life since the seventeenth century. Robert Dover, a lawyer, some time between 1601 and 1612,  organised games in Chipping Camden, Gloucestershire . . . claiming that his games drew on the example of the sports of the much- admired Ancient Greeks and stressing their role in promoting social harmony, reinforced with an element of military training. In a collection of poems published in 1636, the games are referred to as “Olympicks.” These games, held on the Thursday and Friday of Whitsun week, included running, jumping, horse-racing, hare-coursing, various forms of combat and dancing. Later on, shin-kicking was added to the repertoire.

 . . . In October 1850, Much Wenlock’s first “Olympian Games” were held on the local racecourse. The core activities included athletic contests, foot races of various distances, jumping and throwing events. Alongside these, however, were also football and cricket matches and games of quoits. These early games also featured novelty events such as wheelbarrow races and a race for old women, with the prize being a pound of tea . . .

Read Dr Galliver's complete account of how Britain re-invented the Olympics .

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