Born Out of Wenlock
William Penny Brookes and the British Origins of the Modern Olympics
By Catherine Beale (New Hall 1985)
This title presents the gripping history of the Wenlock Olympian Games, the pre-cursor to and a significant influence upon the modern Olympics. Including detailed Athletes Biographies, it covers every competitor that took part between 1850-95 and demonstrates how William Penny Brookes left a legacy we still experience today.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, London Mayor Boris Johnson memorably said of London 2012 that 'Ping-Pong is coming home'. In fact, he might justifiably have said that 'the modern Olympic movement is coming home'. In 1850, Shropshire doctor William Penny Brookes began Olympian Games for the 'moral, physical and intellectual improvement' of the local population of Wenlock Borough.
Within a decade he had donated a prize for athletics in Athens and was urging the Greeks to revive their ancient Games. He had also begun agitating for physical education to be compulsory at primary schools in England, an effort he sustained until the measure was finally passed in 1894. Brookes, with help from John Hulley of Liverpool and Ernst Ravenstein of London, staged Britain's first National Olympian Games at the Crystal Palace in 1866. W.G. Grace won the 440yd hurdles while simultaneously playing cricket for England at the Oval.
Wenlock's annual games became an important focus for the growing band of men developing sport in Britain, but Brookes's egalitarian views on sport - that it should embrace all classes - temporarily fell foul of amateur exclusivity. In 1890, Baron Pierre de Coubertin travelled to Much Wenlock, met Brookes and watched the Wenlock Olympian Games. Within two years, Coubertin had decided to revive Olympic Games as an international sporting championship, and in 1896, the first of the IOC's Olympic Games were held in Athens. Brookes died just 17 weeks short of seeing international Olympic Games become a reality.
In this engaging and lively account, Catherine Beale tells the story of the Wenlock Olympian Games, considers their influence on the modern Olympics, and shows why Coubertin, though he failed fully to credit Brookes's contribution to the movement, concluded that 'The Wenlock people alone have preserved and followed the true Olympian traditions'.
Publication date: 1 June 2011
ISBN Number 9781859839676
Buy online at Heffers
Added: 22 May 2012
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