London 2012: Carol Ann Duffy recites Olympic park poem

Engraving of Eton Manor, pic courtesy of Locog A steel and brass engraving of the poem will be placed at the entrance to the wheelchair tennis and swimming training venue

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Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy has performed the first reading of a poetic tribute to members of a sporting club founded on the Olympic Park.

She recited the poem to Eton Manor Association members at Eton Manor Rugby Club on Wednesday.

A steel and brass engraving of the poem called Eton Manor will be put up at the wheelchair tennis venue.

It was recently completed by the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) and handed over to Games organisers Locog.

The poem is part of Winning Words, a national poetry scheme inspired by London 2012 aiming to integrate permanent and temporary poems on the Olympic Park.

Legacy tribute

The poem celebrates the rich history of Eton Manor Sports Club - a community facility founded at the beginning of the 20th Century.

"The original Olympics involved poetry as well as sport, celebrating the wholeness of human endeavour," Miss Duffy said.

London 2012 - One extraordinary year

London 2012 One extraordinary year graphic

"I think it is very good they are echoing the early spirit of the Olympics, as it would be a shame not to bring the arts into people's focus.

"I think it makes us healthier, as well as our running, jumping and marvellous physical achievements, to look more internally at art, music and poetry."

Originally named The Wilderness, the Eton Manor Boys' Club quickly established a reputation as an elite sporting association.

It included Olympians as members, and part of the running track used in the last London Olympic Games was transferred to the site after the 1948 Games.

Duffy's poem also points to the legacy that the venue will leave for the community after the Games.

Carol Ann Duffy Duffy's Eton Manor talks about the legacy the venue will leave after the Games

Olympic Delivery Authority chairman, John Armitt, said: "The poem references the site's rich sporting history, which will be preserved for generations to come in the form of the fantastic new Eton Manor facility that will be extensively used by the community after the Games, providing a new home for tennis and hockey."

Eton Manor Association chairman, George Murton, said: "Carol Ann recognised the loyalty, camaraderie, and sheer pride in belonging that members of Eton Manor had, and have for their Club, whilst also acknowledging the major part played by the Old Etonian Founders."

Ms Duffy and author Sebastian Faulks were among a panel of judges who will picked a line of Alfred Tennyson's Ulysses from lines of inspiring poetry submitted from across the UK.

The line - "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield" - will be engraved on a wall in the Athletes' Village to help boost participating Olympians at London 2012.

Eton Manor by Carol Ann Duffy

"The past is all around us, in the air,

the acres here were once 'the Wilderness'-

"Blimey, it's fit for a millionaire"-

where Eton Manor Boys Club came to train;

or, in the Clubhouse, (built 1913)

translated poverty to self-esteem,

camaraderie, and optimism similed in smiles.

Hackney Wick-

fleas, flies, bin-lids, Clarnico's Jam; the poor

enclosed by railway, marshland, factories, canal-

where Wellesley, Villiers, Wagg, Cadogan came,

philanthropists, to clear a glorious space;

connect the power of place to human hope,

through World War One, the Blitz, till 1967...

on this spot, functional, free, real- heaven.

This is legacy-

young lives respected, cherished, valued, helped

to sprint, swim, bowl, box, play, excel, belong;

believe community is self in multitude-

the way the past still dedicates to us

its distant, present light. The same high sky,

same East End moon, above this reclaimed wilderness,

where relay boys are raced by running ghosts."

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