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Much Wenlock 1850 – possible blueprint for London 2012

The London 2012 Olympic Games might never have made it out of the starting blocks had it not been for the picturesque market town of Much Wenlock in Shropshire.


In an Olympics special edition (Friday 4 April 2008, 7.30pm), BBC One's Inside Out West Midlands looks at the Much Wenlock Games, an annual event held since 1850, which may be the inspiration for the revival of the modern Olympic Games.


Athens was the birthplace of the ancient Olympics in 776 BC, but Much Wenlock has been suggested as the inspiration for the rebirth of the Olympic Games movement.


In 1850, William Penny Brookes, the town's enterprising doctor, made it his mission to promote the moral, intellectual and physical improvements of Much Wenlock's inhabitants.


Brookes organised Much Wenlock's first annual games, based on the ancient Olympic model, which were a mixture of athletics and country sports like quoits – and even featured a one-legged hopping race over 50 yards.


He was also closely involved with establishing a rail link to the town. The first train to Wenlock coincided with the Games of 1861.


In 1890, Frenchman Baron Pierre de Coubertin came to watch the Much Wenlock Games. He left inspired to revive the classical games of ancient Greece and staged the first modern Olympics in Athens, six years later.


While the Much Wenlock Games have been somewhat overshadowed by the international event, they still continue to this day and attract competitors from as far afield as Australia, Japan and South Africa, bringing a welcome boost to the local economy.


The Much Wenlock Games cost around £9,000 to stage, with the money coming mostly from donations and sponsorship by local businesses.


One such deal involves 73-year-old marathon runner, Jimmy Moore, whose friend works at the local market. When in training for the Games, Jimmy mainly eats bananas so his friend allows him to have as many as he likes, whenever he is passing his fruit and vegetable stall.


Inside Out compares both events and looks at what advantages the Olympic Games in London will bring to Shropshire – whether, as Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell says, the Games will benefit the country as a whole or just the city where the events are being held.


Inside Out, Friday 4 April, 7.30pm, BBC One West Midlands










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Category: West Midlands TV
Date: 03.04.2008
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