Tag Archives: 2012 Summer Olympics

A Race Well Run: Olympian Eric Liddell

Photos from Wikipedia

As the 2012 Summer Olympics in London approach (July 27 to August 12), I was reminded by an article in Decision magazine of another Summer Olympics that took place years ago. It was 1924 when Eric Liddell, one of the most well-known athletes in Scotland, competed in the Olympics that summer in Paris. On the team representing Great Britan (which, at the time, included Scotland, Ireland, England, and Wales), Liddell originally intended to run the 100-meter race, which was his best event. But the race was to be held on Sunday, and Liddell quietly withdrew from the race, not wanting to run, he said, on the day God had set apart for worship and rest. Instead, he trained for the 200- and 400-meter events, even though he was not favored to win either race. He was criticized by many for choosing not to run in the Sunday event, but stuck to a commitment he made years ago, to honor the Lord’s day as a day of rest from work and sports.

Liddell won a bronze for the 200-meter race. Just before his final race, the 400-meter event, one of Liddell’s trainers handed him a note that said, “In the old book [the Bible] it says, ‘He that honors Me I will honor.’ Wishing you the best of success always.”

Eric Liddell won the gold medal for that 400-meter race. And the criticism turned into cheers of admiration.

Liddell’s friend Sir Arthur Marshall wrote of the 400-meter race, “…the 400 metres in some way provided the greatest thrill…with the world record being broken by Eric Liddell three times in two days. It was thought that Liddell had some chance of winning, but nobody thought Liddell capable of the amazing performance he achieved in the final…This was probably the greatest achievement of the VIIIth Olympiad, and superlatives were showered on Liddell by the press of the entire world.”

After the Olympics and graduation from one of the UK’s top universities, the University of Edinburgh, Liddell was a missionary in China until his death in 1943 at a prison camp just months before World War II ended. He left behind a wife and three daughters. He also left behind a rich legacy of faith that inspired many.

Liddell’s story was told in the 1981 Academy Award-winning British film Chariots of Fire (click here to see the movie trailer).

Chariots of Fire is an excellent movie. Have you seen it?  The film was digitally remastered for its’ recent re-release July 13 in the UK, an official part of the London 2012 Olympic Festival celebrations. I’ve read that a Blu-ray edition of the film was released July 10 in North America…I’m planning on getting it!

Sources: Wikipedia, Decision Magazine,  The Eric Liddell Centre, Trailblazer Books.