Born Out of Wenlock: William Penny Brookes and the British origins of the modern Olympics

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9781859839676: Born Out of Wenlock: William Penny Brookes and the British origins of the modern Olympics
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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 Olympic movement is coming home’. It is one of sporting history’s most remarkable truths that Baron Pierre de Coubertin was inspired to revive the Olympic Games by a visit he made in 1890, to Dr William Penny Brookes at Much Wenlock in Shropshire. There, Coubertin experienced the Wenlock Olympian Games that Brookes had instituted 40 years before, for competitors of all social classes. In this lively account, Catherine Beale reveals the extent of Brookes’s influence on Coubertin (and indeed on British sport) and shows which elements of Wenlock’s Games survive in today’s Olympics. She also tells how Brookes faced opposition from the elite Oxbridge and metropolitan athletes, for whom the Wenlock endeavour, with its egalitarian credentials had definitely been conceived on the wrong side of the blanket. Besides portraying remarkable success against the odds, persistence, dedication and endeavour, this gripping tale sketches the infidelity, cheating, imprisonment, embezzlement, drowning and even murder of its Victorian characters.

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