Wenlock Olympian Games
The Wenlock Olympian Games, dating from 1850, are a forerunner of the modern Olympic Games. They are organised by the Wenlock Olympian Society, and are held each year in Much Wenlock in Shropshire, England. One of the two mascots for the London 2012 Summer Olympics has been named Wenlock in honour of the Wenlock Olympian Games.
On 25 February 1850 the Wenlock Agricultural Reading Society resolved to establish a class called The Olympian Class - "for the promotion of the moral, physical and intellectual improvement of the inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood of Wenlock and especially of the working classes, by the encouragement of outdoor recreation, and by the award of prizes annually at public meetings for skill in athletic exercise and proficiency in intellectual and industrial attainments". The secretary of the class and driving force behind the Olympian Games was Dr William Penny Brookes who was inspired to create these events after he read of the premature deaths of weavers thought to be due to lack of exercise. The first meeting was held at Wenlock racecourse on 22–23 October 1850.
The first games were a mixture of athletics and traditional country sports such as quoits, football and cricket. Also were included running, hurdles, football and cycling on penny farthings. Some of the early games included "fun events" as the blindfolded wheelbarrow race and one year "The old woman's race for a pound of tea".
In 1859 it sent £10 to Athens as a prize for the best runner in the longest race at the Olympic Games which was held in November that year. The Wenlock Prize, the largest prize on offer was won by Petros Velissarios of Smyrna in the Ottoman Empire, one of the first international Olympians.
In 1860 the class officially became the Wenlock Olympian Society; Dr Brookes adopted some athletics events from the 1859 Athens Games and added them to the programme of the Olympian Games.
In 1861 after several years of work by Brookes and his colleagues the Shropshire Olympic Games were introduced. The first national Olympic Games were held in London in 1866 and were organised by the National Olympic Association which had been cofounded by Brookes in 1865. The National Olympic Association ceased its operations in 1883.
Baron Pierre de Coubertin visited the Olympian Society in 1890, which held a special festival in his honour. He was inspired by Dr Brookes and went on to establish the International Olympic Committee. Brookes was named as an honorary delegate at the 1894 Sorbonne Congress at which the IOC was established, although he was unable to attend due to ill health. The Wenlock Olympian Games continued intermittently after his death in 1895, with significant revivals in 1950 and 1977. The current series has been running since 1977, and has received official recognition from the IOC and the British Olympic Association (BOA), exemplifed by visits from the Princess Royal for the BOA in 1990 and Juan Antonio Samaranch for the IOC in 1994.
- "Wenlock Olympian Society Medal". A History of the World. BBC.
- "Jonathan Edwards CBE has accepted the post of President of the Wenlock Olympian Society". Wenlock Olympian Society.
Further reading 
- Mullins, Sam (1986). British Olympians: William Penny Brookes and the Wenlock Games. London: Birmingham Olympic Council. ISBN 0-901662-01-1
- Furbank, Muriel; Cromarty, Helen; McDonald, Glyn (1996). William Penny Brookes and the Olympic Connection. Much Wenlock: Wenlock Olympian Society.
- Beale, Catherine (2011). Born out of Wenlock: William Penny Brookes and the British origins of the modern Olympics. Derby: DB Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85983-967-6