Picturesque Wenlock by Michael Maggs

Picturesque Wenlock by Michael Maggs, Wikimedia

While gold will be handed out in London in 2012 for being ‘swifter, higher, stronger’, there is a need to look to the history books – and to the picturesque Shropshire market town of Much Wenlock, 150-miles away – to see who won the very first modern Olympian medals.

Shropshire may appear an unlikely place to find the origins of the modern international Olympic Games, yet it was here, in 1850, that Dr William Penny Brookes first thought of reviving the ancient games and founded the Wenlock Olympian Society. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the acknowledged founder of the modern Olympic Games, later wrote “and of the Olympic Games, which modern Greece has not yet revived, it is not a Greek to whom one is indebted, but rather Dr W. P. Brookes”.

The town’s role in the Olympic revival has been recognised in the choice of ‘Wenlock’ as the official London 2012 Olympic Games mascot, to the surprise of townspeople.

The Wenlock Olympian Games are still held in July each year, attracting athletes from all across the UK.