Celebrations for Flying Scotsman Eric Liddell planned for centenary year of Paris race gold
Sporting heroes, education leaders, key cultural figures and leaders from the corporate world have come together to devise the programme that will pay tribute to Liddell, a devout Christian who famously won gold and broke the world record in the 400 metres in Paris after refusing to run his usual 100-metre race given it fell on the Sabbath.
Liddell, who also played rugby for Scotland entered the Scottish Rugby Hall of Fame earlier this year, died in China, where he worked as a missionary, in a Prisoner for War Camp in 1945.
The Eric Liddell 100 will now work across sport, education and culture in conjunction with John MacMillan, CEO of The Eric Liddell Community, an Edinburgh-based charity who has secured the Princess Royal as its patron, to honour his life during the centenary of his Olympic win – and beyond.
Mr MacMillan said: “While best known for his sporting prowess, Eric was also known as a compassionate, multifaceted man, who embraced life and encouraged, empowered and enabled others to get the most out of their lives.”
Three task forces working with John MacMillan will now create a major campaign to ensure that Eric’s life, sporting achievements and community service are celebrated in 2024 and his legacy will live on for future generations.
As part of this, Olympic silver judoka and teacher Gemma Burton, who lives in Edinburgh, is taking the Eric Liddell story into schools to share his life and achievements across the curriculum.
Ms Burton, who has received support Eric Liddell’s family and several organisations, said: "I feel honoured by the calibre of the people and organisations which have joined or pledged allegiance to the project”.
Liddell was renowned for both his speed and unique style of running, when he threw back his head and dangled his arms as he accelerated around the track.
In Paris, the sprinter finished the 400 metres – then considered a middle-distance race - in 47.6 seconds which remained an Olympic record until 1936. He also took bronze in the 200 metres.
Colin Hutchison, the CEO of Scottish Athletics, said: “His sporting achievements along with his inspiring life story, made Eric Liddell a sporting hero to be remembered and cherished.”
Liddell, who studied Pure Science at Edinburgh University in the early 1920s, first excelled at rugby while a student and played in the university’s first XV before going on to earn seven caps for Scotland.
Scottish Rugby and The University of Edinburgh, the keeper of Liddell's sporting medals, are among supporters of The Eric Liddell 100.
Born in China to Scottish parents, who were missionaries with the London Missionary Society, the sportsman returned to China a year after his Paris triumph to teach at the Anglo-Chinese Christian College in Tianjin.
Liddell was interned in 1943 in Weihsien Prison Camp in Shantung where he became a teacher and spiritual guide to the children of missionary parents. He died from a brain tumour, six months before the end of the war.
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.