Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Much Ado about Wenlock Much Wenlock Sports Games

Newspaper article Sunshine Coast Daily (Maroochydore, Australia)

Much Ado about Wenlock Much Wenlock Sports Games

Article excerpt


IF you're travelling to England this northern summer to catch your own strain of Olympic fever, you might want to think twice about going to London.

True, London is where, on July 27, 80,000 spectators will take their seats in the Olympic Stadium to watch the opening ceremony of the 30th Olympiad. And, yes, over the following 16 days of competition, a television audience of more than one-seventh of the world's population will tune in to soak up the atmosphere of one of the biggest sporting events ever.

But in order to get a taste for the real Olympics, you need to rewind the clocks to July 8 and travel 246km north-west to the small market town of Much Wenlock in Shropshire.

Thousands of Australians will be making the long-haul trip to England for the London Games, and with so much culture, history and diverse scenery within easy reach of the capital, many will take the opportunity to make a real holiday out of it and see more of the country.

Anyone arriving at the beginning of July should seriously consider the three-hour drive to England's most rural county to witness, or even take part in, the 126th running of the Wenlock Olympian Games.

As English country towns go, Much Wenlock is easily one of the smallest, yet its few narrow streets are crammed with pretty houses, shops and tea shops galore. From July 8-22, this sleepy community will play host to a celebration of sport and sportsmanship as all comers are welcome to take part in one of the most historically significant events in the world.

Because, while Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin is credited with being the founder of the modern Olympic Games in 1896, the influence of Dr William Penny Brookes and his desire for the people of Much Wenlock to pursue active lifestyles should not go unrecognised.

At the first Wenlock Olympian Games in 1850, competitors could take part in many similar events to what will be seen at the London Olympics Co the 100-yard foot race, the running high leap and running long leap, and the putting of the stone Co but other events have been lost to the history books.

No more do boys compete for accolades in arithmetic, nor do girls battle it out in knitting or sewing, and there is no longer the running of the C[pounds sterling]half-a-mile foot race for farm labourers residing in the Borough of WenlockC[yen].

But alongside athletics and a smattering of team events such as soccer, hockey, tennis and badminton, visitors to Much Wenlock in 2012 can also enjoy the spectacle of netball, a 100-mile walk and six days of gliding competitions that will afford entrants sweeping views of the lush, green Shropshire countryside.

Tourists are welcome to enter many of the events and, with some offering categories for children, even your little ones can get a feel for Olympics action before the main event begins in London. …

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