Champions come together for centenary celebrations for iconic sporting hero

06 October 2022

Sporting heroes, educational masterminds, cultural icons and corporate professionals are joining together to orchestrate a major programme of activities to honour the legacy of one of the world’s best known sporting icons.

Eric had three Olympic medals: the gold for the 400 metres (in which Liddell broke the Olympic and the world records), the bronze for the 200 metres, and his participant’s medal. 

Launching The Eric Liddell 100, a large group of individuals and organisations, representing excellence in their fields, are now engaged in three strategic steering groups – sport, education and culture – to work with John MacMillan, CEO of The Eric Liddell Community, an Edinburgh-based charity established in his name in 1980.

The major events will secure and celebrate the legacy of Eric Liddell and mark the centenary of Eric’s epic record-breaking 400 metres win at the 1924 Paris’ Olympic Games, which are also to be held in Paris in 2024. 

The three task forces working with John MacMillan will create a major campaign which will run up until the centenary and beyond to ensure that Eric’s life, sporting achievements and community service are celebrated in 2024 and his legacy will live on for future generations.

John 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.

“I believe that as CEO of an organisation that felt so strongly about Eric Liddell that a charity was established in his name, I have a duty to ensure that his life, sporting achievements and community service are remembered and valued.  I am however, not embarking on this project alone and am delighted that Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal has agreed to be its Patron.”

Whilst the centenary of Eric Liddell’s gold medal win on 12th July 1924 provides an important marker and an opportunity to recognise and celebrate his achievements, the intention is to launch and sustain the work of The Eric Liddell 100 up to and beyond this date. As part of this, Olympic silver medallist and teacher Gemma Burton, has been seconded to develop a cross cutting school curriculum, that has a focus Eric’s life and achievements.  

John added:

“I have had fantastic support from Eric Liddell’s family, The Eric Liddell Community Board, Scottish Rugby, Scottish Athletics and the University of Edinburgh – all organisations have strong links with Eric Liddell. We have also had many other supporters already joining us from the business, education and cultural sectors  in Scotland, the rest of the UK and internationally. I feel honoured by the calibre of the people and organisations which have joined or pledged allegiance to the project”

Eric was renowned for his speed at sprinting and his unique style of running.

Colin Hutchison, CEO, Scottish Athletics commented:

“2024 provides an ideal opportunity to celebrate the legacy of Eric Liddell’s iconic 400m gold medal win at the 1924 Paris Olympics. His sporting achievements along with inspiring life story, made Eric Liddell a sporting hero to be remembered and cherished.”

From a Scottish family, although born in China where his parents were missionaries, Eric attended Edinburgh University and was chosen to represent Scotland in international rugby.

Kieron Achara, former Olympic basketball player and broadcaster added:

“The story of Eric Liddell’s life and achievements is as relevant and inspiring today as it was one hundred years ago. I am pleased to support the programme to celebrate this Scottish sporting icon.”

The University of Edinburgh is the keeper of Eric’s sporting medals and also has a statue of its famous student on display in the Reception of Old College.

Professor Peter Mathieson, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh stated:

“Eric Liddell was an early example of a University scholar who was equally dedicated to his degree studies in Pure Science, and the pursuit of sporting excellence in both athletics and rugby.

“His legacy at the University continues today, with a gym dedicated to his memory, sports scholarships in his name and as the first inductee into our much-heralded Sports Hall of Fame. We are delighted to support The Eric Liddell 100 to ensure the remarkable story of his life is available for future generations.”

One of the ways Eric’s life will be celebrated is to establish a commemorative exhibition showcasing his life, including his inspritational work in China where his memory is preserved, particularly at a rural mission station in Xiaozhang which served the poor.  Eric took up post there in 1941 and remained until his untimely death 1945 at the age of forty-three.

Andrew Kerr OBE, Chief of City of Edinburgh Council commented:

“Edinburgh has strong links with Eric Liddell as the location of his family home and is where he studied, worked and competed in sports. The Eric Liddell Community is also based in Edinburgh and we are pleased to be working with the charity and other partners to recognise and celebrate Eric’s achievements and values.”

For more information or if you or your organisation would like to become part of The Eric Liddell 100 please contact: The Eric Liddell Community Chief Executive, John Macmillan or Programme Manager, Caroline Clark

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