THE RAVEN HOTEL, MUCH WENLOCK AND THE OLYMPIC GAMES
As excitement builds to the Olympic Games in London in 2012, the pivotal, if surprising, role of The Raven Hotel and Much Wenlock as the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games is becoming increasingly well known. Indeed, in 1994 Juan Antonio Samaranch, then president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) visited Much Wenlock and laid a wreath at the grave of William Penny Brookes acknowledging the Much Wenlock’s GP’s contribution to the Olympic Movement, saying “I came to pay homage and tribute to Doctor Brookes, who really was the founder of the modern Olympic Games”.
William Penny Brookes was born in Much Wenlock in 1809. As a JP and confronted with cases of petty crime, drunkenness and theft, he developed a desire to encourage structured physical exercise and education for the working class, a pursuit which in turn led to him introducing the first Wenlock Olympian Games in October 1850. These were a mixture of athletics and traditional country sports, such as quoits, football and cricket.
Many years later, Baron Pierre de Coubertain, the man often credited with the modern Olympic revival, visited Britain to try to find out more about sport in English public schools. Brookes learned of Coubertain’s visit and invited the Frenchman to see the Much Wenlock Olympian Society’s Games. Coubertain was impressed with what he saw, and sat up with Brookes long into the night discussing how the Wenlock Games might be translated onto a world stage.
Meetings between William Penny Brookes and Baron Pierre de Coubertain took place at The Raven Hotel (as did the feast which concluded each year’s Olympian Games), and today in The Raven Hotel there are displayed many artefacts from those early years, including original letters from Baron Pierre de Coubertain to William Penny Brookes.
The Much Wenlock Olympian Games still take place every year during August and there is even an Olympian Trail so that visitors can re-live the history of what has now become the greatest sporting event in the world.
Continued . . . Find out more about the Raven Hotel and the Olympics
Read Rome Stars “Come Home.” An account of the celebratory event on Saturday, 31st July 2010 which reunited members of the 1960’s Summer Olympics team.
More about the Raven Hotel, William Penny Brookes and the modern Olypics on Youtube.