Page last updated at 10:14 GMT, Thursday, 20 May 2010 11:14 UK
Wenlock stars as Olympic mascot for London 2012

One of the London 2012 Olympics mascots is named Wenlock after Much Wenlock in Shropshire

The town of Much Wenlock has been recognised world wide as the home of the modern Olympics.

It was in the small Shropshire town that local doctor, William Penny Brookes founded the Olympian Games in 1850.

A visit by Baron Pierre de Coubertin inspired the Frenchman to establish the modern Olympics in 1896.

Now the town's place in history has been recognised with one of two 2012 games mascots being named Wenlock.

The mascots for the London 2012 games were introduced on Wednesday, 19 May by Olympic triple jumper, Jonathan Edwards.

The mascot for the Paralympics is Mandeville, named after the famous spinal injuries hospital in Buckinghamshire.


Known as the father of the modern Olympic movement, Brookes was born in Much Wenlock in Shropshire on 13 August 1809.

He founded the Olympian Games in 1850 "to promote the moral, physical and intellectual improvement of the inhabitants of the town and neighbourhood of Wenlock." They continue to this day.

The first Much Wenlock games were a mixture of athletics and traditional country sports.

William Penny Brookes
The 'father' of the modern Olympics

William Penny Brookes lived with his family in Wilmore Street. He left to study medicine at Guy's and St Thomas's Hospital in London and later in Italy.

His father, also a doctor, died of typhoid and in 1831 William Penny Brookes returned to Shropshire to take over his father's practice and involved himself in the local community.

Much Wenlock National School was built in 1848 and Dr Brookes was a manager of the school. It was his influence that led to drill and physical exercise being introduced to the curriculum.

Dr Brookes was involved in an attempt to revive the games in Athens in 1881, but that failed. Brookes was largely opposed by the national sports figures of the time, who campaigned to keep the working class out of athletic competition.

Mascots Wenlock and Mandeville with Jonathan Edwards
Olympic triple jumper, Jonathan Edwards introduces the mascots

In 1889 Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the organiser of an International Congress on Physical Education was contacted by Dr Brookes after an appeal for information in the British newspapers.

The Baron visited Much Wenlock in October 1890 when a meeting of the Wenlock Olympian Games was arranged in his honour.

Writing in December 1890, De Coubertin said: "If the Olympic Games, which modern Greece has not been able to revive, live again today, it is not to a Greek that we are indebted but rather to W P Brookes.

"For it is he who inaugurated them 40 years ago and it is still he, now aged 82, alert and vigorous, who continues to organise and inspire them."

The two men aged 81 and 27 shared a common dream of an Olympic revival and an international games in Athens.

The dream came true in 1896 but sadly William Penny Brooks died just four months before it happened.

London 2012 unveils Games mascots
19 May 10 |  London 2012
Olympic mascots through the ages
19 May 10 |  London 2012

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific