Page last updated at 11:05 GMT, Friday, 9 July 2010 12:05 UK
Much Wenlock counts down to 2012 Games

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

The countdown to the London 2012 Games begins in earnest on 27 July, with the date marking exactly two years before the start of the Olympics.

The Shropshire town of Much Wenlock will sense the urgency more than most areas outside London.

The small market town has been acknowledged world-wide as the home of the modern Olympics.

It was in Much Wenlock that doctor William Penny Brookes founded the Olympian Games in 1850

A visit by Baron Pierre De Coubertin convinced the Frenchman to establish the modern Olympics in 1896.

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 WP Brookes.
Baron Pierre De Coubertin, writing in December 1890

The town's role has recently been recognised with the 2012 Olympic Games mascot being named Wenlock.

Mayor Mike Grace claimed the link with the 2012 Games is already benefiting the town in terms of visitor numbers. He also suggested the, "Profile of Much Wenlock has been boosted enormously by the mascot".

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

The mascot for the London Paralympic Games has been named Mandeville, after the famous spinal injuries hospital in Buckinghamshire.

Olympic mascot Wenlock
Telford-based Golden Bear designed the toy versions of the mascots

A local business has been celebrating after it won the contract to produce the mascots. Telford-based Golden Bear Products Ltd have designed the toys and are manufacturing them in China.

Managing Director John Hales described the deal as "The most prestigious contract awarded to Golden Bear in the 30 years we've been in business." He also expected the company to double its turnover as a result of the 2012 mascots.

William Penny Brookes

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 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.

William Penny Brookes
William Penny Brookes has been called the 'father' of the modern Olympics

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 Olympic 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.

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 WP Brookes.

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

"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.




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


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