Charity CEO spearheads Eric Liddell celebrations
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.
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 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.”
While 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 of Scottish Athletics, said: “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.
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.
One of the ways Eric’s life will be celebrated is to establish a commemorative exhibition showcasing his life, including his inspirational 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 43.