Search This Blog

Sunday, July 08, 2012

July 7th 1924 at 7 PM - Harold Abrahams Won the 100 Meter Dash at the Paris Olympics - Today He Got His Blue Plaque

Sunday afternoon at 1 PM as the Olympic Torch passed through Bedford - they unveiled Harold Abraham's blue sign.

As the band played "Jerusalem" - the heavens opened up and the whole crowd belted out the lyrics including "Chariots of Fire."

88 years ago Harold Abrahams won the gold medal for Britain at the Paris Olympics. His story was told in the 1981 Oscar-winning movie "Chariots of Fire." The race was held on July 7th at 7 PM and every year for the next 50 years - Abrahams and one of his opponents in that race had dinner together at that exact same time. That would have been last night - if they were alive.

Instead - Lulu and I went to see the play "Chariots of Fire" to celebrate the feat. 

As fate would have it - this morning when I awoke - I stumbled across an interesting story on the Internet. Of all places - the Olympic Torch was passing through Bedford - about 40 miles north of London. Bedford just happens to be the birthplace of Harold Abrahams. Abrahams was knighted long ago for the service to his country - but his birthplace was not marked by a "blue sign." In Britain - a community places a blue plaque on your home after you die - a sign of tremendous respect. Today the community was unveiling Abrahams blue plaque.

It was 11 AM - Lulu was out with her students. Would it be possible to shower and dress and catch a train to Bedford? I must try. By 11:10 - I was showered - shaved - dressed - and running to Saint Pancras Station. What luck - there was an 11:20 train to Bedford. I bought a round trip ticket for 20 pounds - and got in the train just as the doors slid shut. By 12:30 - I was in the Bedford Station asking people how to get to Rutland Road. Most of the people did not even know Abrahams was born there - let alone where he lived. Finally - one girl pressure washing her porch knew all about it. She directed me on a 15 minute walk. I started jogging - as I rounded the corner - I heard the band strike up a tune ahead. I made it. 

As the band played - the crowd gathered. The musicians struck up a few tunes from the movie. The politicians starting arriving. As the mayor started to speak - the rain started to pound. No one moved as they listened to the program about their hero. People had British flags - Olympic flags - and local Bedford banners. The program was rather brief due to the pouring rain. One man put a umbrella over my head as I photographed everything I could. The official that helped produce the movie pulled the sash cord much too quickly. I barely caught the act between the rain drops.

They are re-releasing "Chariots of Fire" tomorrow - a new fancy digitized version of the movie.

Just a few hours before I was in the theatre in downtown London watching a play honoring Abrahams. The actors were running on a track surrounding our seats. Now I was right in front of his home watching them uncover his blue sign. It made me feel part of these Olympics. It is something I will be able to tell my sons and grandkids about when they join me for the games in 3 weeks. This all happened on Sunday - the Sabbath - at 1 PM. Due to the time difference in the USA - when you read this - it will not have happened yet :-)

The weather was great - before the unveiling.

The mayor started to speak at 1 PM - and it started to pour.

They had a 100 yard dash in honor of Harold Abrahams right down his street.

After the event - the family that lives in the house came out - after the crowd cleared.

The house where he was born was torn down a long time ago.

Abrahams lived on Rutland Road in Bedford - about 40 miles north of London. They hope the Olympic crowds will drop by to see the sign.

No comments: