Grandaddy of the Modern Olympics
Tiny Much Wenlock has held its own Olympic Games in July annually since 1850. The idea of holding a sporting tournament based on the games of ancient Greece was the brainchild of local doctor William Penny Brookes, who was looking for a healthy diversion for bored local youths. Accordingly, he created a tournament for 'every kind of man', with running races, high and long jumps, tilting, hammer throwing and wheelbarrow races – plus glee singing, knitting and sewing for every kind of woman.
The games soon piqued the interest of Baron Pierre Coubertin, who visited in 1890 and consulted Brookes extensively before launching the modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896. Unfortunately, Brookes was effectively airbrushed out of the Olympic story until 1994, when then-International Olympic Committee President Juan Antonio Samaranch visited Much Wenlock to pay his respects to 'the founder of the Modern Olympic Games'.
The Much Wenlock Olympics are still held every July, with events that range from the triathlon to volleyball; for details visit www.wenlock-olympian-society.org.uk.