The Olympic park in Stratford is now looking very impressive – the venues are pretty much complete. If you cant wait for 2012 to check out the Olympic Park why not head to Kings Cross and see one of the venues for the 1866 National Olympics – The German Gymnasium. Although the first international revival of the Olympics was not until 1896, the Shropshire town of Much Wenlock hosted an Olympics in 1859. The games were the idea of a surgeon and magistrate called William Penny Brookes, who felt that physical exercise would be the cure for drunkenness and petty crime among the working classes. The Games then went to Liverpool and Shrewsbury, in 1866 it was London’s turn to host. The athletics events were held at Crystal Palace, with a young W G Grace winning the sprint, while the recently built German Gymnasium hosted the gymnastics. Sadly the National Olympics attracted the attention of the athletics establishment who were displeased that the Olympics had been open to the lower classes, and they banned anyone who had taken part in them from taking part in Amateur Athletics Club events which deterred the top athletes from taking part in further Olympics. However Brookes was able to meet up with Baron de Coubertain who was impressed with the games and developed the idea into the 1896 Athens Olympics.
In 2012 the area around the German Gymnasium will host a large outdoor screen to watch the Olympics. The games are coming home!
You can hear more about the German Gymnasium and the fascinating area around Kings cross in my walk All Change at Kings Cross on November 25th