OLYMPIAN ERIC LIDDELL - DEDICATED TO FAITH
Release date: 1st July 2012The Oscar-winning 1981 British film Chariots of Fire returned to cinemas on 13th July more than three decades on to celebrate the 2012 London Olympics. It stars Ben Cross and lan Charleson as British sprinters competing in the Paris Olympics of 1924. Hugh Hudson's drama won four Oscars for best picture, best original screenplay, best costume design and best original music. A stage adaptation has already sold out at London's Hampstead Theatre.
Producer David Puttnam said: "Chariots of Fire is about guts, determination and belief. Just as the film succeeded in raising spirits and aspirations 30 years ago, I believe it could deliver exactly the same message today. At the heart of the film is the quest for Olympic glory, and I find hard to imagine anything more likely to resonate throughout the country this summer."
Hudson's film depicts the struggles of two British Olympic runners - one Jewish, one a deeply religious Christian - to reconcile their love of running with their respective faiths. "Discretion, loyalty and self-sacrifice, questions of faith and refusal to compromise, standing for one's beliefs, achieving something for the sake of it, with passion, and not just for fame or financial gain, are even more vital and relevant today," said the film-maker "Chariots is about these issues.''
Eric Liddell refused to run in the 100 metre race despite the fact that he was almost certain to take the Gold Medal. His reason was one of conscience; the race was to be run on a Sunday and he, as a committed Christian, believed it was wrong to spend Sunday in pursuit of sport however good he was and however much he loved it. Instead when the race was being run, he was to be found preaching about Jesus Christ in a Presbyterian Church in Paris. He did run, however, not at the distance he had trained for, but in the 400 metres and 200 metres. The outcome of the 200 metres was disappointing both for him, he came 3rd, and for his team-mate Harold Abrahams who came last. But the story of the 400 metres was different for Eric Liddell - he believed that 'he who honours God; God will also honour'. He started the race as though he were in the 100 metres but then kept up a staggering pace finishing more than 5 metres ahead of his nearest rival. Eric won the Gold Medal and achieved a new World Record of 47.6 seconds. Eric was later to go to China as a missionary with the London Missionary Society. In 1930 at a rally of the Lord's Day Observance Society (now called Day One) he introduced a resolution stating: 'that the meeting is of the opinion that the increasing use of the Lord's Day for games and recreation, however harmless in themselves, is detrimental to the highest interest of the youth of the country, as well as adding to the amount of unnecessary labour of other people; and calls upon the young people's organisations to give full consideration to this aspect of the question'.
As we host the 2012 Olympics it is doubtful if any prominent athlete will take such a courageous stand yet it is worth considering his point: might it be better use of a Sunday if we were found with other Christians in worship of Almighty God and hearing the preaching of God's Word rather than engaging in sport or indeed in shopping, working or the many forms of entertainment?