An Olympic Mission

Seventy-five years ago, famed Scottish religious missionary and Olympic sports hero Eric Liddell died in a Japanese internment camp in Weixian, China, in February 1945.

With the 2020 Olympics in Japan fast approaching, perhaps it is time to remember Liddell’s story.  The son of Presbyterian/Congregational missionary parents in China, Eric grew up deeply religious. He had many gifts, both as an outstanding athlete (runner) and as an articulate and powerful evangelist.

Liddel winning a 1924
pre-Olympic race

At the 1924 Olympics in Paris, there was a display of Liddell’s Christian values. Scottish runner Eric Liddell had been a favourite for the 100-meter race. Observing the fourth Commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy,” Eric withdrew from the race because heats (qualifying races) were held on a Sunday. The British Olympic Committee then switched Liddell to the 400-meter competition, where the qualifying races were not on a Sunday. On that fateful Sunday of the 100-meter heats, Eric Liddell preached at the Scots Presbyterian Kirk (Church) in Paris.

When the 400-meter race was held, Eric won the gold medal and set a world record.

The story was retold in the 1981 Oscar-winning film, “Chariots of Fire.” Eric Liddell would go to China as missionary in 1925 and serve until his death.


Today’s post was written by Benjamin Basham, fellow at PHC.

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