An image of the Eric Liddell character celebrating, carried on other actors' shoulders, from the play Eric Liddell Chariot of Fire.

Chariot of Fire: The Eric Liddell Story

Posted by Speakeasy News > Wednesday 20 March 2024 > What's On

A hundred years ago, a Scotsman became famous for NOT running a race at the Paris 1924 Olympic Games. Eric Liddell's story was immortalised in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire. And a play about his life is coming to Paris for two performances on 23 March.

Liddell was an excellent sportsman who played rugby for Scotland and excelled at sprinting. He was widely expected to win the 100m race at the Paris Olympics. But his religious faith meant he wouldn't compete on a Sunday, and the 100m heats were scheduled for a Sunday. So he switched events and competed in the 200m and 400m instead. He won bronze in the 200 but raced home to gold in the 400, breaking the Olympic and World Records.

After the Games, he returned to China, where he had been born to Scottish missionary parents, to work as a teacher in mission schools. When China was drawn into World War II, he chose to stay, sending his wife and children to safety in Canada. After the Japanese invasion, he was imprisoned in an internment camp, where he continued to try to make other internees' life bearable, organising classes and sports for adults and children alike. He died in the camp in 1945.

The 1981 film Chariots of Fire, telling the story of Liddell and English athlete Harold Abrahams, who battled anti-semitism at the 1924 Olympics, won four Oscars and spread the men's fame around the world.


The Liddell 100
The centenary of Liddell's 1924 wins is being commemorated by the charity that bears his name with a series of educational, cultural and sporting events. There are lots of lesson plans, and this short film about his life and legacy, which is suitable for class use.

A play focussing on Liddell which played at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, is coming to Paris for two performances in the Scots Kirk, the Protestant church, where Liddell preached in 1924.

Eric Liddell: The Chariot of Fire
23 March 2024: 11 a.m. and 2.30 p.m.
Scots Kirk, Paris 08

This would be a great introductory activity before having pupils participate in our creative-writing competition on the theme  of sport.

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