The Olympics at the Oscars

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 08 January, 2008, 12:00am

Chariots of fire

When the winner for Best Movie of 1981 was announced, there were gasps of amazement from the Hollywood greats assembled at the Oscar Ceremony.

The highest honour in Hollywood had gone to Chariots of Fire, a British movie set at the 1924 Paris Olympic Games. Producers have always believed that movies with a sport storyline are not popular with cinemagoers, but back in 1981, a film based on the Olympics beat four safe Hollywood favourites to the movie world's top honour. Chariots of Fire tells the exciting story of two British track athletes competing in the 1924 Summer Olympics. They were more than just excellent Olympic athletes.

Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams were inspirational in many ways, and in 1981, Hollywood honoured their achievements with an Oscar.


1 What is 'a gasp'?

a) a loud laugh

b) a sudden intake of breath

2 What sort of vehicle is 'a chariot'?

a) a horse-drawn vehicle with two wheels used in ancient times for fighting

b) an armed vehicle with four wheels used during the second world war

The Scottish Christian

Eric Liddell was born in Tianjin, northern China. His parents were Scottish missionaries.

At the age of six, Liddell was sent to a boarding school in the United Kingdom, where he showed himself to be an outstanding athlete. On leaving school, Liddell trained hard to become the fastest runner in Scotland. His trainers knew that he was a potential Olympic winner.

Liddell, a devout Christian, believed that his religious faith was the driving force of his running success. When the 1924 Olympics came around, Liddell was the favourite to win the 100 metres, but the race was scheduled for a Sunday, God's day, and Liddell refused to take part.

Great pressure from the Olympic Committee failed to change his mind. Liddell was given a place in the 400m, a race he was not prepared for, but he stormed to the finish line and won Scotland's first Olympic gold medal.


3 What is 'a missionary'?

a) a person who goes to a foreign country to spread a religious faith

b) a person who trains athletes

4 What does the adjective 'devout' mean?

a) flexible

b) strongly religious

Overcoming prejudice

Harold Abrahams was born into a poor Jewish family in England and knew racial prejudice from an early age.

Against all odds, Abrahams got a place at Cambridge University where he proved himself to be an excellent sprinter. But, even at Cambridge, Abrahams was looked down upon because of his background.

The race track was the one place where Abrahams could show everyone that Jews were not inferior to anyone.

Abrahams' determination won him a place in the 100 metres at the 1924 Paris Olympics.

The favourites to take the medals were the Americans, but there was no stopping Abrahams who ran the race of his life.

He broke the tape at 10.6 seconds, an Olympic record, to take his proudly earned gold medal.


5 What does the phrase 'against all odds' mean?

a) in spite of everything

b) with much hard work

6 What does the phrase 'to look down upon' mean?

a) to tell someone that they are doing a good job

b) to let someone know you are better than them

Olympic Fact File

Choose the correct word or phrase, then copy each of these statements into your Olympic Fact File.

1 Chariots of Fire is a movie about two athletes who used strong personal (prejudices / convictions) to win Olympic gold medals.

2 Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams were competitors in (track and field / gymnastics) at the 1924 Olympics.

3 Liddell became a great athlete for the (glory / thought) of God.

4 Abrahams became a runner to fight racial (competition / prejudice)


1. b / 2. a / 3. a / 4. b / 5. a / 6. b

Fact File: 1. Convictions / 2. track and field / 3. glory / 4. prejudice