The Olympics

The modern Olympic movement was formed in 1894, and the first modern Olympic Games was in Athens in 1896. Olympic Games have been held almost every 4 years since. The second was at Paris in 1900, when women first took part. The 1904 Olympics were in the USA, when not many attended so another games was held at Athens in 1906. Events have changed over the years. For example, live pigeon shooting and tug-of-war are no longer included.

1908 London Olympics

The 1908 Olympics were originally meant to be held in Rome, but Italy withdrew after Mount Vesuvius erupted in 1906. William Grenfell the Lord Desborough, who lived at Taplow Court in south Bucks, was a great all-round sportsman. He had won a silver medal for fencing team épée at the 1906 Games. At various times he had been Steward of the Henley Royal Regatta, President of organisations like the Oxford University Boat Club, the Amateur Fencing Association, Marylebone Cricket Club, the Lawn Tennis Association and the Royal Lifesaving Association. Amongst his other achievements, he had climbed the Matterhorn 3 times, and had rowed across the English Channel. When the British Olympic Association was formed in 1905 he became its chairman, and he helped to bring the Olympic Games to London. Another Bucks aristocrat who was involved in the 1908 Olympics was Colonel the Hon Thomas F. Fremantle of Swanbourne in north Bucks, who was elected Captain of the rifle team. He took part in the 1000 yards free rifle event and came 16th.

1912 Olympics

The 1912 Olympics were held at Stockholm. In December 1911 the Amateur Athletics Association (AAA) selected promising athletes for an Olympic trial in London. One of these was Arthur J. Tree. He was a draper’s assistant living at 50, High Street, Chesham and in his spare time he ran for the Chesham’s Cestreham Cycling and Athletics Club (Cestreham being the historic spelling of Chesham). In May 1912 he took part in the 800 metres trial. He came third and just missed out of being selected for the Olympic team. Thomas F. Humphreys of Aston Abbotts near Aylesbury was selected, and he came back from Stockholm with the bronze medal in the team cross country race.

Novice Trials in Chesham 1913

Following the 1912 Olympics when Great Britain had disappointing results, the British Olympic Council came up with the idea to hold novice trials to unearth talent for the next Olympics scheduled for Berlin in 1916 (which was cancelled due to the Great War). Chesham was selected as a suitable place to trial for some running and cycling events. These were held on August 30, 1913 at the Cricket Meadow and was open to anyone from Britain.

Cycling Trials around Chesham 1960

On March 25, 1960 the Olympic cycling road race trial was held to select competitors for the 1960 Olympics in Rome. A cycling route was selected around Chesham and Amersham. The route started at Chesham Moor and down Waterside, through Amersham and Little Chalfont onto Chenies, then along Latimer Bottom and back to Chesham. It was cycled nine times, to make 96 miles, finishing in Amersham. It was won by 24-year old engineer Billie Holmes, from Kingston-upon-Hull.

Bucks Champions

Buckinghamshire has not produced many Olympic champions but it has produced a few notable ones:

Tony Nash 1964

The Winter Olympics started in 1924. Probably the only Bucks Winter Olympic champion is Tony Nash, who was born in Amersham and lived at Little Missenden. He was a Director of the engineering company of T. and A. Nash (Penn) Ltd. He largely financed his own personal dream to win an Olympic gold medal. He and his brakeman Captain Robin Dixon, narrowly won the two-man bobsleigh in the 1964 Winter Olympics held at Innsbruck in Austria. It was Britain’s first winter Olympic gold since 1952.

Sir Steve Redgrave

The most successful Bucks Olympian is Steve Redgrave of Marlow. He won gold medals for rowing at 5 consecutive Olympic Games from 1984 to 2000. He was knighted by the Queen in 2001 and there is a statue to him in Higginson Park in Marlow, which was unveiled by the Queen in 2002.

Golden Postboxes 2012

The 2012 Olympics were held in London. That year to celebrate the success of the Olympic athletes, the Royal Mail painted one of their otherwise red postboxes gold in the hometown of every Olympic gold medallist. One is in Silbury Boulevard in Milton Keynes in north Bucks, for Greg Rutherford who won the long jump. There are also 2 golden postboxes for Bucks Paralympians who won gold medals in rowing events. One is one for Pamela Relph in Main Street, Weston Turville near Aylesbury, and the other one is for Naomi Riches in High Street, Marlow. There is another special golden postbox in Stoke Mandeville as the home of the Paralympics.

Paralympic Games

The early versions of the Paralympics (then called the International Wheelchair Games) were held at Stoke Mandeville near Aylesbury in Bucks in 1948 and 1952. These games were developed by Dr Ludwig Guttman who was a Jewish German refugee who came to England to flee Nazi persecution. In 1943 he came to work at the National Spinal Injuries Centre at Stoke Mandeville Hospital where he developed sport as a way of therapy for rehabilitating people with injuries, to build up physical strength and self-respect. Later in life he lived at Daws Hill Lane in High Wycombe Since 2012, when driving into Buckinghamshire, the county border signs proclaim Buckinghamshire as the “Birthplace of the Paralympics”.

Tokyo 2021

The 2020 Olympics were postponed to August 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Identical twin sisters Jessica and Jennifer Gadirova of Aylesbury competed in the women’s artistic team all-round gymnastics event, performing on vault, balance beam, and floor exercise. They won a bronze medal, which was the first time Great Britain had won a medal in this event since 1928.