In less than six months from now, the 2010 Winter Olympics will be held in Vancouver, and yesterday the Vancouver Sun Newspaper reported that there will be a higher attendance here, and more media coverage, than for any previous Olympics. So, as of February 2010, the world will discover Vancouver. I think it will be fun, I'm probably one of the rare Vancouverites who is looking forward to it. Everyone wants to leave for two weeks, but I want to stay right here and be in the middle of all the excitement.
The really fun part of any sporting event is the drama. There is always someone who rises to the top and becomes the star of the show. And of course, there are always the upsets -- the underdogs whom no one expects to take home the glory. Those are the people and events of which legends are made. In one such event fifty-five years ago, on May 6, 1954, a British medical student named Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile by running a mile in Oxford, England, in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds. For more than a century, athletes had dreamed about and aspired to running the four-minute mile, but many experts suggested it was physiologically impossible, but Roger Banniser did it and made history. The second man to break the four-minute mile was John Landy of Australia, in June 1954, one month after Roger Bannister had broken it.
In August 1954 the British Empire Games were held in Vancouver, and Roger Bannister and John Landy competed against each other. This meeting of the world's two fastest milers was called "The Miracle Mile". It was heard over the radio by 100 million people and seen on television by millions more. During that race, both runners broke the four-minute mile, the first time two competing athletes had done it during the same race. On the final turn of the last lap, as Landy looked over his left shoulder, Bannister passed him on the right. A larger-than-life bronze sculpture of the two men at this moment was created by Vancouver sculptor Jack Harman in 1967 from a photograph by Vancouver Sun photographer Charlie Warner, and it stands at the entrance to the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) fairgrounds.
The story of this race had everything -- history, drama, pathos. My father always used to say, "If only Landy had not looked over his shoulder, that race would have been a tie."
Now that would have been a story.
Here is a wonderful little video clip from 1954, set to the music from "Chariot's of Fire", showing Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile for the first time in history. It's quite amazing. Can you imagine being there and watching it happen. I hope the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver will have something equally dramatic, and I would love to be there to watch it happen.