Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Why are the mascots called Mandeville and Wenlock?

Wenlock Olympian Games 2007

Photo by Sabine J Hutchinson

Jonathan Glancey sums up our endearing new Olympic mascots:

In images and a video released by the Olympic organisers today, the two are seen giving each other a very American high five, as if to say: "Yo! Dude/Cameron/Coe" – or whoever needs popular support two years from now.

If they have American habits, Mandeville and Wenlock appear to have been conjured from Japanese comic books and computer games. Where they are evidently Londoners is in the look of their cyclopean eyes, that may remind many of the lenses of CCTV cameras staring from pretty much every building, station and street corner in the city.

But why are they called Mandeville and Wenlock?

Mandeville is named for Stoke Mandeville hospital, whose Wheelchair Games eventually evolved into the Paralympics.

And Wenlock after Much Wenlock, home of Dr William Penny Brookes and his Wenlock Olympian Games, which I wrote about in the New Statesman a couple of years ago:

the Wenlock Olympian Society, which held its first Games in 1850 "to promote the moral, physical and intellectual improvement of the inhabitants". The games were held annually, attracting competitors from as far as Liverpool and London.

Brookes soon burst the confines of Much Wenlock, forming the Shropshire Olympian Games and then the National Olympian Association. The latter's first Festival, a three-day event held at Crystal Palace in 1866, attracted 10,000 spectators and competitors. An 18-year-old W G Grace won the 440 yards hurdles.

The Wenlock Olympian Games still flourish today.


Samuel Buckett said...

Who doesn't act like an American these days? And the choice of English-sounding words which are not actual names sounds pretty American to me too.

Wenlock and Mandeville said...

I think it's a great tribute to re-ignite interest in years gone by. Maybe this will encourage more people to take an interest in some of the more niche areas of our local history!