Joe Biden gave a nod to the film Chariots of Fire, in his first address as president-elect, in January 2021 – “Now, together, on eagle’s wings,” Biden told the crowd in Delaware, “we embark on the work that God and history have called us to do.” This line, via Isaiah 40, mirrors the climax of Liddell’s sermon in the film: “They that wait upon the Lord … shall mount up with wings as eagles.” (1)
When I read the content of President Biden’s first address as president-elect and saw his quotation from the Eric Liddell and Harold Abraham biographical film Chariots of Fire 1981, my mind went back to a nostalgic visit to the cinema I had with my father, just after its release at the Dominion Cinema in Edinburgh.
During the opening sequence of the film my Dad whispered to me, ‘I don’t recognise Eric there, although there’s a chap in in the middle of the group that might be him’!
And when Ian Charleson did his impression of Liddell, my father said ‘That’s how he used to finish though!’
How could he possibly recognise Ian Charleson, he had never met him? However, it was a link we both shared. Each of us had known one of the principal heroes.
My father, under the watchful eye of their coach Mr. MacErchar, – who is not mentioned in the film – trained with Eric Liddell and remarkably some 40 odd years later, in 1962 when I competed for Great Britain in the Decathlon, my first team manager was Harold Abrahams.
As I got to know Harold Abrahams, when we travelled together around the country to athletic meetings, we discussed the merits of the Gilbert and Sullivan Operas – it turned out his wife was a member of the Doyle Carte Opera Company.
Sybil Marjorie Evers was an English singer and actress. She performed in operettas, operas and plays in London from the early 1920s through the late 1930s, including on BBC radio and television. She married Olympic champion runner Harold Abrahams.
Further relevant information:
- Visit the Eric Liddell website for fascinating photos of his life https://www.ericliddell.org/gallery/
Wikipedia search on Eric Liddell:
At the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, Liddell refused to run in the heats for his favoured 100 metres because they were held on a Sunday. Instead he competed in the 400 metres held on a weekday, a race that he won. He returned to China in 1925 to serve as a missionary teacher. Aside from two furloughs in Scotland, he remained in China until his death in a Japanese civilian internment camp in 1945.
Liddell’s Olympic training and racing, and the religious convictions that influenced him, are depicted in the Oscar-winning 1981 film Chariots of Fire, in which he is portrayed by fellow Scot Ian Charleson.