History of the Olympian Gliding Event

With the prospect of gliding joining the Olympic Games remaining an impossibility, as a group of pilots, we were determined to remember our Olympic dreams, and in March 2011 we approached the Wenlock Olympian Society (WOS). We were delighted that we were successful in joining the Olympian family through the WOS and, in doing so, we remembered the heady heights that gliding once attained when it was due to be part of the Olympic Games of 1940.  Sadly the war prevented the games from taking part and gliding never took part thereafter.
But what exactly is the WOS, what are their Games, and what do they really mean to sport? Well, a lot actually!
Formed way back in 1850, today the WOS’s Games are recognised as the inspiration for the modern International Olympics which we will celebrate in 2020. The first Wenlock Olympian Games featured a mixture of athletics and also the traditional country sports of quoits, football and cricket. Since then, these Games have been held almost every year in and around the small picturesque Shropshire town of Much Wenlock, attracting national (and now international) competitors. Today it is a much respected and well-loved sports meeting scheduled on the Midland’s sports and athletics calendar.
It is these Wenlock Olympian Games that the father of the IOC, Baron de Coubertin, visited back in 1890 and was inspired to set up what is today’s IOC, and the WOS predate today’s IOC by some 44 years! (And our own Aeronautical Federation by some 53 years!)
Such is the standing of WOS, that the 2012 Olympic Games Mascot was named ‘Wenlock’ in recognition of the historical importance of their Games to today’s Modern Olympic Games.
With the invitation to demonstrate the sport of competitive Gliding to Committee members of WOS in 2012, the Midland Gliding Club teamed up with the VGC. Gliding could only benefit from a partnership of these two vibrant clubs with the long-established reputation of the WOS, who are today officially recognised by the British Olympic Association, as well as the IOC themselves, as a part of the Olympic Movement’s history.
But it doesn’t end with just a demonstration event in 2012 however. The Wenlock Olympian Games are held annually and gliding is now established as a regular competitive sport on the Wenlock Olympian Games calendar. We try to bring a truly meaningful event to grassroots pilots in a unique way in the gliding world!
The first event in 2012 was for a single class of glider, the Olympia 2b, just as the 1940 event would have been and we had entries from seven European countries.  Many of these gliders would have taken part in the that very event.  Since then we have widened the field to include any wooden construction or fabric covered glider but the field is limited to 40 gliders in total, includes two seaters and takes place every four years to coincide with the Olympics.  Our competition is run like any regional competition but takes place over five days, Monday to Friday, to allow travel time at weekends at both ends.
The thing that really sets this event apart is that it offers Olympian Gold, Silver and Bronze medals to the podium winners, unique in gliding across the world.

For more information on the early history of the Wenlock Olympian Games, visit their website here