The Princess Royal has been announced as the patron of an organisation working to commemorate the achievements of the “inspiring” runner whose story was told in the film Chariots Of Fire.
The Eric Liddell 100 has been established to ensure the “remarkable story” of the former sprinter, rugby player and missionary can be told to future generations.
With events being planned for 2024, 100 years on from Liddell’s record-breaking victory in the 400 metres at the Paris Olympics, the group brings together leading figures from the worlds of sport, the arts, education, and business.
Anne is a patron of The Eric Liddell 100, with others including Sir David Puttnam, the producer of the Oscar-winning Chariots Of Fire, and writer Alexander McCall Smith.
John MacMillan, chief executive of The Eric Liddell Community, an Edinburgh-based charity set up in Liddell’s name in 1980, described him as being a “compassionate, multifaceted man, who embraced life and encouraged, empowered and enabled others to get the most out of their lives”.
Mr MacMillan said: “I have a duty to ensure that his life, sporting achievements and community service are remembered and valued.
“I am however not embarking on this project alone and am delighted that Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal has agreed to be its patron.”
He said he had received “fantastic support from Eric Liddell’s family”, as well as other bodies including Scottish Rugby, Scottish Athletics and the University of Edinburgh – where Liddell had studied.
Mr MacMillan continued: “We have also had many other supporters already joining us from the business, education and cultural sectors in Scotland, the rest of the UK and internationally. I feel honoured by the calibre of the people and organisations which have joined or pledged allegiance to the project.”
Prior to running in the Paris Olympics in 1924, Liddell had played rugby for Scotland.
The son of two Scottish missionaries, he was born in China and returned there in 1925 as a missionary teacher, spending much of his life there until his death in a Japanese civilian internment camp in 1945.
Graham Law, of Scottish Rugby, said while Liddell was best known for his success on the athletics track he was “also one of Scotland’s great rugby players, winning seven caps for his country”.
Kieron Achara, a former Olympic basketball player who is part of the strategic steering group for The Eric Liddell 100, said: “The story of Eric Liddell’s life and achievements is as relevant and inspiring today as it was 100 years ago.
“I am pleased to support the programme to celebrate this Scottish sporting icon.”
Professor Peter Mathieson, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, hailed Liddell as having been “an early example of a university scholar who was equally dedicated to his degree studies in pure science, and the pursuit of sporting excellence in both athletics and rugby”.
Prof Mathieson said: “His legacy at the university continues today, with a gym dedicated to his memory, sports scholarships in his name and as the first inductee into our much-heralded Sports Hall of Fame.
“We are delighted to support The Eric Liddell 100 to ensure the remarkable story of his life is available for future generations.”
Meanwhile broadcaster and writer Sally Magnusson is also on the strategic steering group after penning a biography of Liddell in the 1980s.
As part of that work Magnusson said she had been “privileged to meet many of Eric’s family and peers”, adding that “they gave me an unforgettable insight into qualities that had not for a moment faded from their memories”.
She described Liddell as a “man who deserves to be known again”.