The 1981 film “Chariots Of Fire” told the stories of Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddle and was nominated for seven academy awards-and won for best picture. Like all the movies they make that are about things that really happened they had to take liberties and change a few things in the story. More on that and how they changed Abrahams story in a minute.
Harold Abrahams was a British long jumper and sprinter. As the 1924 Paris Games were approaching he was a long shot to do well. Eric Liddle, the other runner whose story is told in “Chariots of Fire” introduced him to a professional coach called Sam Mussabini. Abrahams and Mussabini worked during the six months prior to the games on his running technique and Mussabini got Abrahams to concentrate on the 100 meters.
At the 1924 Olympics Harold Abrahams was not a favorite in the 100 meters but he stunned the world and the favorite Charley Paddock, the 1920 100 meter gold medal winner and finished first taking the gold medal with a time of 10.6. Paddock took the silver and Arthur Porritt of New Zealand took the bronze.
The race took place on July 7th, 1924 at 7pm. For the rest of their lives Abrahams and Porritt would meet on July 7th at 7pm for dinner, until Harold Abrahams died in 1978.
The victory in the 100 meters at the 1924 Paris Games was the best it would get for Abrahams. He had peaked at the right moment. He never ran that well again and the next year his athletic career ended when he broke his leg in the long jump. Abrahams would go on to be an athletic journalist, writing many books and being a commentator on the BBC. Harold Abrahams mounted his gold metal on a plinth with a plaque engraved with the signatures of the other five finalists in the 100 meters. Back then instead of the eight finalists in the races they only had six. Someone stole the gold medal and it was never found. After his death, in 1989 the other major medals won by Harold Abrahams in athletic competition was auctioned off at Christie’s and was bought by Mohamed al Fayed the owner of the famous Harrod’s department store in London. Mohamad al Fayed was the father of Dodi al Fayed who would later die in the crash in Paris that also took the life of Lady Diana. Dodi had served as executive producer for “Chariots of FIre”
A few of the facts they played with in the movie. They have Harold Abrahams looking at the 100 meters as a way to redeam himself for his poor finish in the 200 meters, in reality the 100 meters took place first. They also put a big emphasis on Abrahams quest for victory because he felt like an outsider because he was Jewish. In reality the fuel that lit Harold Abrahams was to outdo his older brothers who up to that time had had superior athletic careers. Another inaccuracy is that Harold Abrahams did not race around the courtyard at Trinity College as shown in the movie. “Chariots of Fire” was a great movie though. I think I’ve only seen it once since I saw it in the theater 31 years ago. I need to view it again, soon.