Unit 73 - The Olympic Trail

Unit 73 - The Olympic Trail

You know the world of English is a fun and exciting place to be. I’m so glad you could join me for another lesson.

Hi everybody, this is Misterduncan in England, how are you today? Are you okay? I hope so! Are you happy? I hope so!

Today I’m going to show you a town where an event took place. That lead to the rebirth of something from the past being done, again and again. On a regular basis. An event originally dating way back to the time of the Ancient Greeks. And in 2012 will occur again right here in Great Britain. The town in question is Much Wenlock and the event is…The Olympic Games.

The town of Much Wenlock is situated in Shropshire- England. Not too far away from the large county town of Shrewsbury. The town was originally called Wenlock, with the ‘much’ being added later so as to avoid confusion with the nearby ‘Little Wenlock’.

The atmosphere here is very laid back and peaceful. The narrow streets and assorted old buildings give this place a charm of it own. You might say that Much Wenlock is more like a village than a town.

The origins of the name ‘Wenlock’ are not completely clear. One explanation is that the word is derived from the Welsh word ‘ gwyn’, which means white. And ‘lock’ being derived from the Welsh word for ‘monastery’. The ‘much’ part of the name is thought to have derived from the middle English word for ‘great’.

The origins of Much Wenlock itself go right back to the 7th century, when a monastery was built here in 680AD. The building housed Monks are Nuns, who had taken on the oath of virtue and divine devolution.

The head of the monastery was a woman called Miburge, the daughter of the King Merewalh of Mercia. She was the second Abbess to run the monastery. It is rumored that Miburge performed miracles.

It was said that on one occasion, she made geese that were eating the crops, vanish forever. After her death she was made a Saint. In 1040 AD, the monastery  was replaced with a college for priests. Later it became a Priory.

A house where monks lived, which was controlled by an Abbey, which in this case was based in France. Just after 1100AD, Much Wenlock became a place of pilgrimage, after the bones of St Milburge were said to have been found there.

Then in 1376, the priory came under the control of the English. The reign of Henry VIII, saw the priory closed, with the dissolution of all religious houses, which included monasteries.

In 1540, the priory was stripped of all its valuables and the buildings were sold off. Today very little remains of the priory. The large church has all but gone. A structure that took over 40 years to build, now lies in ruins.

Fortunately parts of the chapel can still be seen and much of the detail of these parts can still be made out. At the time this church was one of the most magnificent structures in the country.

As you walk around, it’s easy to spot parts of the original structure. The bases of the pillars that supported the roof of the church can still be seen and long stretches of stonework clearly mark the distinctive outline of the church.

The overall shape is similar to that of a cathedral. A large crypt can be seen at the site. A crypt can also be called a tomb or a burial chamber.

A short while ago, the skeleton of a monk was found in the remains of the crypt. This curious shaped structure is called a ‘Lavabo’. It was where the monks would bathe.

Originally this structure was inside a large octagonal, or eight sided building. As I have said before, these old buildings are fascinating to look at. They connect us with a long since bygone age.

I suppose it is lucky that past dwellers here declined not to tear this place completely to pieces. Their hesitance to destroy is our historical gain. These days the priory is owned by ‘English Heritage’, who have done a great job of preserving this wonderful monument.

Visitors to the site can go on a virtual guided tour, using headphones with commentary and an insightful guide book.  There are many old and interesting buildings to be seen here in Much Wenlock.

This is the Guidhall, which in the past, served as the administrative centre of the town.  Here you will find the old court house, where criminal trials were held. Punishments were dealt out here.

People were whipped and often had their hands and feet locked in wooden stocks, so the locals could stare and abuse the person convicted. The Guildhall was built in 1540, after the nearby priory was forced to close.

The Guildhall also housed the town chamber. In it a group of local councilors would meet to make decisions concerning issues that the local townspeople had.

Most of the structure is made of wood; however some additional buildings was carried out on the hall in the 1700’s, when brick walls were erected at either end, so as to add support.

The ground floor is an open area, which housed the ancient local market. This area is still used as a place of trading for small holders- selling for example- such things as – jars of homemade pickle and chutney…


Of course no English town would be complete without a church. Needless to say, Much Wenlock has a wonderful example of one.

Very close to the site of the old priory- Holy Trinity Church is a striking, solid looking building, that arouses an overwhelming sense of permanence. The present church was built in 1150 by the Cluniac monks of Wenlock Priory.

Later the church had a spire added to it, but this was later removed after it became unstable and dangerous.

The original Olympic Games were held during the time of the ancient Greeks. They took place every four years, as that was how each Greek ‘year’ was spaced. The period between the games was called an ‘olympiad’.

The earliest games took place in the valley of Olympia, over two and a half thousand years ago. These events were seen as festivals.  In its original form, the Olympic games consisted of just one race- the 200 yard dash, known as a ‘stadium’.

Later more events were added, until the now familiar ‘Pentathlon’ was formed. The  original Pentathlon consisted of five events. Running- leaping- wrestling- discus throwing, and hurling the javelin.

Many other side events were later added such as boxing and chariot racing. The winner of each event was presented with a crown of leaves taken from a sacred olive tree.  The modern Olympic movement was started in 1850, by a man named William Penny- Brookes. Born here in Much Wenlock in 1809, Penny- Brookes became the local justice of the peace, which is a magistrate, who passes judgment on those who have committed crimes.

He grew concerned with the number of people being brought before him, who had broken the law. It would appear that Penny- Brookes decided that new regime of discipline had to be brought in.

Something to keep both the mind and the body in check. William Penny Brookes formed the Olympic Society.  A group of people who would organize sporting events.

The first Wenlock games took places in October 1850 and have been held there ever since. This is where some of the inspiration for the modern Olympic Games came from.

On this small field the first “Wenlock Games” were held. From this small event a large athletic society was creacted. Finally resulting in the formation of ‘The National Olympic Association”.  Their first major event was held in 1866 at the Crystal Palace in London.

The first official Olympic Games were held in 1896, in Athens, but the event was not an international one. The 1908 Olympics held in London, were the first true international games.

Just as they did in ancient Greece, The Olympic Games occur every four years. There is also the Winter Olympics, which is held two years after each summer games.

Along the main high street you will find many small shops, housing local businesses, along with a post office, bank, and a convenience store. This is Much Wenlock library building, with its distinctive arched front.

And above the arches, a plaque, dedicated to William Penny- Brookes. The local magistrate and founder of the modern Olympic movement.

It is interesting to note that no large supermarket chains have yet moved in to this town, which really gives this place a laid back and tranquil feeling of its own. Although you still find the occasional conspicuous lorry or noisy truck passing through here.

The small square marks the centre of Much Wenlock. A clock tower stands near the high street junction.

It was dedicated to the town in 1897, to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria. The clock fell into disrepair, but was restored in 1993. William Penny-Brookes, who, with the help of others, created the spark that gave birth to the modern Olympic movement died in 1895, and was buried here at Holy Trinity Church, in his hometown of Much Wenlock.

As you walk around Much Wenlock, you cannot help but notice the old street names, one or two of which sound very strange indeed.

Okay, let’s be honest. I have very little chance of ever competing at the Olympic Games. But for many young athletes, the dream of representing their country in the games is probably their greatest goal.

Of course in every race or sporting trial there is a winner. In each Olympic event there are three top places. Medals are given out to those who came first- second- and third.

A bronze medal is given to the one who comes third. A silver for second. And the first person who comes first- gets a gold medal. Look I have a gold medal too. Sadly this one isn’t real.

Before each Olympic Games, a flame is carried through the streets of the place where it is being held. In 2012 the Olympic Torch went all around Great Britain.

At the very start of the game, the torch is used to light the stadium flame. A large ‘Olympic Flame’ stays lit right through the event. It appears I have been given the wrong torch. I asked for a flaming torch, but given an electric one instead!

In the UK, sport is being used as a way to encourage kids to get out more and take regular exercise…and of course look after their health. Sport is generally taught in schools and is usually referred to as PE or PT.

Physical Education or Physical Training. Talking of which, I could do will a little PE of my own. Maybe another sprint will do it! Ready…steady …go!

The whole purpose of the Olympic is to showcase the power and agility of all those who have dedicated their lives to athletics. And to the spirit of camaraderie and sportsmanship that each event instills.

We live in a cynical age, where many noble acts are sneered at and derided as cheap publicity and token glory. But surely there has to be some good coming from this or it would have never been revived.

Nations completing against each other in a good natured way can’t be harmful. After all, the premise of all sporting events is to follow the rules, while respecting your opponent. To many this is a good example to follow, while to others it is nothing more than a giant ego trip. What do you think?

I hope you have enjoyed today’s lesson, whether you are taking part in the Olympics, or watching it in person, in London, or live on the television, I wish you and every team taking part, all the very best. Stay fit and happy, until we meet again. Thank you for watching me, teaching you…and of course…ta-ta for now.

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Sentence explanation:

1.He grew concerned with the number of people being brought before him, who had broken the law.

Concerned (with/about): (adj): lo lắng

Number of: số, số lượng (thường theo sau là danh từ đếm được)

Break/ violate/ disregard/ or infringe the law (or agreement): Phá luật, vi phạm pháp luật (hoặc hợp đồng)

=> Ông lo lắng về số lượng người bị đưa đến trước ông, những người đã vi phạm pháp luật.

2. The first Wenlock games took places in October 1850 and have been held there ever since.

Take place: Xảy ra, diễn ra

Ever since: Suốt từ thời gian đó, kể từ lúc đó.

=> Những cuộc thi tại Wenlock đầu tiên được diễn ra vào tháng 10 năm 1850 và được tổ chức kể từ đó.

3. It is interesting to note that no large supermarket chains have yet moved in to this town, which really gives this place a laid back and tranquil feeling of its own.

Laid back: Thoải mái. Tranquil: Yên tĩnh.

Supermarket chain: Một loạt, một dãy siêu thị nằm trong một hệ thống.

=> Thật thú vị khi nhận ra rằng vẫn chưa có siêu thị lớn nào chuyển tới thị trấn này, chính điều này đã giữ cho nơi đây vẻ yên bình và thoải mái vốn có.

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