I don’t mind admitting this post is a little left-field for vittyrobinson photography and it is less to do with my regular posts of lifestyle photography and everything to do with what my husband Richard has created over the last 2 years with Kenton Cool. It started as a piece of long-forgotten history and it has ended with the International Olympic Committee recognising ‘The Olympic Games Pledge’ as an official part of their history, and something that has never been fulfilled.
It is a story of adventure, valour and the extraordinary feats of mankind – and that just about sums up the last 2 years as well!
the Pledge that has never been fulfilled
In May 2012 British mountaineer Kenton Cool will lead an expedition to fulfil a near century old Pledge made directly to Baron Pierre de Coubertin at the Closing Ceremony of the 1924 Olympics by Great Britain.
On the 5th February, 1924 Lt Col Edward Strutt pledged to take one of the Olympic Gold Medals won by Great Britain for Alpinisme to the summit of Mount Everest. This Pledge, officially recognised as ‘The Olympic Games Pledge’ by the IOC, has never been fulfilled.
2012 will see the Olympics return to Great Britain, and Great Britain finally fulfil its Pledge to the founding father of the modern Olympics 88 years after it was made.
they honoured not just their country but all humanity
In 1922 a British expedition to Mount Everest, led by Brigadier General Charles Bruce, became the first team to attempt to scale the mountain with the specific aim of reaching the summit. Although the team narrowly fell short of the summit itself, they succeeded in smashing the world record for high altitude climbing by reaching 8,230m (just 600m short of the summit itself). This amazing feat was celebrated globally and in 1924 the International Olympic Committee, led by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, announced that the full 1922 British team should receive Olympic Gold Medals for Alpinisme.
The category of Alpinisme had been included in the original reconstitution of the Olympics in the late 1890’s but had never previously been awarded , making the ‘win’ by the British team even more significant.
On the 5th February, 1924, Lt Col Strutt (the second in command of the 1922 Expedition) was invited to the Closing Ceremony of the 1924 Winter Olympics to receive the medals on behalf of the British team.
Due to his personal involvement in the inclusion of Alpinisme in the Olympics Baron Pierre de Coubertin personally awarded the Gold Medals to Strutt, and it was during the award of the Olympic Medals that Strutt made his Pledge to Coubertin.
Baron Pierre de Coubertin complimented Strutt and the British team for their absolute heroism on behalf of all of the nations of the world, and (knowing that the British 1924 Everest expedition had just left England for Nepal) expressed his ardent wish that the team were successful in completing what they had set out to do saying that they honoured not just their country but all humanity. Official record of the VIII Olympiad, 1924.
In Strutt’s return speech, and in the words of Coubertin himself, he said “There was also the moving occasion when, at the foot of Mont Blanc, the medal for mountaineering was awarded to one of the leaders of the famous Mount Everest expedition, a courageous Englishman who, defeated but not discouraged, swore to leave it next time at the top of the highest summit in the Himalayas” OLYMPIC MEMOIRS, by Pierre de Coubertin. The eighth Olympiad (Paris 1924)
No matter how many times I read that – I still get goosebumps.
So, how did it all start?….
“I have to do this”
In 2010 my husband, Richard rediscovered the long-forgotten Olympic Games Pledge while researching a project for London 2012. Richard and Kenton have known each other for over a decade and Kenton’s first words when he learnt of the Pledge were “I have to do this”.
With the decision made Kenton and Richard quickly agreed that two things would be needed.
Firstly a very visible means of sharing the moment that Great Britain fulfils The Olympic Games Pledge to honour Coubertin’s wish that this be not just for “your country but all humanity”, and secondly one of the original 1924 Olympic Medals won by the British team.
Making ‘a top 10 most epic tweet’
These two goals set off an amazing chain of events, and they started with Kenton summiting Mount Everest in 2011 with the sole objective of proving that 3G existed on the summit to ensure that when he returned in 2012 he would do this with the full confidence that he would be able to share the moment “with all humanity” just as Baron Pierre de Coubertin had asked Strutt to do in 1924.
The ‘Samsung 3G Challenge’ of 2011 created huge global news in its own right, with Kenton making the first 3G call from the Everest summit and sending the first ever tweet, which is now acknowledged in the ‘top 10 most epic tweets’ by many commentators.
The real story of 2011 can only be told now, and this is that Kenton knew that the team would be returning in 2012 to fulfil The Olympic Games Pledge.
The result is that everyone globally can now participate in Kenton’s summit attempt to fulfil The Olympic Games Pledge.
“the medal would choose him”
After nine months of searching the first medal was located, after eighteen months of searching a further five had been found, with the possible locations of another three thought to be known. The whereabouts of the remaining medals remain unknown.
At this point Kenton took the decision to approach a select group of descendants of the original 1922 Expedition who were known to hold some of the original medals and reveal the story of the Olympic Pledge. Kenton’s ardent belief from the first time he heard of The Olympic Games Pledge was that the medal would choose him, as opposed to him choosing the Medal.
One of the families contacted was the family of Dr Arthur Wakefield. Charles Wakefield, the grandson of Arthur Wakefield. Upon hearing of the proposed expedition, and the story of The Olympic Games Pledge, Charles immediately told Kenton that he must take Arthur Wakefield’s Medal to the summit with the most simple email saying “Arthur Wakefield’s Olympic Medal is waiting for you in Toronto wrapped in a flame red silk handkerchief”, quickly followed up by an email from Sir Humphrey Wakefield saying “Well done all parties! Give love to Everest and to the Yak and Yeti”.
In the first week of March 2012 Kenton flew to Toronto to meet the Wakefield family, exchange climbing stories about the 1920s and the present day, and then flew back to London with Arthur Wakefield’s 1924 Olympic Gold Medal to complete its 88 year journey to the summit of Mount Everest in 2012.
The team are now preparing to leave for base camp at Mount Everest.
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