VATICAN'S OLYMPIC SPIRIT

Associated Press

Even the Vatican is getting into the Olympic spirit.

The official Vatican newspaper ran a glowing review of Friday's opening ceremony and published an op-ed piece by the British ambassador to the Holy See. The subject: his family connection to Eric Liddell, one of the most memorable Olympians of all time.

Liddell was famously depicted in the 1981 film "Chariots of Fire." He was a Scottish missionary who pulled out of the 100 heat at the 1924 Olympics because it took place on a Sunday. He went on to win gold in the 400.

In the L'Osservatore Romano piece, Ambassador Nigel Baker recalled how his great uncle Noel was serving in China in the Welsh Regiment of the British Army in the early 1930s when he met Liddell, who was then working for the London Missionary Society.

As Baker recounted it, Great Uncle Noel — a fairly accomplished 400-meter runner — was preparing for an Army race the following day when an "ungainly redheaded man joined him and asked in a broad Scottish accent if he might run alongside."

The two did a few laps together. "You're not bad," the redhead said. "Tomorrow I'll be first and you'll be second."

Great Uncle Noel was a bit put off by the remark. He realized the following day at race time that he had not only warmed up with Liddell but would be competing against him.

"Liddell smiled, and acknowledged my great uncle," Baker wrote. "The gun fired. The athletes set off. Eric Liddell finished first. Great Uncle Noel second."

—Nicole Winfield — Twitter http://twitter.com/nwinfield

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