Tennyson's words chosen for London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games

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Posted: 7 March 2011

‘To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield', the last line of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem Ulysses, will be engraved as a permanent installation in the centre of the Olympic Village to inspire the world's athletes taking part in the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and future generations of residents and school children, Winning Words announces today.

Reasons for nominating the resolute line emphasised its universal appeal including comments such as ‘it sums up the courage needed to live life to the full'. Broadcaster and historian Dan Snow, who was one of the nominators, said that the poem ‘influenced my approach to school, sport and life. I paraphrased it during team-talks at half time, remembered its words during exams or interviews and repeated it to myself when I felt my courage falter in a mid-Atlantic storm.'

Poet and panelist Daljit Nagra liked the Tennyson line ‘because it is succinct, memorable and is a clarion call to the best parts of our searching inquiring selves that is just as suited to a gold medal winner as it is to the ordinary worker in their daily round. I like the lines appeal to the enduring, unbreakable human spirit!'

Broadcaster and panelist Clare Balding says: 'The aim was to find a line of poetry that somehow encapsulated the endeavour, the glory and the dance with failure that Olympic sport entails. To have discovered that in a great British poem by a Poet Laureate about a figure from Greek classical mythology is so perfectly appropriate as to be almost poetic.'

Tennyson's line will be seen daily by the athletes and officials living and working in the Village during the 2012 Games. After the Games, the Village will be converted into new housing with a school, medical centre and parklands and the wall will be a part of the lasting legacy for local communities and residents.

The lines, written by one of the greatest Poetry Laureates, were nominated by the public through an open submission process via the Winning Words website. People were asked to nominate inspiring poetry representing the values of the Olympic Games: respect, fair play, excellence, friendship and of the Paralympic Games: courage, determination, inspiration and equality. Over 360 nominations were received from the project's launch via BBC Radio 4 in December until the close on Twelfth Night.

Nominations were evaluated by a panel that included the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, author Sebastian Faulks, poet Daljit Nagra, BBC Sports presenters John Inverdale and Clare Balding and Head of Arts and Cultural Strategy at the Olympic Delivery Authority, Sarah Weir.

The panel also chose further poems from the public nominations to be used on other sites in the Olympic Park, to be announced later in 2011.

They were:

Andrea Del Sarto by Robert Browning:
‘Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what's a heaven for?'

Freedom's Plow by Langston Hughes:
‘First in the heart is the dream.
Then the mind starts seeking a way.

Variation on a Theme of Rilke by Denise Levertov
‘and what I heard was my whole self
Saying and singing what it knew: I can.'

by Sean O'Brien
‘To change the world by mastering a game.'

Sarah Weir, Head of Arts and Cultural Strategy at the Olympic Delivery Authority comments:

‘The panel of judges deliberated the public's nominations until we whittled it down to the final line from Ulysses by Alfred Lord Tennyson. These are words we felt could be an inspiration for the athletes preparing for their Olympic and Paralympic moments in 2012 and equally for the future residents, generations of pupils at the school and all the thousands of visitors to the Olympic Park after the Games.'

William Sieghart, who conceived Winning Words and founded National Poetry Day, comments:

‘It has been exciting to see the response to the Winning Words poetry call-to-arms with inspiring nominations including both traditional and contemporary poets. Tennyson is a powerful choice for the Athletes' Village and we look forward to announcing locations of poetry in the Olympic Park. A huge thank you to the panel for their deliberation and to the ODA and LOCOG for recognising the power of poetry to motivate and rouse people.'

Source: Winning Words

Categories: Poetry News

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