Olympian Impressions ~ Avenue of Champions, Salisbury Cathedral, UK

Shop window: layers of Olympics 2012 merchandise

Olympic Madness – Salisbury shopfront.

Olympic fever has gripped the television-watching-world. As I write this, the games are well into their second week and the people of the United Kingdom seem to have thrown themselves behind their Olympic athletes.

Two weeks before the games started, however, the people I talked to in London were grumbling about the inconveniences the games were causing and were expressing doubts about the city’s willingness or readiness to play host. I’ve lived in two previous host-cities, and I was sure they would have a change of heart once the games commenced. But with rain, gloom and traffic-grid-lock, Londoners were not convinced.

So, we were happy to leave the pessimism (if not the rain) behind us and drive southwest to the green fields of Wiltshire, and the medieval city of Salisbury. There, the shop-fronts, at least, were celebrating the upcoming games. To our surprise, so was Salisbury Cathedral!

Salisbury Cathedral from behind trees: tourists huddled under umbrellas in the rain.

Tourists huddled under umbrellas in the rain en-route to Salisbury Cathedral.

Sculpture of a woman walking on the green grass in front of Salisbury Cathedral.

The Walking Madonna by Elisabeth Frink (1930-1993)

Marble sculptured male torso.

“London 2012”: Concept torso by Ben Dearnley, outside Salisbury Cathedral.

London skyline in relief on the concave side of a marble sculpture.

“London 2012”: The “concept torso” by Ben Dearnley features the London skyline on the inside to celebrate the UK’s role as Olympic host nation.

Salisbury Cathedral has an Arts program, and when we were there the cloisters of the cathedral were playing host to a series of works by the contemporary British sculptor Ben Dearnley (1964- ) in honour of the games. I was thrilled by this for two reasons: I love sculpture; and entry into the cathedral itself was prohibitively expensive for the short time we had available to us.

Intended to echo the classical sculptures of competitors from the original Greek games, these beautiful works are modelled on some of the UK’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes and focus on the ‘power zones’ central to their sports.

Gold sculpture of a male torso in the arched cloisters of Salisbury Cathedral

“Adam”, a concept sculpture featuring a keyhole in his arm to symbolise inner strength, sits at the entry to the cloister arches. (Salisbury Cathedral)

Sculpture of a reclining male torso.

Louis Smith, Gymnast: Bronze medal Olympics 2008; Silver and Bronze medals Olympics 2012; European Champion, 2012.

Sculpture of a partial male torso in the cloisters of Salisbury Cathedral.

Ade Adepitan, MBE, Basketball: Bronze, Paralympic Games 2004; Paralympic World Cup Champion 2005.

Cloisters of Salisbury Cathedral with a blue sculpture of a male torso.

Oscar Pistorius, Athlete: Multiple Gold Medallists; Paralympic Games 2004/2008; Paralympic World Cup 2005; “Blade Runner” Olympics 2012.

Sculptures: partial female head; partial male torso.

Christine Ohuruogu, Athlete: World Championship 2007; Gold Medallist, Olympics 2008; Silver Medallist, Olympics 2012. (Background: Leon Taylor, Diver: Silver Medalist, Olympics 2004; Commonwealth Championships 2006).

The cloisters of Salisbury Cathedral with a sculpture of a partial male torso.

Mark Foster, Swimmer: Olympics 1988/92/96/00/08; World Champion 1993/99/00/04 – in the cloisters of Salisbury Cathedral.

Sculpture of a male arm holding an epee.

Salisbury Cathedral cloisters are reflected in the sabre of Alex O’Connell, Fencer: Olympics 2008.

Gold sculpture of the back of a male torso.

Steve Williams OBE, Rower: World Champion 2000/01/05/06; Gold Medallist, Olympics 2004/08.

Sculpture of a horse head and man

Lee Pearson OBE MBE, Dressage: Gold Medallist Paralympic Games 2000/04/08, is joined with his horse in this stone sculpture.

Sculpture of a female torso; LED screen in the background.

Concept sculpture: “Eve” celebrates all the female athletes at the London 2012 games. Behind her, a video presentation shows Ben Dearnley talking about his artistic inspiration and process.

These classical, yet modern, sculptures were a wonderful foil for the early English Gothic (1220 – 1258) cathedral. They were also a timely reminder that Olympian efforts come in all shapes and forms: physical, artistic and architectural.

Inside the Cloisters os Salisbury Cathedral looking out onto green lawns.

The beauty and balance of the archways of the cloisters are an example of gothic architectural grace.

Flower-shaped keyholes onto Salisbury Cathedral.

Flower-shaped keyholes look onto the spire (circa 1300) of Salisbury Cathedral.


Salisbury’s spire, Britain’s tallest contrasts elegantly with the glass and chrome roof of the cafeteria and gift-shop.

Tapestry of a white unicorn.

Medieval tapestry, cafeteria, Salisbury Cathedral.

Three children in a play corner

The next generation of Olympians? Children in the play corner: Salisbury Cathedral.

It was a wonderful celebration of “humankind’s ability to make the most of the bodies and talents God has given us.”

It was also a great respite from the gloom and rain… which continued outside.

Two people with umbrellas walking on a British street.

A quintessentially British scene: red call boxes, umbrellas and rain… more rain. Salisbury, Wiltshire.

Text: Happy TravelsI trust you are enjoying the Olympic efforts of the athletes and artists from whatever country you are in.

Happy travels!

Photos: 16July2012

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