The 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver changed both the city and world sport forever. The games will always be remembered for the “Miracle Mile,” the much-anticipated showdown between the first two men to break the four-minute barrier, England’s Roger Bannister and Australia’s John Landy.
But as the press focused the world’s attention on Vancouver, there were other extraordinary moments throughout the events – many with a unique connection to Langley/Aldergrove.
On Saturday, Feb. 10 Surrey Archives hosts Jason Beck, author, curator and facility director of British Columbia’s Sports Hall of Fame at the Cloverdale Library, where he’ll explore the events and impact of the games in our local context as featured in his book “The Miracle Mile.”
Did you know?
• Rowing events drew many people from all over the Fraser Valley including Langley/Aldergrove. Ten thousand spectators attended the rowing events at Vedder Canal one day, at a time when the entire population of the eastern and central Fraser Valley was 40,000 people. This was the biggest thing to happen to the Fraser Valley since the Flood of ’48.
• There was one athlete on the Canadian team from Langley/Aldergrove. His name is Dave Stafford (he is living in Burnaby today and his 1954 Canadian team blazer still fits) and he competed in long jump (then called broad jump) and finished 11th despite a leg injury. His father was HD Stafford (a high school is named after him in Langley today) and he grew up near Porter’s Restaurant on 216th Street.
• Dave was coached by an Aldergrove chicken farmer named Pete Swensson, who has a park named after him there today. The late Swensson was Langley Township’s first recreation director and his work in developing sport in the community is honoured today by the annual Pete Swensson trophy for outstanding youth in Langley Township.
• Perhaps the most important Aldergrove link to the ’54 Games: Aldergrove was the only B.C. community to hold a miniature British Empire Games in 1954 at the Aldergrove ball park now known as Philip Jackman Park. Aldergrove was chosen because the park was one of the first to install lighting in 1953, and because of the organizational support of the late Aldergrove residents Trevor Beggs, Cliff Watt and Swensson. Athletes from around the world competed at the preliminary event, prior to the Empire Games held later at Vancouver’s newly built Empire Stadium.
Every single day offered up unbelievable tales of glory and grief, according to Beck.
“The surprising thing is how many remarkable stories from those games have been lost or forgotten — until now,” said Beck.
Beck encourages anyone who would like to relive one the most incredible weeks in B.C.’s history to attend his upcoming talk at the Surrey Archives, which includes archival photos and video, as well as countless stories and anecdotes.
“It was an event packed with remarkable athletes and stories and one all British Columbians should be aware of and proud that it took place here,” said Beck.
The Miracle Mile will be hosted by the Surrey Archives and held at the Cloverdale Library on Saturday, Feb. 10 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. This free program is for participants 13-plus and is generously sponsored by the Friends of the Surrey Museum and Archives Society. The Cloverdale Library is located at 5642 176A Street, Surrey; B.C. Register Online (4566466)