Mary Glen-Haig

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Mary Glen-Haig
Personal information
Birth nameMary Alison James
Born(1918-07-12)12 July 1918
Islington, London, England
Died15 November 2014(2014-11-15) (aged 96)
United Kingdom
Sport Fencing

Dame Mary Alison Glen-Haig, DBE (née James; 12 July 1918 15 November 2014) was a British fencer who competed in four Olympic games in 1948, 1952, 1956 and 1960. She was born in London, the daughter of William James, a fencer at the 1908 London Olympics. She began competing professionally in 1937 and continued until 1960, during which time she won two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games and competed in four Olympics in the women's individual foil events. She was the first female member of the International Olympic Committee and was created a dame in 1993. After London's successful bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics in 2005, she was active as the host nation's ambassador to the games.

Fencing sport

Fencing is a group of three related combat sports. The three disciplines in modern fencing are the foil, the épée, and the sabre ; winning points are made through the weapon's contact with an opponent. A fourth discipline, singlestick, appeared in the 1904 Olympics but was dropped after that, and is not a part of modern fencing. Fencing was one of the first sports to be played in the Olympics. Based on the traditional skills of swordsmanship, the modern sport arose at the end of the 19th century, with the Italian school having modified the historical European martial art of classical fencing, and the French school later refining the Italian system. There are three forms of modern fencing, each of which uses a different kind of weapon and has different rules; thus the sport itself is divided into three competitive scenes: foil, épée, and sabre. Most competitive fencers choose to specialize in one weapon only.

Commonwealth Games Multi-sport event involving athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations

The Commonwealth Games are an international multi-sport event involving athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations. The event was first held in 1930, and has taken place every four years since then. The Commonwealth Games were known as the British Empire Games from 1930 to 1950, the British Empire and Commonwealth Games from 1954 to 1966, and British Commonwealth Games from 1970 to 1974. It is the world's first multi-sport event which inducted equal number of women’s and men’s medal events and was implemented recently in the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

2012 Summer Olympics Games of the XXX Olympiad, held in London in 2012

The 2012 Summer Olympics, formally the Games of the XXX Olympiad and commonly known as London 2012, was an international multi-sport event that was held from 27 July to 12 August 2012 in London, United Kingdom. The first event, the group stage in women's football, began on 25 July at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, followed by the opening ceremonies on 27 July. 10,768 athletes from 204 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) participated.


Early life

Glen-Haig was born Mary Alison James on 12 July 1918 in London. [1] Her father, William James, was a competitor in fencing at the 1908 Summer Olympics in London. Her brother and sister took up tennis, like their mother. Her interest in fencing arose from time spent with her father, and she often trained and practised with him. [2] [3]

1908 Summer Olympics Games of the IV Olympiad, celebrated in London (United Kingdom) in 1908

The 1908 Summer Olympics, officially the Games of the IV Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event which was held in 1908 in London, United Kingdom from 27 April to 31 October 1908.

She began participating in regional and world championships in 1937 and continued to be active in these tournaments until 1959. She first qualified for the Olympic Games in 1948, the second time that they were held in her hometown of London. The evening before she was to participate in these games, she was still working at King's College Hospital, as there was no true Olympic Village at these games. [2] [3]

Kings College Hospital Hospital in London

King's College Hospital is an acute care facility in Denmark Hill, Camberwell in the London Borough of Southwark, referred to locally and by staff simply as "King's" or abbreviated internally to "KCH". It is managed by King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. It serves an inner city population of 700,000 in the London boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth, but also serves as a tertiary referral centre in certain specialties to millions of people in southern England. It is a large teaching hospital and is, with Guy's Hospital and St. Thomas' Hospital, the location of King's College London School of Medicine and one of the institutions that comprise the King's Health Partners, an academic health science centre. The chief executive is Dr Clive Kay.

An Olympic Village is an accommodation center built for the Olympic Games, usually within an Olympic Park or elsewhere in a host city. Olympic Villages are built to house all participating athletes, as well as officials and athletic trainers. After the Munich Massacre at the 1972 Olympics, the Villages have been made extremely secure. Only athletes, trainers and officials are allowed to room at the Village, though family members and former Olympic athletes are allowed inside with proper checks. Press and media are also barred.

Olympic and Commonwealth career

The night before she was due to compete, Glen-Haig slept on a camp bed in a room with two other women. [3] In the Women's Foil, Individual competition, she reached the finals, but did not medal, placing 8th. She competed in the same event in at the 1952, 1956 and 1960 Summer Olympics, as well as in the Women's Foil, Team in 1960, but never again reached the finals. [1] She claimed to have never worried whether or not she actually won a medal. [3] During this time, she participated in the British Empire Games (later the Commonwealth Games) from 1950–1958. She won gold medals in the fencing competition in both 1950 and 1954 [2] and she represented England and won a bronze medal in the individual foil at the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Wales. [4] [5]

At the 1948 Summer Olympics, seven fencing events were contested, six for men and one for women.

1952 Summer Olympics Games of the XV Olympiad, held in Helsinki in 1952

The 1952 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XV Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event held in Helsinki, Finland, from July 19 to August 3, 1952.

1956 Summer Olympics Games of the XVI Olympiad, celebrated in Melbourne in 1956

The 1956 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XVI Olympiad, was an international multi-sport event that was held in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia from 22 November to 8 December 1956, with the exception of the equestrian events, which were held in Stockholm, Sweden in June 1956.

Later life

Glen-Haig eventually moved to West Kensington, London, where she worked at a hospital as district administrator from 1974 until 1982, the year that she was made the first female member of the International Olympic Committee. [2] She was also Chairman of the Central Council of Physical Recreation during the 1970s. [6] She continued to fence until her mid-to-late 70s. [3] As an IOC representative she supervised the first edition of the Women's Islamic Games in February 1993 and ensured the smooth running of the competitions. 407 athletes in eight different sports took part in the first edition of the Games from such countries as Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Malaysia, Syria and Iran. [7] She was an honorary member of the IOC. [2]

International Olympic Committee Non-governmental ruling body of the Olympic Movement

The International Olympic Committee is a non-governmental sports organisation based in Lausanne, Switzerland. Created by Pierre de Coubertin and Demetrios Vikelas in 1894, it is the authority responsible for organising the modern Summer and Winter Olympic Games.

The Women's Islamic Games were an international multi-sport event started in 1993. The event was organised by the Islamic Federation of Women's Sport (IFWS). Muslim women of all nationalities were allowed to take part in the Games.

Glen-Haig was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 1971 Queen's Birthday Honours, [8] promoted to Commander (CBE) in the 1977 New Year Honours, [6] and Dame Commander (DBE) in the 1993 New Year Honours. [2] [9] At the conclusion of the 2004 Summer Olympics, Glen-Haig recited the English version of an ode in praise of Athens. [10] She served as the ambassador from Britain to the 2012 Summer Olympics, which was held in London. [11] She died at the age of 96 on 15 November 2014. [12]

The New Year Honours is a part of the British honours system, with New Year's Day, 1 January, being marked by naming new members of orders of chivalry and recipients of other official honours. A number of other Commonwealth realms also mark this day in this way.

2004 Summer Olympics Games of the XXVIII Olympiad, held in Athens in 2004

The 2004 Summer Olympic Games, officially known as the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad and commonly known as Athens 2004, was a premier international multi-sport event held in Athens, Greece, from 13 to 29 August 2004 with the motto Welcome Home.

Athens Capital and largest city of Greece

Athens is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, with its recorded history spanning over 3,400 years and its earliest human presence started somewhere between the 11th and 7th millennium BC.

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  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Olympic Dame" (PDF). H&F News. March 2008. p. 14. Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 March 2009. Retrieved 3 August 2008.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 "'It was the youth of the world getting together'". The Guardian. Sport. UK. 10 July 2008. Retrieved 3 August 2008.
  4. "Mary Glen Haig". Commonwealth Games Federation. 2019. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  5. "Cardiff 1958 Team". Commonwealth Games England. 2019. Retrieved 30 July 2019.
  6. 1 2 "No. 47102". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1976. p. 8.
  7. "History of the Games". The Embassy of The Islamic Republic of Iran in Ottawa. 1998. Retrieved 11 June 2010.
  8. "No. 45384". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 June 1971. p. 5970.
  9. "No. 53153". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1992. p. 7.
  10. "Oxford classicist writes Greek ode for the Olympics". Oxford University. 3 August 2004. Retrieved 3 August 2008.
  11. "Bid mementoes in Wembley time capsule". Post-Bid 2005. London 2012. 7 December 2005. Archived from the original on 8 August 2007. Retrieved 3 August 2008.
  12. "Death of Dame Mary Alison Glen-Haig DBE, IOC Honorary Member in Great Britain". IOC Latest News. International Olympic Committee. 18 November 2014. Retrieved 24 November 2014.