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Vancouver History: The Miracle Mile

August 22nd, 2008 @ 5:00am (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

Squeaky Marmot on Flickr

With the Olympics happening until Sunday, what better time to tell the story of the Miracle Mile which is commemorated on the corner of Hastings and Renfrew.

At the main entrance to the PNE grounds stands two figures mid-stride. The statue, unveiled in 1967, displays two men racing each other. One of them has his head turned, looking back, as the other powers straight ahead.

In 1954 Vancouver hosted the Empire Games (now known as the Commonwealth Games) were held in Vancouver at the new Empire Stadium sporting facility – the largest in Canada at the time.

The mile event came down to two racers who had both already made history for their record time: Roger Bannister of England and John Landy of Australia. The statue at the PNE commemorates Landy, who was in the lead for the first few laps, looking over his shoulder while Bannister passes him on the other side – winning by a hair.

File footage is available on the CBC archives website, “be prepared for Bannister’s famous burst of speed at the end of the fourth lap.” You can also learn more at the BC Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in BC Place.

The “Miracle Mile” was not only the first sporting event televised live to all of North America, it was also the first time two runners ran the mile in under 4 minutes. [Source: VancouverHistory, 1954]

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  • 4 comments

    1. Robert Finlayson says:

      John Landy was also involved in another great sporting moment in history (perhaps bigger than the sub 4 minute mile).

      Before the Olympic Games in 1956 Landy raced at National Championships. During the one mile race Ron Clarke (then world junior champion) lost balance and fell. Landy stopped running and came back to Clarke to see if he was alright.

      It was “a spontaneous gesture of sportsmanship and it has never been forgotten”. Incredibly, Landy went on to finish the race and won.

      http://www.hyperhistory.org/index.php?option=displaypage&Itemid=713&op=page

    2. Miss604 says:

      Great bit of history! Thank you for sharing, Robert.

    3. Dale says:

      CBC Ideas did an excellent program on the quest for the 4 minute mile. The program page is here: http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/features/four_minute/index.html, and has some background and an except from Bannister’s book. Sadly, the radio program isn’t available for download.

      It was, apparently, fate that Bannister broke the 4-minute-mile before Landy. They were both very close and the world waited with anticipation to see who would do it first. I suspect that’s a more common story than is told or recorded in the record books. Nor how much Bannister wouldn’t have come close to the record without his coach and teammates.

      I didn’t realize they raced together here after Bannister broke the record. It’s cool we have a piece of that history locally. Thanks, Rebecca.

    4. [...] help you out with your answers I’ll throw a few names out there… Miracle Mile, Rick Hansen, Roger Nielson’s towel power, 1915 Stanley Cup victory… any others? [...]

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