To coincide with the opening of the London 2012 Olympic Games on Friday 27th July, a release of pigeons took place from Manchester City FC’s Etihad Stadium, thanks to Derek Partridge and assistance from local fanciers.
A group of 80 disabled & non-disabled children from Manchester were tasked with the honour of releasing the birds. One of the pigeons set off on a 170 mile journey to London to deliver a message of good luck to Team GB. As it reached for the skies, each child waved a flag representing a participating nation from this year’s Olympics.
Helping the children release the pigeons were guards from the British Army’s Mercian Regiment, who have recently returned from a tour of Afghanistan. The soldiers held a special mini Olympics for the children before helping them release the birds.
See footage of the event below, courtesy of Andy Wilkinson.
Pigeons have played a symbolic role in Olympic ceremonies since the ancient Greeks held the first games in Athens between 776 BC and 393. At the end of each Olympic Games – which were held every four years – homing pigeons were sent to the villages to announce the winners. Villagers were then able to welcome home their heroes with olive branches and celebrations.
When the Olympic Games were reinstated into the modern era more than 1,500 years later, in Athens in 1896, so too were homing pigeons. Symbolically released at the opening and closing ceremonies, pigeons have been as much a part of the modern Olympics as they were in ancient times. Footage of the release at Wembley Stadium to open the 1948 Olympic Games can be seen here.