The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) is deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Sir Roger Bannister at the age of 88 at his home in Oxfordshire, England.
Mr. Bannister was the first athlete to run a sub-four minute mile – in three minutes, 59.4 seconds at Iffley Road sports ground in Oxford on May 6, 1954 – an event that went down in international athletics history. His record was all the more remarkable as it followed minimal training, and was whilst he was practising as a junior doctor.
Bannister’s name will forever be synonymous with the Commonwealth and Commonwealth Sport, as, later in the summer of 1954 at the V British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, Canada, he competed against John Landy in what became known as “The Miracle Mile”. It was the first time that Bannister and Landy – at that time the only two sub-four minute runners in the world – had faced each other, and was also the first time two runners broke four minutes in the same race. Bannister defeated his Australian rival on the last bend in a race that would go down in Commonwealth sport folklore, in a time of three minutes, 58.8 seconds.
“The Commonwealth is a movement brimming with tales and stories of human feat and endeavour, and there is no greater Commonwealth sporting story than that of Sir Roger Bannister,” said CGF President, Louise Martin CBE. “Roger was a true ‘giant’ of Commonwealth sport and an icon of international athletics.
“I am deeply saddened by the news of his passing, as will be my colleagues and partners from across the Commonwealth Games Federation and indeed the Commonwealth, a family with which he will forever be synonymous and inextricably linked,” added Martin. “Sir Roger, quite literally, set the pace for all sportsmen and women worldwide, and in this truly Commonwealth Year, he will be greatly missed by his peers, friends and the entire athletics community. He was a true gentleman, and an inspiration to us all, young and old. On behalf of the Commonwealth Games Federation, and the Commonwealth sport community, my deepest thoughts and sympathies go out to his family at this time. As we gather at the XXI Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, Australia, in just 30 days’ time, his presence will be greatly missed,” added Martin.
Following his career on the track, Bannister became a consultant physician, going on to become a leading neurologist, and later the Master of Pembroke College, Oxford. In 1971, he became the first chairman of the Sports Council and, during his time at the Council, he led the way for drug-testing in athletics. He became a Knight of the Realm in 1975 and was made a Companion of Honour in the 2017 New Year’s Honours.