Rich Swingle, who was born and raised in the Medford area, helped develop a documentary about Olympic champion Eric Liddell with a production company in Hong Kong. The film will make its West Coast premiere Sunday, December 28, in Medford.
The four-time Academy Award winning film, Chariots of Fire, tells how Eric Liddell broke the world record in the 400m at the Paris Olympics in 1924. Olympic Hero in China: The Eric Liddell Story shows the bigger picture of his life: how he was born in China and returned there after Olympic glory to serve the Chinese people until his death in a Japanese internment camp during World War II.
Swingle has performed Beyond the Chariots, his one-man play about Liddell in New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Edinburgh, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and Medford. It was through his Hong Kong and Shanghai performances that Good News Communication, International discovered Swingle’s work. They hired him to write the initial draft of the documentary, which was then fine-tuned by a Chinese writer to target Asians more specifically.
China recognizes Liddell, who was born to Scottish parents, as the first person born in that nation to win an Olympic gold medal. In January 2007 the first Olympic insert in China Daily, the national Enlish language newspaper, led with an article on Liddell. His story was previously told through a documentary on their national television, CCTV. NBC also aired a brief documentary focused on Liddell’s connection to China during summer Olympic coverage.
The first release of Olympic Hero in China came in time for the Beijing Olympics, and narration was in Cantonese and Mandarin. When Swingle was in Hong Kong to perform his play during the Games he recorded the English narration, which will be shown on the 28th for the first time outside the New York City area. Swingle has lived in Manhattan since 1993.
A graduate of Phoenix High School, Swingle also connected the production team with people who knew Liddell. Numerous relatives and acquaintances of the athlete/missionary have now seen Beyond the Chariots. Swingle wrote questions for many of the interviews in the documentary and interviewed Mary Previte, the daughter of Hudson Taylor, a pioneer missionary to China. Previte lives near New York City and was interned with Liddell by the Japanese.
Her brother, Dr. Jim Hudson Taylor, III, was also interviewed regarding his memories of Liddell in the internment camp. A pre-war student of Liddell, an Olympic torch-bearer and daughters of Liddell are among those featured in the documentary, which was filmed in China, Hong Kong, Toronto, Scotland, England and New Jersey.
The greater vision for the project includes dramatizations in which Swingle will portray Liddell, but filming permits were not granted in the run up to the Olympics.
Olympic Hero in China will be shown at Medford Friends Church, which Swingle attended before enrolling at George Fox University. The single screening of the 45 minute film will be during the 9:30am service on Sunday, January 28.