Tributes to Roger Bannister, who has died at age 88

BIRMINGHAM, England — The world of athletics stopped to watch Roger Bannister run as a black-and-white video was shown on a giant screen at the world indoor athletics championships on Sunday.

Bannister, the first runner to break the 4-minute barrier in the mile, died peacefully in Oxford on Saturday at the age of 88.

The video at Arena Birmingham was followed by a photo montage of Bannister through the years, with a voiceover paying tribute to his “achievements and legendary kindness which transcended sport and inspired generations of athletes.”

IAAF President Sebastian Coe and other dignitaries watched from the track in Birmingham as the final photo of Bannister carrying the Olympic torch in 2012 was met with a standing ovation from the packed arena.

Tributes to Bannister have included the following:


IAAF President Sebastian Coe:

“The world’s best runners had been attempting the 4-minute barrier for a quarter of a century. It was as much of a psychological barrier as it was a physical barrier. Bannister’s assault allowed mankind to enter a world filled with new possibilities. His achievement transcended sport, let alone athletics. It was a moment in history that lifted the heart of a nation and boosted morale in a world that was still at a low ebb after the war.”


British Prime Minister Theresa May:

“Sir Roger Bannister was a great British sporting icon whose achievements were an inspiration to us all. He will be greatly missed.”


Women’s marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe:

“Saddened to hear the news that we have lost one of the true pioneers, trailblazers and iconic inspirations of our sport. Sir Roger Bannister showed that barriers are there to be broken and there are no limits.”


Olympic and world champion long-distance runner Mo Farah:

“I met him several times throughout my career and he was always humble, supportive and encouraging. He was an inspiration to so many.”


Commonwealth Games Federation President Louise Martin:

“Sir Roger, quite literally, set the pace for all sportsmen and women worldwide … 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.


Former mile world record holder Steve Cram:

“There was this pioneering spirit around him and Roger was a great athlete … What he did do, he left this massive, massive legacy. The first person you’re taught to look up to is Roger Bannister.”


Mayor of London Sadiq Khan:

“Sir Roger Bannister was more than simply one of the greatest athletes of all time — by breaking the 4-minute mile he redefined what was thought impossible, and inspired the world. He leaves an incredible legacy.”

Daniella Matar, The Associated Press

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