Guinness World Records - Officially Amazing

Sir Chris Chataway 1931-2014

 
 
 
 
 
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Guinness World Records is sad to hear of the passing of the athlete, journalist and politician Sir Chris Chataway, who died on Sunday at the age of 82. 

On top of setting the 5,000m world record in 1954, and famously acting as pacemaker for Sir Roger Bannister as he broke the four-minute mile barrier the same year, Sir Chris also played a key role in establishing The Guinness Book of Records.

Born in Chelsea, London in 1931, Chataway spent his childhood in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, as his father was a member of the Sudan Political Service.

Educated at Sherborne School in Dorset - where he excelled at rugby, boxing and gymnastics, following national service  he went on to study at Magdalen College, Oxford, where he gained a philosophy, politics and economics degree. However, his studies were largely overshadowed by his success on the athletics track as a long-distance runner.

Upon leaving university he took an executive job with Guinness as an under-brewer.

When owner Sir Hugh Beaver came up with the idea of compiling a book of superlatives to help settle pub arguments (and promote Guinness beer in other brewers' pubs), Sir Chris introduced him to his his old university friends Norris and Ross McWhirter, recommending them as editors for the new publication.

The twins met with Sir Hugh and were given the job on the spot, therefore meaning we have Chris to thank for getting Guinness World Records off the ground.

The highlight of his brief, five-year career in international athletics came in 1954 when he set a new 5,000m world record of 13 minutes 51.6 seconds at london’s White City, beating Russia's Vladimir Kuts by 0.1 secs - the man who he had finished second behind in the 5,000m European Championships final two weeks earlier.

The victory came five months after he made the pace for Sir Roger Bannister to become the first to run a sub-four minute mile.

It was these two feats that earned Sir Chris another place in the history books when he was named as the first-ever BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

Following his achievements on the track, Chataway gravitated towards broadcasting, splitting his time between his new interest and athletics.

In September 1955, he became the first newsreader on Independent Television, before finishing 11th in the 5,000m at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

Chataway later switched to the BBC, where for three and a half years he was one of current affairs show Panorama’s team of reporters.

From TV, he moved into the world of politics, working as a Conservative MP between 1959 and 1966 and rising to serve in positions as a Parliamentary Private Secretary and junior Education Minister. When Edward Heath formed a Tory government in 1970 he appointed Chataway as Minister for Posts and Telecommunications before being made Industry Minister in a reshuffle two years later.

Upon his retirement from politics in 1974, Sir Chris became managing director of the Orion Bank, before leaving in 1988 to work as chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority, a role which earned him a knighthood in 1995.

Sir Chris died at around 7am on Sunday at St John's Hospice in north west London, having suffered from cancer for two and a half years.

He is survived by his sons Mark, Matthew, Adam, Charles, Ben, his daughter Joanna, his wife Carola and his former wife Anna.

Paying tribute to his great friend, Sir Roger Bannister told BBC Sport: "He was gallant to the end,"

"Our friendship dated back over more than half a century.

"We laughed, ran and commiserated together. People will always remember him for the great runner he was, but it shouldn't be forgotten that he had an extremely distinguished career off the track.

"My family and I will miss him sorely and our thoughts go out to his family and many friends who were so fond of him."

Back in 2005, Sir Chris helped Guinness World Records celebrate its 50th anniversary. It is with a great deal of sadness that he won’t be able to join us when we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the company he in no small part helped to found.

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