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'To sprint, swim:' UK poet celebrates Olympics

Plenty is being written about the London Olympics and it's not always poetry.

Today it was.

Carol Ann Duffy, Britain's Poet Laureate, celebrated the 2012 Olympic Games on Thursday with verses recalling the remarkable history of a boys' athletic club in London's gritty East End.

She gave a first reading of the poem, "Eton Manor," at the Eton Manor Rugby Football Club, near the wheelchair tennis and swimming training venues for the Olympic and Paralympic games.

The poem recalled the Eton Manor Boys' Club, founded in 1909 by four alumni of the elite Eton College to promote sports for boys in the working-class Hackney Wick neighborhood.

She writes that the training at the club "translated poverty to self-esteem, / camaraderie, and optimism similed in smiles."

"This is legacy -

young lives respected, cherished, valued, helped

to sprint, swim, bowl, box, play, excel, belong;

believe community is self in multitude —

the way past still dedicates to us

its distant, present light."

The club, which closed in 1967, produced Olympic double-gold medallist Harry Malin, who won the middleweight boxing class in 1920 and 1924, and 1956 welterweight bronze medal winner Nicky Gargano.

It was founded in a wave of late Victorian social activism. Duffy's poem mentions the founders: Gerald Wellesley, Arthur Villiers, Edward Cadogan and Alfred Wagg.

Villiers, a banker and son of the Earl of Jersey, died in 1969 but is remembered as a social activist who financed the club, bought 30 acres (12 hectares) of land for the sports ground and built apartments for locals. He also bought the running track from the 1948 London Games and moved it to Hackney Wick.

Artist Stephen Raw will set the poem's text in brass letters in a permanent installation at the site.