The Miracle Mile

Stories of the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games

Jason Beck

A   B C   B E S T S E L L E R

The 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver changed both the city and world sport forever. The Games will always be remembered for the “Miracle Mile,” the much-anticipated showdown between the first two men to break the four-minute barrier, England’s Roger Bannister and Australia’s John Landy. But as the press focused the world’s attention on Vancouver, and Bannister outpaced Landy in the stretch, fate found an even more dramatic story that seared itself into the memories of all who saw it. England’s Jim Peters, the world-record holder in the marathon, entered Empire Stadium at the end of a brutal twenty-six-mile run, collapsing repeatedly before a medic stopped him two hundred yards from the finish line.

These two stories brought the Games to a stirring conclusion on its final day–Saturday, August 7, 1954–but there were many other extraordinary moments throughout the events. A group of novice UBC rowers pulled off the biggest upset in Games history on the Fraser Valley’s Vedder Canal. Australia’s Marjorie Jackson-Nelson, the fastest woman in history, blasted down the track one final time to remain undefeated in international competition, an unprecedented accomplishment before and since. Emmanuel Ifeajuna, a little-known high jumper from Nigeria, surprised the world when he won Africa’s first-ever international gold medal. He later masterminded a bloody coup that plunged his nation into devastating civil war. Every single day offered up unbelievable tales of glory and grief. As one 1954 billboard boldly proclaimed, the Games were “a week you’ll remember a lifetime!”

Jason reads 3 excerpts from The Miracle Mile (below)

“Miracle Mile is a marvelous journey into yesterday, crammed with tales of the people and events who put Vancouver on a world sports stage back when fields were grass and stadiums were dome-less. This isn’t a book, it’s a treasure chest.”
— Jim Taylor, Sports Biographer (Gretzky, Lenarduzzi, etc.)

“Growing up in east Vancouver and then playing with the Whitecaps, I have so many fantastic memories of Empire Stadium. Bannister and Landy were brought back for the final Whitecaps game at Empire in 1983 and it was a great thrill to be part of that.  Although I was born after the Miracle Mile, we all knew the story of that historic race. It’s a part of Vancouver and BC’s fabric, of who we are. For those who were lucky enough to attend in 1954, Jason Beck’s The Miracle Mile will bring all the excitement back and more.  For those, like me, who came after, this book is as good as being there in person.”
— Bob Lenarduzzi, President of Vancouver Whitecaps FC

“The 1954 British Empire games were a major turning point for sports in Canada, British Columbia and the growing city of Vancouver. And Jason Beck, through years of hard work and amazing research, has produced a fascinating book to fully cover the event and all that it entailed. Right from the bid to host the games through the years of preparation and construction, this book doesn’t leave out a thing. From the Empire Pool at UBC, the cycle track on East Broadway, the rowing course at the Vedder Canal and the building of Canada’s largest stadium, it is all there. But mostly it’s about people. The organizers, volunteers, officials and especially the athletes, which includes amazing details of the premier event-the “Miracle Mile” of Bannister and Landy and a Canadian who finished third. This is not a book to loan out. It’s a book that should be kept in the library of every sports fan interested in this memorable time.
— Jim Robson, Sports Broadcaster

“When Jason Beck initially approached me about his desire to research and write The Miracle Mile, I instantly encouraged him in every way possible. I had always admired his dedication over the years in his capacity as Curator and Facility Director at the BC Sports Hall of Fame and was aware of his deep desire to pursue his love for journalism. He has conquered that yearning in gold medal fashion with The Miracle Mile.
— Greg Douglas, “Dr. Sport”, Sports Reporter

Reading this book by Jason Beck is like rediscovering the joy of sport. Why? Because sport today is far removed from us, at best hidden behind a wall of glass at the rink and most often miles of fibre optic cable and cameras and switchers and commercial interruptions at home. These Games were live, with real people who you could meet and talk to. But they had real drama, and tragedy, and fun; all played out in the soon to be world class city of Vancouver. Created by some of the peoples who quite literally also created this city, the BEG was the biggest, the best and the most important ever at that time in our world. Jason Beck has somehow reached back through time to capture it in all it’s joyful glory, all for us, in printed word and faded black and white photos. I loved it.”
— Steve Podborski, Canadian former World Cup and Olympic Downhill Ski Racer

“Growing up in a sports-oriented family in Vancouver and later representing Canada internationally in rowing, I heard from my parents and grandparents about their experiences at the Games, trained at the facilities that were a legacy of the Games and learned first-hand how important the 1954 Games were not just for our city, but for BC and Canada too. Those Games were our earliest steps into the larger international sports world.  Jason Beck’s The Miracle Mile, chronicles how incredible those Games truly were. A collection of unforgettable stories of great athletes, coaches, and organizers from sport’s golden age that took place in our own backyard—this is an important book for Canadians, British Columbians, and Vancouverites showing the evolution of our community through our sports history.”
—Tricia Smith, four-time Olympian in rowing, winner of seven world championship medals as well as a gold medal at the 1986 Commonwealth Games

“Advice to would-be authors: do not commute by car; travel by train with notepad, pen, and a backpack of books, write four hours a day, and you may produce a book that is significant, compelling, for sure seminal, and maybe a masterpiece. ”
— Roger Robinson, Runner, Announcer, Writer