Sport

The Duke of Edinburgh and Sport

His Royal Highness took an enthusiastic part in many different activities and played an influential part in the administration of many others in the role of President or Patron.

While a pupil at Gordonstoun School in Morayshire, Prince Philip was captain of the hockey and cricket teams and learned to sail a variety of boats.   During the 1950s he often played in charity cricket matches in aid of the National Playing Fields Association, of which he became President in 1948.   In 1950 he became Patron – or Twelfth Man – of the Lord’s Taverners, a cricketing charity which helps young disadvantaged and disabled people through sport. Unusually, he was elected twice to be President of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).

During the first six months of 1949 Prince Philip worked at the offices of the National Playing Fields Association in London “as, in effect, a whole-time Director-General” and, before leaving to take up his appointment in HMS Chequers, he produced a report on his proposed reorganisation of the Association.   In his absence in the Mediterranean, he was kept informed by regular reports.   Prince Philip remained President of the NPFA (now Fields in Trust) until handing over to The Duke of Cambridge in 2013. In 1951 the Variety Club of Great Britain held a Gala Midnight Matinee at the London Coliseum to raise funds for the Association. Princess Elizabeth was present with Prince Philip and the all-star Anglo-American cast included Noel Coward, Orson Welles and Frank Sinatra.

   

The Duke of Edinburgh was President of the British Amateur Athletic Board (now UK Athletics) for 59 years and the Commonwealth Games Federation between 1955 and 1990. During this time he attended many international events and most Commonwealth Games.

The Duke of Edinburgh also attended seven Olympics entering fully into the spirit of the Games.  He started the Road Cycle Race in Windsor Great Park in 1948. He opened the Melbourne Games in 1956, during which his Dragon yacht “Bluebottle”, crewed by Lieutenant-Commander Graham Mann, RN, won the bronze medal. 

His Royal Highness was elected President in 1964 and served in this office until 1986 when he handed over to The Princess Royal. In this capacity he was responsible for the organisation of all equestrian sporting events at the Olympic Games held in Mexico City (1968), Munich (1972), Montreal (1976), Moscow (1980) and Los Angeles (1984). He also inspected in 1985 the preparations for Seoul (1988). At the Olympic Congress in Varna in 1973 he spoke of the importance of good relations and understanding between the IOC and the leaders of the constituent sports.

As President of the Central Council of Physical Recreation (now Sport and Recreation Alliance), Prince Philip was instrumental in saving it from extinction when in June, 1971 the government decided to wind up the CCPR and set up a new Sports Council.   In an impassioned speech at the Annual General Meeting in November, 1971 he opposed disbanding the CCPR and made the case for the continuing existence of the Council where the representatives of over 220 different sports could make their views known through its membership.

As President of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) between 1964 and 1986, he oversaw the arrangements for the equestrian events at five Olympic Games between 1968 and 1984. He re-wrote the competition rules in many different disciplines and, using his own experience of carriage driving, formulated the rules of that sport.

Prince Philip had a deep love of sailing in boats ranging from the Royal yachts – the Dragon Class “Bluebottle”, Flying Fifteen “Coweslip” and the Cruising Yawl “Bloodhound” - to catamarans and outrigger canoes.   He regularly attended Cowes Regatta.

His Royal Highness rode horses from childhood and took up polo while stationed in Malta in 1949 with the encouragement of his uncle, Earl Mountbatten of Burma.  

He continued to play polo until he reached the age of 50 when he took up carriage driving.   He introduced polo at Smith’s Lawn, Windsor in 1955 when he founded the Household Brigade Polo Club (now the Guards Polo Club).   He competed in carriage driving events until 2003, although he continued to drive his team of Fell ponies around the Royal estates as well as judging and keeping time at carriage driving competitions.