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Medal record

Chris Chataway breaking the world record for the three miles on 30 July 1955
Competitor for  United Kingdom
Men's Athletics
Commonwealth Games
Gold Vancouver 1954 3 miles
European Championships
Silver Bern 1954 5,000 metres

Sir Christopher John Chataway (born 31 January 1931) is a British former athlete, television news broadcaster, and a Conservative politician.


Athletics career

Chataway attended Sherborne School before going up to Magdalen College, Oxford where his studies were overshadowed by his success on the athletics track as a long-distance runner. At the Helsinki Olympic Games of 1952, in the 5000 metres final, while leading three others around the last bend, Chataway's foot brushed the curb and he crashed headlong to the ground. Emil Zátopek, the first to react to Chataway's fall, burst to the front and won going away. Chataway managed to finish the race in fifth place. On leaving university he took an executive job with Guinness. When Sir Hugh Beaver of Guinness came up with the idea of the Guinness Book of Records, it was Chataway who suggested his old university friends Norris and Ross McWhirter as editors, knowing of their liking for facts.

Chataway continued with his running. When Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four minute mile, his close friend Chataway was one of his pacemakers. He finished in second place in the 5000 metres at the European Athletics Championship of 1954, 12.2 seconds behind the winner Vladimir Kuts, but two weeks later turned the tables at a London v. Moscow athletics competition at White City, setting a world record time of 13 minutes 51.6 seconds. The contest was televised via the Eurovision network and made Chataway a sporting celebrity; that December he won the first BBC Sports Personality of the Year award. After competing in the 1956 Olympics, Chataway retired from international athletics, though he continues to race for Thames Hare and Hounds up to this day.

Broadcasting and politics

He used his fame to make a drastic career move, signing up as a newscaster for ITN. He was the first face to be seen on the first news bulletin on the new channel. However, he did not stay long, transferring to the BBC in April 1956 to work in the current affairs department. By this time he was also considering another career, this time in politics. He had been narrowly elected as a Conservative to the London County Council in 1958 in Lewisham North, and was then selected to stand for Parliament in the same seat. Lewisham North was a highly marginal seat won by Labour in a by-election in 1957, but Chataway's charm helped to win the seat with a majority bigger than it had been in the previous general election.

His maiden speech expressed the hope that the England cricket team would refuse to play a tour in apartheid South Africa, a highly unusual opinion for a Conservative at this time which marked him out as an extremely progressive Tory. In Parliament, Chataway took up the issue of refugees, especially in Africa, and campaigned so hard during World Refugee Year that he was awarded a Nansen Medal. He served as a Parliamentary Private Secretary before being appointed as a junior Education Minister in July 1962. In the 1964 election, his majority was slashed to 343 and the seat looked distinctly vulnerable; in 1966 he lost.


Chataway then returned to London local government. After the Conservatives won control of the Greater London Council in 1967 he was elected as a County Alderman, and the Inner London Education Authority co-opted him, without election, as a member of the Education Committee, and made him Leader. This was an odd move; it was ordered by Edward Heath who wanted to block the right-wing councillor Seton Forbes-Cockell from taking the post.

With controversy over selection growing, Heath did not want Chataway and the ILEA to launch a confrontation with the Labour government, as Forbes-Cockell would have done. Chataway ran a consensual ILEA that did not attempt a root and branch change to the way education had been run. The London Borough council elections of 1968 increased his majority.

Heath government

However Chataway was eager to get back into Parliament, and the opportunity came in a byelection in Chichester in May 1969. He then resigned as ILEA Leader. His closeness to Edward Heath led to an appointment as Minister of Posts and Telecommunications in June 1970. In this post he took charge of introducing commercial radio for the first time, ending the BBC monopoly. After a reshuffle in April 1972 he was Minister for Industrial Development.

Business career

When the Conservatives were defeated in 1974, Chataway announced his retirement from politics (at the age of 43) and he did not seek re-election that October. He then went into business, becoming Managing Director of Orion Bank, and a Director of British Electric Traction Ltd. He was given some public appointments including the Chairmanship of the Civil Aviation Authority; he also remained active in support of African charities. He supported his friend Chris Brasher when he established the London Marathon, and has been President of the Commonwealth Games Council for England since 1990. He was Knighted in 1995.

In the 2005 general election his stepson Charles Walker was elected as Conservative MP for Broxbourne.


External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Niall MacDermot
Member of Parliament for Lewisham North
Succeeded by
Roland Moyle
Preceded by
Walter Loveys
Member of Parliament for Chichester
1969 – October 1974
Succeeded by
Anthony Nelson
Educational offices
New institution Leader of the Inner London Education Authority
1967 – 1969
Succeeded by
Lena Townsend


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