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If you haven’t caught Olympic fever yet, you can swiftly infect yourself by grabbing some popcorn and settling in for a screening of the 1981 Oscar-winning Best Picture film, Chariots of Fire.

Starting today, 20th Century Fox and the British Film Institute are re-releasing the film on more than 100 screens across the UK  about the same time as its newly released on Blu-ray there and in North America. Visitors to London can also watch a theatrical version at the Gielgud Theatre in the West End through October (though performances are selling out). But it’s been three decades since crowds in the UK have been able to watch the film in theatres, and the timing has never been better.   

If the famous slo-mo opening of the runners on the beach (filmed in St Andrews in Scotland, by the way) or the synthesised Vangelis theme doesn’t swell your chest with Olympic pride and yearning, perhaps the story will. Based on the true tale of Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams, two runners racing for Great Britain in the 1924 Olympics in Paris, the film pits these teammates as rivals. Yet the movie is more than a sports story about winning and losing. Abrahams is an English Jew who is motivated to win in order to counter anti-Semitic criticisms of athletic inferiority as much as to feed his own ego. Liddell is a Scottish Christian who runs in ecstasy for the glory of God. The beautiful, funny and riveting film is about honour, integrity and ambition -- the drama that underlies all the Games and makes the Olympics (and the film) worth watching again and again.

If you’re in London to see the Olympics, you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to see another rare event  -- the screening of the greatest movie ever made about the Games.

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