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Pistol fired on Olympic honour campaign for Turing

Celebrated cryptographer was accomplished runner

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The campaigner who led a successful effort last year to secure a public apology for the UK government's mistreatment of Alan Turing is calling for recognition of the celebrated cryptographer during the 2012 London Olympics.

Turing's work as a code-breaker in Bletchley Park during the war and in establishing the foundations for computer science needs little introduction to Reg readers. What's less well known is that he was an accomplished marathon runner, with a best time of two hours 46 minutes. He came fifth in trials for the marathon before the 1948 London Olympics, narrowly missing out on selection for the event the last time Britain staged the Olympics.

June 23 2012 marks the centenary of Turing's birth, with events already scheduled in Manchester (where he worked after the war) and at Bletchley Park. John Graham-Cumming, who kick-started a campaign to secure a posthumous apology for Turing last year, is asking for recognition for the mathematician during the games.

He suggests that the 2012 marathon should be called "Turing marathon", with the great man's surviving nieces invited as honoured guests or even firing the starting pistol, in an opinion piece published in The Guardian on Wednesday.

"Of course, detractors may be concerned about sullying the games by associating an individual with an event," writes Graham-Cumming. "But such concerns didn't stop Greece in 2004 from naming their entire Olympic stadium after Spiridon Louis (who won the marathon event in 1896). Honouring the life of a man would be a welcome antidote to the heavy commercialisation surrounding the games."

"Others may worry about raking over the embers of the dark days of anti-homosexuality laws. But there's little need to be concerned: celebrating Turing doesn't mean focusing on just that one aspect of his life; it means recognising a mental and physical athlete, a mathematician and marathon runner, and a man to whom we owe so much. It's rare that events coincide to give us one moment in time when a man like Turing can be celebrated in all his complexity. Let's not miss the chance in 2012."

Turning was convicted of "gross indecency" over a homosexual relationship in 1952 and forced to agree to experimental chemical castration in order to avoid prison. The conviction also prevented Turing from exercising his intellect on classified government work. As a result of these twin indignities, Turing was struck down by depression and committed suicide two years later in 1954, aged just 41.

Graham-Cumming began a Downing Street petition last summer calling for a posthumous government apology. Gordon Brown responded to the petition with an apology and tribute to Turing last September. ®

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