Campaigner calls for 2012 Olympics to honour Alan Turing

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The man who started the campaign for an official apology to Alan Turing is calling for the 2012 Olympics to recognise the gay mathematician’s achievements.

Computer programmer John Graham-Cumming says that Turing was not only a mathematical genius but was also an accomplished athlete.

Turing received a posthumous apology from prime minister Gordon Brown in September. He was convicted of homosexuality offences in the 1950s and killed himself after being punished with chemical castration and being barred from his work.

Writing for the Guardian’s Comment Is Free website, Mr Graham-Cumming suggested that the Olympic marathon could be renamed the “Turing marathon”.

He wrote: “As London shows off what’s great about Britain through the Olympic games, let’s show off a great Briton of whom we should be proud.”

Turing was credited with breaking Nazi codes at Bletchley Park during the second world war and laying down the foundations for modern computers.

Mr Graham-Cumming added that Turing tried out for the Olympic marathon team in 1948 when Britain last hosted the games. He came fifth in the trials, coming in at 11 minutes behind Thomas Richard’s silver medal time of two hours and 35 minutes, but did not make the team.

2012 will also be the centenary of Turing’s birth and a host of events are being planned across Britain by scientists and mathematicians.

Mr Graham-Cumming continued: “Of course, detractors may be concerned about sullying the games by associating an individual with an event. 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.”