David, Lord Burghley

Biographical information

RolesCompeted in Olympic Games • Other • Administrator
Full nameDavid George Brownlow Cecil•Burghley
Used nameDavid, Lord•Burghley
Born9 February 1905 in Stamford, England (GBR)
Died22 October 1981 in Stamford, England (GBR)
Measurements180 cm / 70 kg
AffiliationsUniversity of Cambridge, Cambridge (GBR) / Achilles Club, (GBR) / L.A.C., London (GBR)
Title(s)Became the 6th Marquess of Exeter in 1956
NOC Great Britain
Medals OG
Gold 1
Silver 1
Bronze 0
Total 2


After schooling at Eton and Le Rosey, Switzerland, Lord Burghley went up to Magdalene College, Cambridge, and although he failed to win a blue in his freshman year he competed in the 110 metre hurdles at the 1924 Olympics as a 19-year-old. Burghley was Britain’s leading all-round hurdler and was also an outstanding relay runner on the flat. At one time, he was the British record holder in all three hurdle events and the 4×400 metre relay. In the high hurdles he was the first Britain to break the 15-seconds barrier, won three AAA titles, competed in three Olympic Games and was a gold medalist at the 1930 Empire Games. In the 1930 British Empire Games 120 yard hurdles he won the gold medal. As a 220 yard hurdler he twice set a British record and his 1927 time of 24.7 seconds was not beaten until 1950. He was at his best in the 400 yard/400 metre hurdles winning an Olympic gold medal in 1928, setting one world and seven British records and winning five AAA titles and the gold medal at the 1930 Empire Games. He also won a relay gold medal at the Empire Games (with Roger Leigh-Wood and the non-Olympians Stuart Townend and Kenneth Brangwin) but his finest performance in this event came in the 1932 Olympic Games when he contributed a 46.7 second stage on the British team which won the silver medals with a new European record of 3:11.2 seconds. Earlier in the Games, Burghley had finished fifth in the 110 metre hurdles and fourth in the 400 metre hurdles with his fast ever time of 52.2 seconds.

Burghley’s one world record came at the 1927 AAA Championships where he ran 54.2 seconds for the 440 yards hurdles, and although the record was reduced to 52.6 seconds on the same day by the American Johnny Gibson in Nebraska, Burghley’s performance was accomplished first in absolute time and his name was added to the roll of world record holders. Burghley and Gibson had, in fact, met earlier in the year at Penn Relays with the American winning by half a yard. Later it was found that Gibson was ineligible to compete in this particular collegiate race and Burghley was declared the winner.

Burghley entered Parliament in 1931 as a member for the Peterborough and in 1943, on his appointment as the Governor for Bermuda, he resigned from the House. He also gave many years distinguished service to the Olympic movement and to the sport of track & field. In 1933, at the age of 28, he became a member of the International Olympic Committee and in 1936 he was elected President of the Amateur Athletic Association and Chairman of the British Olympic Association. Ten years later he became President of the International amateur Athletic Federation and in 1948 he served as Chairman of the Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games. He failed in a bid for the IOC presidency in 1952 and 1964, but from 1952 to 1966 he served as Vice-President of the IOC.

In 1929 he married Lady Maria Theresa Montague-Douglas-Scott, the daughter of the Duke of Buccleuch, and after their marriage dissolved in 1946 he married Mrs. Diana Forbes. In 1956, on the death of his father, Lord Burghley became the 6th Marquess of Exeter.

Personal Bests: 400 – 49.7e (1929); 880y – 1:57.8 (1927); 120yH – 14.5 (1930); 220yH – 24.3e (1930); 400H – 52.01 (1932).


Games Discipline (Sport) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1924 Summer Olympics Athletics GBR David, Lord Burghley
110 metres Hurdles, Men (Olympic) 3 h8 r1/3
1928 Summer Olympics Athletics GBR David, Lord Burghley
110 metres Hurdles, Men (Olympic) 3 h2 r2/3
400 metres Hurdles, Men (Olympic) 1 Gold
1932 Summer Olympics Athletics GBR David, Lord Burghley
110 metres Hurdles, Men (Olympic) 5
400 metres Hurdles, Men (Olympic) 4
4 × 100 metres Relay, Men (Olympic) Great Britain DNS
4 × 400 metres Relay, Men (Olympic) Great Britain 2 Silver

Organization roles

Role Organization Tenure NOC As
Chairman Organising Committee for the XIV Olympiad GBR David, Lord Burghley
Member International Olympic Committee 1933—1981 GBR David, Lord Burghley
Chairman British Olympic Association 1936—1966 GBR David, Lord Burghley
President World Athletics 1946—1976 GBR David, Lord Burghley
Executive Board Member International Olympic Committee 1951—1955 GBR David, Lord Burghley
1st Vice-President International Olympic Committee 1955—1966 GBR David, Lord Burghley
President British Olympic Association 1966—1977 GBR David, Lord Burghley
Executive Board Member International Olympic Committee 1966—1970 GBR David, Lord Burghley

Other participations

Games Role NOC As
1932 Summer Olympics Flagbearer at the Opening Ceremony GBR David, Lord Burghley

Special Notes