Eric Liddell, the champion British runner who later became a missionary, has been honoured in China with a statue of him erected in the city of Tianjin.

Liddell, whose story was depicted in the film Chariots of Fire, set a new world record and won gold in the 400 metre race at the 1924 Paris Olympics after refusing to run in the event he had trained for - the 100 metres - because his Christian faith meant he could not run in an event held on a Sunday.

The unveiling of the statue was attended by actor Joseph Fiennes, who will play Liddell in an upcoming movie, The Last Race, which focuses on the last half of Liddell's life when he had retired from sport and moved to live in China as a missionary. After his wife and children fled the country for Canada in 1941 as the Japanese invaded, he was imprisoned in a Japanese internment camp.

Winston Churchill apparently arranged for Liddell, who was born in China and then educated in England before competing in the Olympics and subsequently returning to China, to be released but he gave his pass to a pregnant woman also being held in the camp. Liddell died in the camp in February, 1941, of a brain tumour.

The statue is located on the site of the former internment camp, south of the city of Tianjin, where Liddell was held. Some of the camp survivors and Liddell's daughters were present at the unveiling.

Patricia Liddell-Russell told The Times newspaper she found it "extraordinary" the Chinese had raised a statue of her father, commenting that "the Chinese don't really raise statues, maybe just for Mao Zedong."

"My father was multi-faceted, he didn't just appeal to religious people. He was born in China, he worked in China, he died in China. He's their Olympic hero," she said. On his official website it states: "At the core of his life Eric believed that God was his saviour, friend and companion and that everything he did should give God pleasure. As a runner he was the fastest and had achieved the highest glory, and as a Christian he found that his greatest strength came from God."