The Spirit of the Game
In the last few days, I have fulfilled a long term ambition: to go to the Edinburgh Festival. It came about because I was asked to speak about my book, The Spirit of the Game, at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. My wife, Caroline, and I decided we would combine the trip with an extended stay in Edinburgh, taking in the shows and events of the Festival we had heard so much about.
The book festival discussion, of which I was a part, chaired wonderfully by Ruth Wishart, was illuminating. It showed how much the London 2012 Games have had an impact on the country. The most interesting moment was when a P. E. Teacher from Perthshire (I think I have the region right) said that funding for sport inhis school had been cut from £5,000 to £1,700. At the end of the meeting, a businessman in the crowd offered him a donation. To think that a discussion on sport can have such an impact is wonderfully uplifting.
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The Olympics – you can hardly miss them. They’re said to have cost more than government cuts in the welfare budget and with the rows over security, Zil lanes, empty seats and the ruthless protection of the Olympic brand it’s perhaps too easy to forget that the purpose of all this is the essentially trivial pursuit of sport. Have we come to demand so much from modern sport that we’ve forgotten its true purpose and value?
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Voice of Russia, London
In just over a fortnight, the greatest multi-sport spectacle of them all comes to London. The 2012 Olympics have been welcomed by the UK government not just as a celebration of sporting excellence but also as a way of regenerating East London, boosting the national economy, and rekindling the nation’s enthusiasm for sport. But even as the games draw closer, there has been a barrage of criticism.
They’re too commercial, critics say, with companies like MacDonald’s and Coca-Cola demanding preferential treatment for sponsoring London 2012.It will also be heavily militarized games, with 13 500 soldiers deployed, along with 40 000 private security guards.
And for many Londoners it will be games that disrupt their daily lives, with transport networks overloads and Olympic officials zooming past in special car lanes, like party officials in a banana republic.
Hywel Davies discusses the issues surrounding London 2012 with his guests: Mihir Bose, one of Britain’s most eminent sports writers and the author of “The Spirit of the Game — how sport made the modern world“; Professor Iain MacRury of the University of East London, the co-editor of the “Olympic Cities: 2012 and the Remaking of London“; John Goodbody, who will be covering London 2012 for the Sunday Times, the 12 successive games he’s reported on; Dr Jim Parry, chair of the British philosophy of Sport association and Professor of Philosohpy at Charles Univsersity in Prague.
Despite talk of reform, the Bahrain Grand Prix and the Beijing Olympics proved to be catalysts for rights abuses. Mihir Bose asks whether human rights should be a criterion for hosting coveted international sporting events
On the evening of 13 July 2001, as Beijing held a press conference in Moscow to celebrate securing the 2008 Olympics, they had an unexpected visitor: François Carrard, the Swiss lawyer who was executive director of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Normally on such occasions the IOC keeps its distance and lets the victorious city have its moment in the sun. But Carrard felt he had to address the media on the human rights issue.
In the lead-up to the vote, Beijing’s rivals, in particular Toronto and Paris, had made much of China’s human rights record. As the members gathered, some 50 protesters assembled outside chanting “Free Tibet”. The Russian police, some wearing riot gear, broke up the protest and six people were seen being taken away in a waiting bus after demonstrators tried to unfurl three banners on the Moscow River embankment, opposite the World Trade Centre where the IOC was meeting. There were reports of 12 arrests.
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English football likes to see itself as occupying a high moral plain. It also enjoys the praise sometimes lavished on the English game by footballers from more successful nations. At the beginning of the season Uwe Rosler, the former German international now managing Brentford, told me “In my four and a half years I learnt that English football is honest. In Germany sometimes you went down and tried to get a free kick. It was natural and we called it clever play. When I came to Manchester City I did it once or twice. The manager, Brian Horton, and the players came to me and said very clearly, ‘You do that not one more time’. There was a sense of justice in the group.”
Given that England, despite inventing the game, has won nothing since the 1966 World Cup this could be some solace. The fans can say: “We may not win, but we uphold the principles of fair play.” It also fits in with the general national attitude. Despite having had the greatest empire in the world, from which it derived vast benefits, this country – or at least its historians – likes to dwell on the benefits the empire brought to millions and how it was a moral force for the good. Both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan evoked such moral sentiments.
Other The Spirit of the Game tagged articles
- Does Sport Matter to Diplomacy? - May 30, 2012
- The Olympic torch sale: taking the magic out of sport - May 21, 2012
- Keys & Gray Radio Show - March 2, 2012
- Cafe Calcio IV: The Spirit Of The Game - February 25, 2012
- The Spirit of the Game – The Observer review - February 12, 2012
- The Spirit of the Game – The Telegraph review - February 8, 2012
- The Spirit of the Game – The Independent on Sunday review - February 5, 2012
- The big lie of sport - February 4, 2012
- The Spirit of the Game – The Spectator review - February 4, 2012
- The Spirit of the Game – Evening Standard review - February 2, 2012
- The World Today Weekend interview - January 29, 2012
- The Spirit of the Game – The Independent review - January 20, 2012
- The Week with George Galloway – interview - January 20, 2012
- Midori House interview - January 20, 2012
- Night Waves - January 19, 2012
- Robert Elms Show - January 19, 2012
- The Spirit of the Game – FT review - January 16, 2012
- Does sport still embody a notion of fair play and Corinthian spirit? - December 12, 2011