London: Thursday 9th August 2012
Regular readers might have noticed that my previous posts have been relatively free of Sports coverage or commentary. This was a conscious decision. Sport has a tendency, in the opinion of Crabbitat, to hold such a powerful hold on our collective consciousness that it clouds our sane judgement on other things, especially, considering its general irrelevance to almost everything else. Moreover, while there is a lot of sentimental guff written about sporting occasions articulating an idea that it is a festival of coming together, my own experience leads me to contend that on the contrary it is a vehicle for narrow nationalism as often has it is a force for rapprochement.
In my own lifetime, the Olympic Games in Moscow, Los Angeles, Beijing and London have seen, either boycotts by leading nations representing competing ideologies or inflated importance given to the medal table between the US and China. The fact that politics and nationalism is important in Sport is a matter of great frustration to Crabbitat. I cannot deny the importance of the US’s defeat of the Soviet Ice Hockey Team (an event that was portrayed as a triumph of one ideology over another and defined reactions to it in both countries), but similarly, I can think of no logical way in which Ice Hockey or any other sport can justifiably be considered evidence of anything more substantial than evidence of one teams ability to play the game better than another team. In other words, petty nationalism thrives in sports arenas because the sport generally, is a grotesque and simplistic parody of human interaction and politics. Petty nationalism spreads in these environs because the bright uniforms and inflated emotions paint a good versus evil version of politics which is absent from real life.
In my next post I intend to look at this in more detail. I am particularly exercised by the way that Syria generally and the Battle for Aleppo in particular have disappeared from the News media in the wake of wall to wall coverage of the Olympic Games. How can the latter possibly be deemed more important??
But before, I do, having been in the UK for the last week, it is impossible not to note something which has been personally gratifying and, I hope, ultimately rewarding. During the last week, two famous Scottish Gold Medal Winners have publicly wept during the National Anthem; God Save The Queen.
It is common to see grown men cry at sporting events. Watch the annual Scotland Vs England rugby match and you will see some of the most overgrown and testosterone filled specimens in Europe crying like toddlers at the opening bars of Flower of Scotland.
Yet, (I suspect wrongly), a perception has grown up in the last decade that Scots do not care to be British; that at best, it is a marriage of convenience to them. This perception is characterised by an idea that somehow, a person has an emotional relationship with Scotland or England but that the relationship one has with Britain is somehow one of reason and enlightenment, a cold-hearted decision, easily broken.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Walking around London, this week was at times painful, with endless tourists and diversions to allow for marathons or cycling events, but it was also beautiful to see the crowds watching the games next to tower bridge or to see Londoners relaxing over Pimm’s and Lemonade on the Rooftop Garden of the National Theatre. Everywhere you go in London from the majestic Palace of Westminster to the narrow sticky streets clogged with idiosyncrasy and traffic, London enchants you with its uncommon mix of intimate and grandiose. I love it and yet also feel uncommon frustration at it.
I love Edinburgh too, and Cardiff, for that matter. But to suppose that one of these places takes primacy in my affections is nonsense. They are all British cities with charm and vitality and the capacity to bring out love in my heart.
And so, while I must be honest and say that could not care less who won the Gold Medal at the mens singles tennis or the Cycling, the fact that Sir Chris Hoy and Andy Murray were seen by Britons from all four corners of our country to be weeping with relief and pride at our National Anthem was gratifying. For it reminds the English and the Scots that whatever the machinations of the Scottish National Party, most people from Britain feel strongly about our country, and its future, and view London as our capital, a city of beauty and glories to rival any city on earth.
There will of course, by Englishmen who will read this and point out that we Scots have other manifest failings in our attitude to Union, that the democratic settlement is unfairly weighted in our favour, or that there remain many Scots who delight in English defeat on the sports field. Others may point out that as most of the Scottish sportsmen would have received neither the funding, nor the opportunity to compete to such a high standard were it not for the pulled resources of the whole United kingdom, their tears and pride are the least that can be expected when their success has essentially been subsidised.
You are not wrong. But at least this week, you have seen the tears of the silent majority, crying for a Britain, whose existence makes us all stronger.