Vive la Sport

Vive la Sport


One day they will make a documentary of the classical tragedy which was England’s attempt to win the rugby World Cup. It was written in the stars that this was our year. Nothing was spared in  preparation, in training, the money spent, the sponsors, no price was too expensive for tickets to see the chariot swing low. Hubris like a Zeppelin balloon was puffed up and up.

And then the sun came up and the day began. Oh dear.The coach is as Coriolanus  a man who refuses to show  normal emotion and give the people what they want,the plodders in the field who got worse as the tournament progressed, the appalling selection, the bad decisions and the  waste on almost a Soviet scale. The whole bake off was  like a gigantic soufflé which refused to rise to the occasion. This was not even lions led by donkeys but donkeys led by mice.

Coach, Lancaster shows that he not built in the classical mould by refusing to go down on his sword and ludicrously stating “I have worked hard to get the team where it is.” Exactly.

The whole experience was like some space rocket which exploded on take off. The whole nation gathered to watch and cheer, bought the shirt,sat,watched and turned away in embarrassment. Another chapter in England’s decline and fall?

But elsewhere life goes on. The men who made the great documentaries on Senna and Amy have now come up with another winner Palio. The 800 year horse race which is held round the tight city square in Siena. The jockeys fight,they bribe each other, they cheat, they lie, they look beautiful. There is the old champ and the young pretender. When asked about the money changing hands between the jockeys the old champ is full of winks, twinkle and eyebrows. The pretender is as beautiful as his sister.

Behind them are the   eight city wards (contretrades) of Siena each with their own colours, songs, churches, tradition and passion. This is the land of opera,the land of the rousing song, the land of tears and laughter. Italy. This is not sport as a serious event but as a passion. Una  passionnne. Its not over till the fat jockey falls.

In Britain when we reform a church we  stable our horses in cathedrals to show that change is afoot. In Siena before the Palio the horses are taken into the Cathedral to be blessed. Its as if Manchester City entered a horse into the Grand National. And as with football teams each borough has a well heeled businessman who spreads the cash. Everything it seems is up for sale. The jockeys, the horses, the position at the start, the starter. This is not corruption, this is how things are done.

Hey this is Italia, que cause, basta, and then there is the 90 second race. Bareback they ride. Fighting and slashing as they go. Just watch it ,its thrilling. More fun in 90 seconds than in 90 hours of watching England’s rugby team!

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2 Responses to Vive la Sport

  1. Johan Vivian VAN DIJK says:

    The press and media enjoy building them up; the public buy into the BS written about them; the promo ads and money spin the yarn and raise expectations and then… the supposed idols fail. Then the recriminations and the hubris begin. I stopped buying into it all long ago. Better, to write very little but this sells no newspapers so the merry go round continues.
    It’s a crock…
    The real ‘sport’ is elsewhere, in any case. Whose reputation, be they dead or alive, can we trash and be unapologetic for when the truth is demonstrably proven but doesn’t fit the story you want to tell…?

  2. Gary Rees says:

    “The earliest recorded Palio race took place in 1310, and the horses raced through the streets of the town instead of around a track. Local authorities soon discovered the danger for townspeople in such a set-up, and by the 17th century, the race had been moved to a makeshift ring around the town square”.
    Nice to see how responsive the City Fathers were to the inherent risks to spectators…

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