What is it about sport that produces such emotional scenes as Andy Murray's cry fest on the Centre Court at Wimbledon after losing the men's singles final to Roger Federer just past?
The collective feeling of empathy for the young Scot was palpable among the 15,000 spectators in attendance, who throughout the match willed him on as if their fortune were inextricably linked to his.
In fact, untold thousands throughout the country have lived vicariously through Murray for the two weeks of Wimbledon, glued to their television sets as Britain's best men's tennis player in many a decade battled his way to his first Wimbledon final. No matter that at 25 the Scot is already worth a cool 24 million quid and that many of those watching were probably struggling to afford the annual TV License. For people of every background Andy Murray was their hero, who for two short weeks gave them something to believe in, providing a brief escape from the reality in the process.
It is this unrivalled power to unite which gives sport its mass spectator appeal. The day after losing the men's single final, topping it off with emotional scenes that gripped the nation's heart, every mainstream newspaper vied to laud Murray, plastering pictures of him in tears across both their front and back pages.
With the nation plunged into the deepest economic crisis since the 1930s, with more and more revelations of endemic corruption on the part of society's economic and political elite, you might think that we would have more important things to get emotional about than a tennis tournament. But, no, it appears the combination of momentary escape, diversion, and the pure honest endeavour of an elite multimillionaire sportsman exerts a far greater pull on our heart strings than a welter of moral platitudes by politicians, the very people charged with the responsibility of getting us out of this mess.
Psychologists have long understood the power of mass spectator sport to produce a temporary palliative and unite people around something considered noble and honest in ignorable and dishonest times. The justice inherent in two individuals or teams competing on equal terms under equal conditions for a prize taps into a sense of egalitarianism that resides within all of us. It helps us makes sense of the world, ushering in a semblance of order out of the chaos that is the reality for an increasing number.
Politicians, dictators and emperors as far back as Antiquity have known this all too well, which is why they have and continue to exert themselves in jumping on the bandwagon of major sporting events. From the Romans came the phrase 'bread and circuses' as a way to satisfy an otherwise restive population with grand spectacles in the form of gladiatorial games and food. This enabled the greed and corruption of the elite to go unchecked.
The 1936 Olympic Games organized by the Nazis gave Hitler a platform from which to further exalt his notion of the racial superiority of the Aryan race. Indeed, it was at the 1936 games that the concept of the Olympic torch relay was introduced, one titbit of sporting trivia that the organisers of the 2012 Games won't be sharing as the Olympic torch currently wends its way towards London through England's green and pleasant land.
At Centre Court for the men's singles final we had the usual array of politicians and royals in attendance. They know the PR value of being see to be associated with the Herculean efforts of the nation's sporting heroes. In the case of Andy Murray, a Scot, it was hard to escape the subtext contained in the attendance of prime minister David Cameron and Scotland's first minister Alex Salmond, each clearly hoping to extract as much political capital from Murray's success with a referendum on Scottish independence looming. Indeed, the government even went so far as to raise the Scottish Saltire above Downing Street for the occasion, hoping to burnish its pro-Scotland credentials for the day.
As the comedian Bob Monkhouse once said, 'If you can fake sincerity the rest is easy'.
As for those rich mummies otherwise known as the royals, their attendance, as it is at ever major sporting or cultural event, is designed to exude an aura of calm and stability, even while the majority of us are being fleeced by the banks, the government, and experiencing our lives collapsing around us.
Anyone who tries to maintain that politics has no place in sport is delusional. Sport is indisputably political and always has been. The upcoming Olympic Games in London will be an opportunity for the government, politicians, multinational corporations, and the establishment in general to bask in the reflected glory of Britain's top athletes. Does anybody really think they're going to let it pass?
This is why it is my greatest hope that the Olympic Games in London are a disaster. I want to see torrential rain for the duration, gale force winds, and controversy leaving their mark. I want to see the Olympic flame go out, David Beckham and Seb Coe struck down with flu, and Britain come bottom of the all important medals table.
The Olympics are nothing more than an exercise in national propaganda on the part of the nation's so-called elite, and anything which discredits them and their interests is fine by me.
As for the athletes, let's hope we see at least one with the courage of a John Carlos or Tommie Smith, who during the 1968 Games in Mexico used the medals ceremony to register a protest against injustice which travelled around the world and has inspired and endured since.
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