Sunday, July 29, 2007

In remembrance of sporting times past

Today has been something of an ultimate Sunday. The sun has shone for what seems like the first time in weeks, enabling our little family to enjoy some much-needed quality time together in the garden, while today's Observer Sport Monthly has been an absolute delight to read. It was editor Jason Cowley's last issue and a strong vein of nostalgia for golden summers of sport long gone ran through the whole edition.

The first thing to catch my eye was a magisterial piece of writing by Tim Pears on Lasse Viren, one of my childhood sporting heroes on account of his heroic performances in the Munich and Montreal Olympics. Pears correctly identified the 1976 5000m final in Montreal as the greatest distance race of all-time, and his vivid account of it - and the way Viren held off possibly the most talented field ever assembled to defend his title - had me purring with joy.

There was also a rather obvious but nevertheless enjoyable comparison of this year's rain-drenched sporting summer with its rather more memorable counterpart of thirty years ago - the year Liverpool won the European Cup for the first time, Virginia Wade improbably triumphed at Wimbledon, Tom Watson overcame Jack Nicklaus in the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry, and best of all, Geoffrey Boycott returned to Test cricket to score his 100th hundred against the Australians at Headingley.

In between the two, rather pointedly, was a savage appraisal of the current state of English football and why the relentless takeover by foreign tycoons could only happen here. I don't often blog in praise of the mainstream media, but then again, I rarely find so much in a Sunday paper to keep me happy for several relaxing hours as I did today.

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Lord Straf-Bollinger said...

Two matters

1 Great memories here, Paul.

2 Naturally you're in my Top 20.

skipper said...

Problem was with Viren, if I remember correctly, was that he was a blood changer, like those cyclists banned from the Tour.

Paul Linford said...

I didn't believe it then Bill and I don't know. He was specifically asked about in the Observer piece though.

skipper said...

I thought it was well established. There were also rumours, more recently, re the same blood change stunt regarding a very distinguished British athlete indeed in the Moscow Olympics. The argument in defence was that in these days it was not seen as such a crime, if at all.

Paul Linford said...

It can hardly be said to be well-established when it has been consistently denied by Viren.

Basically, the rumour only emerged in the first place because Viren disappeared without trace between the 1972 and 1976 Olympics and then came back to win both gold medals again, but I think he was just deliberately lying low and saving his energies for the big one. The US discus thrower and four-times gold medallist Al Oerter is another example of an athlete who did this.