Monday, 9 April 2012
There's nothing new about sporting events being disrupted. Frequently these interruptions have taken the form of a mass invasion because the crowd objected to the way things were going, betting or team loyalty being the usual motivation. Sometimes the authorities have been the culprit. Jack Johnson toyed with Tommy Burns for fourteen rounds on his way to becoming the first black heavyweight champion and was closing in for the knockout when the police stopped the fight and ordered the film cameras to be switched off lest the world witness the humiliation of a white champion by the peerless Johnson. From Emily Wilding Davison throwing herself under the King's horse at the 1913 Derby to the Stop The Tour anti-apartheid action in 1970 there is also a long and honourable tradition of sporting events being disrupted for political reasons. So where does the undeniably elite ant-elitist Trenton Oldfield fit into all of this? Before people leap to condemn Oldfield they might do well to cast their minds back to those anti-apartheid actions of the seventies. At the time there was no shortage of cricket and rugby fans who thought that sport should be in some way "above" political protest. Some would have liked to do real harm to the protesters. Few today would be prepared to stand up and say that Peter Hain and comrades were not doing the right thing.
Personally, I like the Boat Race. Tideway rowing with it's combination of physical fitness and watermanship has always interested me. What's more, like many Londoners I've had a few good piss ups at the Boat Race. It may be favoured by my class enemies but so are a lot of other things that I enjoy. As for Trenton well, apart from being lucky to be alive, by this time next week he will probably be as forgotten as the Pasty Tax. One thing is for sure, and much as I enjoy the Boat Race - nothing is sacrosanct.