Category Archives: Media work

The Independent

The Independent has published my blog ‘In a league of its own: sport and human rights’. It appeared as Editor’s Choice in the Notebook section of the newspaper’s website. Join in the discussion here.

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Filed under Media work, Newspaper features

BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme

I’m going to be on the Today Programme on BBC Radio 4 on 19 April, discussing the history of sport and politics. I’m scheduled to be on sometime between 8.40 and 9.00. Then it’ll be straight from Broadcasting House to Lord’s, where I’m giving a keynote paper about the Olympic Games to the Sports Heritage Network‘s conference.

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Olympic history on BBC Radio 4’s Word of Mouth

Victorian circus master Pablo Fanque

On Tuesday 17 April, I’ll appear on BBC Radio 4’s language programme Word of Mouth. The show, presented by Chris Ledgard, is exploring the legal and linguistic issues surrounding the word ‘Olympic’, and I offer some thoughts on the word’s history. Before the International Olympic Committee was created in 1894, many different events were called Olympic or variants of it, like Olimpick and Olympian. These included sports festivals, like the Liverpool Olympic Festivals of the 1860s, the Morpeth Olympic Games that ran from the 1880s until 1958, and the Wenlock Olympian Games, as well as circus and music hall acts. My favourite, from 1815, is My Gyngell’s travelling variety show, which featured ‘Hydraulicks, Hydrostatics, Deceptions, Musical Glasses, Sagacious Birds, Astonishing Dogs, Olympic Exercises, and the Equilibrium Wire’. Or how about Pablo Fanque’s ‘unrivalled Equestrian Troupe’ who, in the 1850s, toured Britain with their ‘Wonderful and Extraordinary Feats, introducing New and Novel Features in the Olympian Games and Scenes of the Circle’.

The key thing is that all of these events were called Olympic or its variants: there was no monopoly on the word, as there is now, and its is up to historians to stress this historical diversity. We even have IOC founder Pierre de Coubertin on our side: “The term [Olympic] is in the public domain,” he wrote in 1910.  “If you are not afraid of looking ridiculous, and if your efforts are considerable enough to be compared to what goes into organising a standard Olympiad, go ahead and use it. No one has the right to prevent you from doing so.”

Word of Mouth will air at 4.00pm on Tuesday 17 April on BBC Radio 4.

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BBC local radio interviews

The BBC's Southampton studio

After the excitement of the book launch on Wednesday, I spent Thursday morning at the BBC’s Southampton studios giving interviews to four local radio stations. My book The British Olympics tells the story of a variety of Olympic events that took place all over the country, so there is a lot of local interest. First off was Radio Gloucester, who wanted to know all about the Cotswold Olimpicks, while Radio Oxford concentrated on the connections between Stoke Mandeville Hospital and the Paralympics. For Radio Sussex and Surrey, I looked at Sandhurst and Bisley as Olympic sites, and at the notorious Mr Nurse of Brighton, who was disqualified three times from the 1866 National Olympian Games when his professional status was foiund out – once in the swimming and twice in the athletics. Finally, Alina Jenkins of Radio Solent interviewed me about Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, where the sailing and motorboat racing at the 1908 Olympic Games took place.

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