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 Sport as a tool of the British empire

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shivfan
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PostSubject: Sport as a tool of the British empire   Tue 06 Mar 2012, 10:43

As most of you guys know, Jeremy Paxton is doing a series on the Beeb called 'Empire', and the next episode in the series is apparently going to be about sport and the empire.

It's an episode I'm looking forward to, because the way the British created modern sport as we know it today has always been of interest to me. Yes, prehistorics used to kick around a ball centuries ago, but it took the British to create a set of rules for the game. Then, they went and invented cricket, rugby, etc, and produced a set of rules for boxing.

Sport is one of the few things that complained about with regards to the empire. Just look at how India, Pakistan and the West Indies have embraced cricket, and how popular rugby is in former British colonies in the Pacific....
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Sport as a tool of the British empire   Tue 06 Mar 2012, 10:58

Don't forget Tiddlywinks.

The game and its (very complex) rules were devised by students at the University of Cambridge in 1888 (eat your heart out, Catigern), although this is disputed.

There is an English Tiddlywinks Association, and our former colony, the USA, also has its own body - the North American Tiddlywinks Association.

The Scottish Tiddlywinks Association was disbanded recently - typical.
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PostSubject: Re: Sport as a tool of the British empire   Tue 06 Mar 2012, 16:58

OK, so nobody wants to talk about tiddlywinks. See if I care.

Just like to add that Lt. The Hon. George Colthurst St. Barleigh - an Empire builder extraordinaire if ever there was one - was a Trinity Tiddler. Can't find a YouTube clip, but the lines I'm thinking of are:

"I joined up straight away, sir. August 14th 1914. Gah, what a day that was: myself and the rest of the fellows leapfrogging down to the Cambridge recruiting office and playing tiddlywinks in the queue. We had hammered Oxford's tiddlywinkers only the week before, and there we were off to hammer the Boche. Crashingly superb bunch of blokes. Fine, clean-limbed - even their acne had a striking nobility about it."

Seriously, shivfan, the game was enormously popular in Singapore and in Hong Kong - at least so my father always said. But he could well have been lying. (He was a Trinity man - honest.)

I really will shut up now.
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PostSubject: Re: Sport as a tool of the British empire   Tue 06 Mar 2012, 17:16

I'd talk about tiddlywinks, if I knew what it was Temp. Honest! Had to look it up on Wiki Embarassed
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PostSubject: Re: Sport as a tool of the British empire   Tue 06 Mar 2012, 17:16

The Scots being a sensible race decided that tiddling while simultaneously winking led to a nasty splashy mess and the strong likelihood of a charge of Lewd and Libidinous behaviour. Consequently we decided that our traditional pastime of running around with a tree trunk held in a suggestive position was preferable.
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Gilgamesh of Uruk
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PostSubject: Re: Sport as a tool of the British empire   Tue 06 Mar 2012, 17:22

I wonder why they are doing this, when Clare Balding is nearing the end of a 30-part series on Sport in Britain on R4 every weekday lunchtime, and has covered this topic in depth.
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PostSubject: Re: Sport as a tool of the British empire   Tue 06 Mar 2012, 19:07

@shivfan wrote:
Yes, prehistorics used to kick around a ball centuries ago, but it took the British to create a set of rules for the game. Then, they went and invented cricket, rugby, etc, and produced a set of rules for boxing....

Well various sports were organised and regulated activities in China and Egypt (for example) as far back as 2000BC, and as we all know, in Greece military activity and sport influenced each other with sport becoming so prominent that the 4 yearly games at Olympia came into being.

But it wasn't really until the industrial revolution that people had the leasure time to spare for (either for participation or as spectators) a great amount of sport. With the regulation and organisation of sports advancing alongside and according to the advancements of the industrialised society, until we have sport as we know it today.
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shivfan
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PostSubject: Re: Sport as a tool of the British empire   Wed 07 Mar 2012, 09:08

Tiddlywinks....
Laughing
I haven't played that since I was a kid. They don't do that any more. My kids don't even know what tiddlywinks is!

Gilgamesh, I suppose not many people listen to Radio 4. I do, but this TV series will probably reach more people.

I'd forgotten about the Olympics. That said, the Greek version died away, and it wasn't until 1896 that it was revived by Coubertin, I think it was....

That revival fitted in well with the "gentlemen2 who found work beneath their status, and needed sport to fill the gaps of time in their lives. Roll on the strange definition of the amateur....
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PostSubject: Re: Sport as a tool of the British empire   Wed 07 Mar 2012, 10:47

Sport may have been, intentionally or incidentally, an agent of imperialist policy, but it was also often a weapon which could be directed against the imperialists. In Ireland the preferred method was simply to ignore or denegrate "English" sporting codes and encourage participation in home-grown varieties of track and field sports - the GAA, which is still a considerably popular and powerful body in Ireland even if it is less identified with nationalism in latter years as before. In India the approach was more subtle, though no less pointed. In the early half of the 20th century teams participating in Indian soccer leagues which had predominantly Indian members took to playing barefoot, and when they won against the more conventionally attired teams containing British members the victories were hailed as nationalist triumphs and considered a humiliation inflicted on the colonial "masters". A similar approach and attitude was utilised in Algeria against their French colonial masters.
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PostSubject: Re: Sport as a tool of the British empire   Wed 07 Mar 2012, 11:49

Winning at any sport in the subcontinent against whomsoever is always celebrated as if a war triumph. India v Pakistan at hockey or cricket is a national nail-biter. beating England comes next and then Australia in the emotions of winning/losing and degree of post match ecstasy. Check what's on before going to the local dentist. His patient's chair faces a TV screen usually so that you can't see it so well but he can.

It is a two way trade. British took up polo from northern tribes and the moghuls - harem women played it then, also. There are several minature paintings of this. Who substituted balls for a goat's/human head and when, I am uncertain.

The best polo match ever was organised by Panam in India with men on elephants and veerrry long sticks to celebrate Jumbo jets. The elephants soon caught onto the idea and picked up the ball and ran with it. Sadly no one developed that into another sport.
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PostSubject: Re: Sport as a tool of the British empire   Wed 07 Mar 2012, 12:35

This is probably the most important role that sport played during the time of the British Empire - that of a "safety valve" for otherwise pent up and unexpressed nationalist frustrations. Sporting occasions often provided a stage on which unbridled contempt for the colonial power could be expressed which, in any other circumstances, would have been deemed seditious. There are remarkably few examples, given the long history of such events and the fact that they frequently involved considerable attendances, in which this spilled over into actual insurrection however. I wonder what, if anything, can be made of that? Was it down to effective imperial management of such things or does it show an innate understanding on the part of everyone involved that such an aberration in the prevalent attitude towards what constituted potentially riotous assemblies was worth preserving? Or was it simply that sport was deemed by the majority as being more important than any aspiration for political independence?
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PostSubject: Re: Sport as a tool of the British empire   Wed 07 Mar 2012, 15:36

@shivfan wrote:
I'd forgotten about the Olympics. That said, the Greek version died away, and it wasn't until 1896 that it was revived by Coubertin, I think it was....

Oh the games did indeed eventually die out. Based on inscriptions, the accepted date for the inception of the Olympics is 777BC, the games continued reaching their height at around the 5th C BC and then began a gradual decline as the Romans gained influence in Greece. But there is no agreement on when the games at Olympia actually ended. The most common theory is 393AD when Theodosius banned all pagan practices and beliefs, 426AD is another date bandied about when Theodosius II ordered the destruction of all Greek temples.

Although, the revivals began well before Courbertin. The French did it first in 1796, which also introducted the metric system into sports. Then the Greeks became interested after the War of Independence in 1821, when a revival was first proposed in the poem Dialogue to the Dead published in 1833 by Soutsos. The interest was taken up by the wealthy Greek/Romanian Zappas who sponsored the first modern Olympics in Greece in 1859 and the restoration of the Ancient Panathenaic Staduim in Athens. Athens also hosted further Olympics in 1870 and 1875, but it wasn't until the games of 1890 that Courbertin was inspired to form the IOC and built on the previous work of Englishman Dr William Brookes and the philanthropist Zappas.
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PostSubject: Re: Sport as a tool of the British empire   Wed 07 Mar 2012, 16:50

@shivfan wrote:
Tiddlywinks....
Laughing
I haven't played that since I was a kid. They don't do that any more. My kids don't even know what tiddlywinks is!

Gilgamesh, I suppose not many people listen to Radio 4. I do, but this TV series will probably reach more people.

I'd forgotten about the Olympics. That said, the Greek version died away, and it wasn't until 1896 that it was revived by Coubertin, I think it was....

That revival fitted in well with the "gentlemen2 who found work beneath their status, and needed sport to fill the gaps of time in their lives. Roll on the strange definition of the amateur....



The Olympics were revived before Coubertin got in on the act - in Much Wenlock in the 1850s. Still celebrated every year (hence "Wenlock" as one of the 2012 mascots)
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PostSubject: Re: Sport as a tool of the British empire   Wed 07 Mar 2012, 16:55

And a far more deserving competition than the overblown, overhyped, over-commercial, over-nationalistic codology that is the "modern" Olympics for being televised, in my view!

Some of Much Wenlock's events in the past nearly merit pay-per-view on their own. I would dearly love to see, for example, our precious modern millionaire celebrity-cum-athletes competing in the Wheelbarrow Race, or indeed the "Old Woman Running After a Pound of Tea" event.
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PostSubject: Re: Sport as a tool of the British empire   Fri 16 Mar 2012, 10:57

I was a bit disappointed in Paxman's programme....

It seemed much like lite history, without much analysis. He just skirted over a few issues with regards to sport as a tool of the British empire.

For example, he really could've looked deeper into the whole issue of race in West Indies cricket. I guess that's the problem with a one-hour programme - you can't really deal with it properly.
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PostSubject: Re: Sport as a tool of the British empire   Sun 18 Mar 2012, 08:58

For several years we had a local 'Olympics" The flag had interlocking squares and the challenges interesting. Throwing the cowpat, was one, how many people cann be queezed into a local taxi, for istance were very popular. Obstcal courses were plain silly and I recall my delight when my young sec beat a USA marine when gettig under a very low flat pegged net. mIt was lowere especially for her.
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PostSubject: Re: Sport as a tool of the British empire   Sun 18 Mar 2012, 11:16

At which point I had a power cut did not finish or edit post. I wanted to add thatthe games were closed because they mocked the international one. Ours were multinational and great fun.

As for sport in the subcontinent, it was not quite a tool - not at the higher levels. Maharajahs and Nawabbs were not as subserviant as it seems to be thought. The British Raj sought their attention in the great social jostle and invitations to their sports if they can be called that, shooting and hunting things were savoured. Since many of the the men of high status went to British public schools - as did their sons - cricket came back with them, as did golf and structed horse racing. Local sports continued which the British joined in when they could - tent peg sticking at the gallop comes to mind. Rugby on the arid hard land had less attraction, but I think every palace, club and in many a lowly a bazaar hall billiards and snooker games were enjoyed across the class spectrum. I have not seen the TV progs but assume it could in way expound on the subtle shades of the social divide in the subcontinent when applied to sport, or come to that, anything else.

I see sport in former colonies just residue of a regime, not a tool - as are also road systems, law, education. armed forces. Social divides and prejudice to manipulate were well established before colonisation added even uglier ones.
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PostSubject: Re: Sport as a tool of the British empire   Sun 18 Mar 2012, 18:08

I have one final say on this subject. I think sport was/is a very useful tool to consolidate and keep the Commonwealth together. It is a flaky sort of notion otherwise otherwise
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PostSubject: Re: Sport as a tool of the British empire   Sun 18 Mar 2012, 19:12

Perhaps worth emphasising one other function of sport in the Empire. It was considered de rigeur for officers to take part in sport with the men under their command (of course, the hossifer would always be team captain) as well as indulging in their own chosen individual sports.
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PostSubject: Re: Sport as a tool of the British empire   Sun 18 Mar 2012, 20:28

I don't know if the officers were involved but I have a letter from my father during the war which says, Had my first game of football [ie rugby] today but I kept well out of the way of the ball. [My father wasn't interested in sport, either as a player or spectator.] I don’t like the idea of tackling too much, especially against all the big chaps.

I suppose it was assumed a team game would help weld the company and emphasize instant obedience to rules. I'm not sure, though, that these follow automatically from sports participation.
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PostSubject: Re: Sport as a tool of the British empire   Tue 23 Jul 2013, 22:48

@Priscilla wrote:
India v Pakistan at hockey or cricket is a national nail-biter.
India winning Gold at every Olympic Games between 1928 and 1956 still stands as a record and was/is undoubtedly a matter for national pride. India and Pakistan then alternately shared the top podium during the 1960s.

The bizarre decision in the 1970s to introduce astroturf as the default playing surface for Olympic matches began to change the dynamic of the game and ended the dominance of the Subcontinent. That said - when Germany won Gold at Munich in 1972 (becoming the first non-South Asian champion in over 50 years) the tournament was still played on grass. The decision to change the surface was all the more perplexing considering the official title of the sport's governing body which is the Fédération Internationale de Hockey sur Gazon.
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PostSubject: Re: Sport as a tool of the British empire   Wed 24 Jul 2013, 08:50

Viz, I am not so sure that astro turf was the reason for a change in dominance. From what I have seen it is a fast surface for the speedy slick dribling game favoured by the Asian teams  It was the element of agressive play that brought changed - somewhat like elegant gazelle forwards up against charging rhino backs from what I saw. It never was a sport for the feint hearted - nor a tool of empire, I imagine.
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PostSubject: Re: Sport as a tool of the British empire   Thu 26 Jun 2014, 23:45

@nordmann wrote:
A similar approach and attitude was utilised in Algeria against their French colonial masters.

Algeria's progression to the Second Round of the current FIFA World Cup is historic in more ways than one. So far none of the television or radio commentators seems to have picked up on it. The elimination of Russia means that for the first time since the tournament began in 1930 there are no Balkan, Italian, Eastern European, Iberian, Scandinavian or British Isles teams in the Second Round of the World Cup.
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PostSubject: Re: Sport as a tool of the British empire   Fri 27 Jun 2014, 09:07

@Vizzer wrote:
@nordmann wrote:
A similar approach and attitude was utilised in Algeria against their French colonial masters.

Algeria's progression to the Second Round of the current FIFA World Cup is historic in more ways than one. So far none of the television or radio commentators seems to have picked up on it. The elimination of Russia means that for the first time since the tournament began in 1930 there are no Balkan, Italian, Eastern European, Iberian, Scandinavian or British Isles teams in the Second Round of the World Cup.


Too advanced for TV commentators, Vizz.  btw Fabio Cappello seems to be as useless at managing Russia as he was England That won't go down well with Vlad, especially as the Russians are hosting in 2018.

Speaking of which, this team will qualify easily:

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PostSubject: Re: Sport as a tool of the British empire   Wed 09 Jul 2014, 15:22

Alfredo di Stefano died two days ago. Here is di Stefano in action with Real Madrid in the final of the 1960 European Cup at Hampden Park against Eintracht Frankfurt ( this contains footage of a German team conceding seven goals which some younger viewers may find difficult to believe)

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