In troubled times we can take comfort from our place in the Olympic tradition

As even those of us who love it are aware, nothing makes sport look more trivial than when words routinely used to describe the one-sidedness of a sporting encounter - murder, slaughter, havoc, destruction, even carnage - are given a horribly literal context just a few miles from Lord's cricket ground and Highbury stadium.

Of course, it didn't take Thursday's bombings to show me that the exploits of flannelled fools and muddied oafs are unimportant in the great scheme of things, yet sport has exercised my tear ducts in the past, and it will do so again in the future. I can sit stony-faced through Terms of Endearment or any cinematic weepie (except, obviously, the bit in The Sound of Music when Christopher Plummer spontaneously joins his children's rendition of "Edelweiss"). But show me Pat Cash winning Wimbledon and clambering over the crowd to embrace his old dad, or a stricken Derek Redmond being helped around the running track by his old dad, or Matthew Pinsent's big strong jaw crumpling at the end of the coxless fours, or Kelly Holmes' wildest dreams coming true, or Sam Torrance holing the putt that won the Ryder Cup for Europe, or a faltering Muhammad Ali lighting the Olympic flame in Atlanta, and I'm a basket case.

It's amazing how many of these emotional spectacles have been delivered by the Olympic Games. I've never thought of myself as an Olympic junkie: the sports that truly excite me - such as football, cricket, tennis, golf, horse racing and rugby - are either not Olympic events or do not look to the Olympics for their blue riband moments. And I really didn't think I was tremendously bothered whether or not London won the 2012 bid. Yes, I hoped it would, but wouldn't have been overly disappointed if it hadn't.

Yet when the time came for Jacques Rogge to make his announcement, I found to my surprise that I cared very much. And when the word "London" escaped his hitherto unreadable lips, a big fat tear set off from my right eye and accelerated towards my chin, from where it plopped on to my knee; a lachrymose version of the modern pentathlon.

Nobody knew then, of course, apart from a few terrorists bent on mass murder, that tears of pain and distress would follow quite so quickly. I don't suppose any city has experienced quite so much elation and quite so much heartache inside less than 24 hours, its citizens so eagerly looking forward to the best of which humankind is capable before being forced to contemplate the worst.

When Homer wrote 3,000 years or so ago that "there is no greater glory for a man so long as he lives than that which he achieves by his own hands and feet," he was thinking about deeds of sport, not slaughter.

But there are leader writers better skilled than I at conveying such sentiments. Let this column accentuate the positive, and look forward with glee rather than gloom to 2012, when London, no matter how many terrorist outrages it has suffered, will host an Olympic Games for the third time in just over 100 years.

The city already has an immortal place in Olympic heritage. The distance of the marathon was made official at the London Games of 1908, and marathon runners of republican leanings should be aware that it was fixed at 42.195km to represent the precise distance to the finishing line at White City from the terrace of Windsor Castle.

I learnt that at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne a couple of months ago, along with the fact that the Italian winner of the 1908 marathon, Dorando Pietri, was disqualified for receiving medical assistance during the race. But it was an honourable disqualification, unlike that suffered by Fred Lorz in St Louis four years earlier, when it was found that the American had covered part of the course in whatever passed in 1904 for a lorry. To the delight of the crowd, Queen Alexandra gave Pietri a gold cup anyway, and it is from that moment that the popularity of the modern marathon dates.

It is comforting, in these troubled, uncertain times, to think that the London Olympics of 2012, too, will be history one day, carefully and affectionately chronicled in Lausanne.

It is a splendid museum, and I heartily recommend a visit, if only to gaze in wonder upon the bra worn by Sunni Hughes, of Australia, who flashed it after scoring a goal during a women's football match against Brazil during the Sydney Games five years ago.

The note beside this truly historic exhibit read: "Cette brassière a connu la notoriété lorsque la joueuse dans un geste de joie a soulèvé son maillot..."

The English translation underneath was more prosaic. "The player gleefully lifted her singlet," it said.

Things work much better in French sometimes, if not, in the opinion of the International Olympic Committee, the 2012 Olympic Games.

By mid-morning on Thursday, however, it was no longer appropriate to gloat.

b.viner@independent.co.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Extras
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value
indybest

Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Sport
Two christmas trees ,Moonbeam (2L), Moonchester (2R) and Santa Claus outside the Etihad Stadium
footballAll the action from today's games
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas