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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
British author Howard Jacobson has been long-listed for the Man Booker Prize
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
transfersColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn