Brian Viner: 'Bolero' still leads the way to a sporting nation's heart

The Last Word

Share
Related Topics

It was at the winter Olympics in Sarajevo 25 years ago today, on Valentine's Day 1984, that Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean skated into immortality to the stirring strains of Ravel's 1928 ballet composition Bolero, becoming the first and still the only ice-dancing pair to record a full set of perfect scores, as well as the only people ever to win any kind of global sporting acclaim wearing floaty purple chiffon.

Thanks to the wonders of YouTube, their Ravel's Bolero dance is never more than a couple of clicks away, and I watched it again yesterday, although the footage in the version I watched came from Canadian television, whose commentator, while duly impressed, suggested that technically it wasn't a particularly daring routine.

In a neighbouring booth, meanwhile, the BBC's Alan Weeks was practically hyperventilating with hyperbole. Maybe, come to think of it, we'd have been better off down the years listening to British sporting success being covered by other countries' broadcasters, whose perspective is not warped by patriotic pride.

On the other hand, the swell of patriotism has a place in many of the greatest snippets of commentary, not least Bjorge Lillelien's celebrated response to Norway's 2-1 defeat of England in a 1981 World Cup qualifier. Famously, it wasn't just our footballers who took "a hell of a beating" that day, but also Lord Nelson, Lord Beaverbrook, Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Anthony Eden, Clement Attlee, Henry Cooper, Lady Diana and Maggie Thatcher.

Whatever, I was also struck, while watching Torvill and Dean's gold medal-winning routine, by the healthy relationship sport has with various forms of music. Opera lovers might still wince at the way in which Giacomo Puccini's Turandot was commandeered by the organisers of the 1990 World Cup, but at least it got some appreciative juices flowing in those who had previously assumed "Nessun Dorma" to be a Japanese camper van. Similarly, how many of us are still stirred by ragtime music mainly because it evokes the Pot Black theme tune of blessed memory, or owe our appreciation of instrumental soul to the number that kicked off the BBC's cricket coverage for so many years, "Soul Limbo" by Booker T and the MGs (or Book A Table and the Maitre Ds as one of their biggest fans, John Lennon, liked to refer to them)?

Torvill and Dean did the same for old Maurice Ravel, making him a household name even in households (such as mine, frankly) where the virtues of ballet as an art form are almost entirely overlooked, and where Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Reed Flutes" in The Nutcracker is firmly known as "Everyone's a Fruit and Nut Case". The only imponderable is what Ravel himself would have thought of the fact that from 1984 onwards his most famous piece of work would forever be associated with an ice rink in Sarajevo.

It probably wouldn't have driven him nuts, not least because he probably already was. Last year, The New York Times published an article suggesting that the Frenchman might well have been suffering the early stages of frontotemporal dementia in 1928, which would account for the repetitive nature of Bolero. Still, the repetition didn't do Torvill and Dean any harm.

Demob-happy cricketers who have passed the worst Test

Passing through the lounge of the Paddington Hilton hotel on Wednesday morning, I noticed Graeme Hick sitting at a table with Gladstone Small, both chortling away in carefree fashion. Whether they were discussing the misery endured by England's cricketers, bowled out for 51 in the first Test, I couldn't be entirely sure, but I should think they owed their cheerfulness at least in part to the knowledge that such humiliations are for ever behind them.

Hick certainly knows what it feels like, having been part of the hapless England team skittled out by the West Indies for an even lower score, 46, in 1994. Still, at least he can cite Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh in mitigation, just as the England team all out for 71 against the West Indies at Old Trafford in 1976 could point to Michael Holding and Andy Roberts in their pomp. Wonderfully as 24-year-old Jerome Taylor bowled to take 5 for 11 in nine overs last week, he's not yet in the same bracket as Holding, Roberts, Ambrose and Walsh. But that could well be where he ends up.

The ineffable and the effing

It was fitting, in a way, that a humble novice chase at Plumpton yielded the great A P McCoy's 3,000th winner on Monday. Not all jockeys commit themselves as wholeheartedly to novice chases at Plumpton as they do to the Cheltenham Gold Cup, for example, but for McCoy (below) there has never been much of a distinction, which of course is precisely why he is 13-times champion jockey. It was nice, too, to see the little Sussex track getting a share of the glory. It's high time it snapped back at the late Fred Winter's crack that there are three racecourses beginning with F – Folkestone, Fontwell, and effing Plumpton.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

The Green Recruitment Company: Operations Manager - Anaerobic Digestion / Biogas

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Operation...

SThree: Experienced Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Maintenance Person

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care organisation take pride in del...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care organisation take pride in del...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: How much difference does the wording of a referendum question make?

John Rentoul
 

An unelectable extremist who hijacked their party has already served as prime minister – her name was Margaret Thatcher

Jacques Peretti
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent