During the pandemic, we lost many of our most prestigious sporting events. They vanished like streetlights flickering along grand avenues until nothing remains. In all the loss and pain caused by Covid-19, sport’s great escape – the ability to watch it and play it – was also taken away.
Gradually the lights are turning on. Last weekend, I attended a Test match between India and England. It was my first visit in 18 months. The best part about the event was the hum of the crowd at The Oval on big occasions. Also, the sight of the two sets of fans enjoying each other’s company as they rushed through the Alec Stewart Gates at stumps.
As a fan and Stockport County’s Grimsby Town at Edgeley Park ten days ago, I was able to sit in a football crowd for the first time in 18-months. It was like listening to the most beautiful melody as I walked through a turnstile. For a fifth-tier game, there were over 6,000 spectators. The away end was packed and enthusiastic. It was lively and beautiful.
It feels like spring in British sports as summer turns into autumn. It’s like a new beginning.
Emma Raducanu is an unforgettable story in New York. Cristiano Ronaldo returned to Manchester United with an emotional performance. Anthony Joshua will defend his title as world heavyweight champion in two weeks. The Test series was at its peak before Friday’s shenanigans.
It is easy to forget the feeling of belonging that sport gives us. This sense of community among competitors and spectators reaches its peak in mass-participation running events, which were among the last to be restored to the calendar. The 40th edition, which will take place in Newcastle on Sunday, will bring back one of the most prominent lights.
This will be a moment of great sporting restoration for some, a symbol of hope and optimism that we can return to normalcy.
Over 57,000 people will participate in the largest half-marathon for common cause in the North-east. The joy, for over 56,000, is not in winning, but being part of a new community.
Running is like this, no matter how fast or slow you run. Running is always about running toward something, constantly striving to get there. You also find solidarity with others who are striving towards the same destination. You are supported and encouraged every day by thousands of people you don’t even know.
It can do wonders for your perspective of humanity. At a time when many have struggled with mental health due to the restrictions, it feels like events such as the Great North Run or the London Marathon next month are more important than ever before.
In keeping with the Great North Thank You campaign’s theme, the Great North Run will begin this weekend by four NHS workers. Dr Mickey Jachuck is a consultant cardiologist and clinical head of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust. He has also become an exercise evangelist.
He says that he has always been a sporty person, but didn’t see the point in running. It didn’t excite. After lockdown, I completed the “Couch To 5k” exercise and enjoyed it. I felt lighter and more fit. I began running more and making use of the time that was allowed for exercise. It helped me cope with all the stress I was experiencing at work.
“I realized that people love to have surgery or take pills to improve their health. But the best treatment would be something that would work, would have few side effects, would not cost anyone and that would reduce heart disease and strokes, improve mood, concentration, and give you a feeling of well-being.
“And that is exercise. The Great North Run is a mass participation event that allows us all to try to get back to our normal lives.
Thirteen people representing all walks of society, who contributed to the community’s support during the pandemic, will be featured on billboards along the course.
Sir Brendan Foster, who was the founder of Great North Run and is one of Britain’s most beloved and influential figures in athletics, is delighted with the return of the event. It will also be its 40th anniversary.
The idea was born when David Moorcroft and he ran in the Round the Bays Race in Auckland. He then adopted the template for a run that runs from the city to the ocean.
It’s been a remarkable success. The race has become a staple of the national sporting calendar, and a source for great regional pride in the North-east.
Sir Brendan says that’since its inception,’ ‘the last pit has been closed, and the last ship built on the Tyne. As the region changes around it, the Great North Run has been constant.
The Great North Run is a great event for mass participation. After 11 miles, you reach the top and can see the North Sea. Knowing that South Shields and the Coast Road are not far away, it’s one of the most memorable moments.
To avoid overcrowding, the route will be temporarily changed so that the runners return towards Newcastle before reaching South Shields. However, the compensation is that they will now cross the Tyne Bridge twice instead of once.
Although the new finish will be a struggle, it will feel just like the Herculean effort that was put into organising the race this year. However, taking part in the race has never felt more important and more worthwhile.
GREED IS THE DESTROYING OF CRICKET
The postponement or abandonment of Friday’s eagerly awaited fifth Test between India and England at Old Trafford was less due to the damage done to the game by Covid-19, but more indicative of a sport that is suffering from the greed that comes along with trying to fit too much into its schedule.
England is now unable to field their first-choice Test squad due to competing demands from white-ball cricket. Fans don’t know if a match they have been anticipating for years will actually take place. Some of cricket’s most talented players, like Ben Stokes, are forced to retire from the game because of mental health pressures.
It is like football’s lust for money, which is currently trying to force the staging of a World Cup every other year.
BEWITCHING RADIO MAKES PORTAIT A PLEASURE
BBC radio has made no attempt to discredit older listeners, despite their constant efforts. Anyone who runs out of nappies will be pleased to know that BBC radio has retained the services of many brilliant radio commentators.
This was especially evident for those who switched between the evocative descriptions of Isa Guha’s Test Match Special during Oval Test and the exquisite picture-paintings of Gigi Salmon as she illuminated Emma Raducanu’s latest adventure at Flushing Meadows.
They make sport enjoyable to listen to.