Predictably it's back. Who could forget it, with that memorable, stirring soundtrack that, once in your head, stays there for days, weeks, months, years. I wouldn't bet against it being the number one soundtrack of the London 2012 Olympics, inspiring Team GB to run faster, jump higher, hit harder and swim stronger. So stirring is that one little piece of music that a whole new generation of British Olympians will be born simply by turning up for the re-release of the film. Who needs a well-coordinated, well-funded sporting legacy programme when you have Chariots of Fire burning away in your brain. To merely marvel at the exploits of Messrs Liddle and Abrahams strutting their stuff on the playing fields of England and Europe should be enough to inspire any young mind. Chariots of FireĀ  the icing on the Olympic cake. The final glorious piece of the London Olympic jigsaw. But me, I'm not buying any of that upper class nonsense, not for one moment

When I first encountered Chariots of Fire back in the 80's I recall finding all those glorious exploits by all those hooray-henrys just a little puke-worthy. Something nasty stuck in the nostrils and it has remained there all this time. It was only when watching the ITVs documentary, 'The Real Chariots of Fire', that I fully remembered what that something nasty was; it was the stench of class privilege, British upper class privilege, of which there is nothing more likely to defile the senses. And watching that ITV lightweight documentary it all came flooding back. These two young men of good fortune and good breeding, one the son of a Christian missionary, the other the pampered offspring of a wealthy financier, had every chance of succeeding on the playing fields of England and any other forum they might choose to compete in. And you know what kept nagging away at my aging, slightly atrophied brain that absolutely nothing has changed to this day.

It transpires that some 30% of Britain's Beijing medal winners were privately educated and the figures from previous Olympics have thrown up a similar statistic. And this time around it will still the same old privileged few getting up on the podium. All those public school rowers, equestrians, shooters and sailors; every one of them most definitely not from Britain's bleak and run-down housing estates, and not from Britain's bleak and run-down cities. Unbelievable when you come to think of it. Nearly a century on from those Chariots of Fire days and it's the same old depressing story - a story not only of privileged kids playing their silly games but of us lowly prols being cajoled into worshipping their every success or heroic failure.

Let's take a closer look at our two all-conquering heroes. Liddle, a devout Christian took the supposedly moral high ground and refused to run on the Sabbath. Fair enough, he stuck to an arcane point of principle and went on to win Olympic gold in an event that was not his first preference. But what did he do straight afterwards? Not continue his studies, apply his studies or even concentrate on developing his athletic prowess. No, our heroic Scotsman heads straight back East to carry on where his noble father left off - sermonising and proselyting amongst the heathen, spiritually impoverished citizens of China. A pursuit of higher calling? Not a bit of it. The Christian missionary movement was nothing but a fig leaf for British colonialism be it in Africa, Asia or Australasia. As the natives would dryly note the British came with a bible in one hand and a Gatling gun in the other. They said they had come in peace and they gave us a bible and told us to close our eyes and pray. When we opened our eyes we still had the bible but they had our land.

Then there was Harold Abrahams. No son of proletarian toil was he. Yes, he would certainly have encountered a fair degree of anti-Semitism at private school and at Cambridge but daddy's millions would have surely softened that blow. And let us not forget that prejudice was the order of the day- prejudice against women, against homosexuals, against Catholics and against people of colour. Jews had no monopoly in this regard.

Yes, 'the boy done well', but when you consider the golden spoon that this young man was born with it is little wonder he was able to make the best of his opportunities. Pity he didn't have the political insight to reject the offer to attend the 1936 fascist Aryan Olympic Games in Berlin.

When you strip it down, Chariots of Fire is nothing but a story of British class privilege with a great piece of heart pumping music thrown in. If we're looking for sporting stories to inspire I'd rather watch Gallipoli which dramatically portrays the story of two ordinary Aussie lads who also happened to be great runners. They both perished on the First World War blood soaked battlefields in a criminally mindless defence of the British Empire. They never had the chance to compete in the Paris Olympics or any other competitions. They were cut down in their prime by the stupidity of the British officer class just ten years before Liddle and Abrahams made their dash for glory. Same story, different location, different class.

End JPK Copyright 4/7/12

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 26 May 2018 08:25 )