Sporting glory

Sports lovers are in heaven this summer.

Peter Baker | 23:40, Wednesday, 25 July 2012  

Sporting GloryBradley Wiggins' historic victory in the Tour de France, the football Euros, Andy Murray's finest hour (nearly) at Wimbledon, a pulsating cricket test series between England and South Africa for the right to be the world's best, and golf's Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St Anne’s, near Blackpool. 

This year’s Open was poignant because it was the first held at the seaside links since the tragic death of the European golfing legend Seve Ballesteros, himself twice a winner there. 

... his remarkable life seemed prematurely cut short. Yet for a while he dazzled us all with his recovery bunker shots and impossible putts.

With variable weather and rapidly changing conditions, it’s a course which tests the skill, creativity and courage of the very best. That’s probably why the Spanish Matador mastered it so often. Yet there was more to him than sport.

Seve dealt with the discovery and treatment of the brain tumour from which he eventually died with the same strength and class with which he played the game of golf. At 54, his remarkable life seemed prematurely cut short. Yet for a while he dazzled us all with his recovery bunker shots and impossible putts.

That’s the way it is with sporting icons and their moments of sublime theatre. Somehow it’s as if they pause time, creating the impression that immortality is possible. But as brilliant as they are, like the rest of us, their glory fades. 

And so we are days away from the most hyped global sporting event ever - London 2012!

I’ve not been able to get a ticket for any event but as part of the many build-up events, I was invited to a reception at the Olympic Park. It was a gathering of some of the great British Olympians, organised by the Achilles Club to which I belong with others who have run for Oxford or Cambridge over the years. 

Running, winning and losing in the light of that truth gives ultimate meaning to our lives. 

Having a surname that begins with B, my name appears on the alphabetical members list just a few down from Harold Abrahams. Now, that name ought to ring a bell! His exploits were made famous by the film, Chariots of Fire. It was his arch rival, the Christian athlete Eric Liddell, who identified something which all sports people with faith in Christ experience - "When I run, I feel His pleasure!"

Bob BeaumontIt remains to be seen who will enter the pantheon of sporting gods over the next few weeks. The BBC website has been highlighting and commenting upon some of the unforgettable Olympic heroes of the past.

Bob Beamon’s long jump is described as 'a moment immortalised in time'. Yet I doubt most teenagers would have a clue who he is today!

Michael Johnson’s 200 metre world record is called 'the moment the world stood still'. But the world didn’t; and he has long ago retired to take up commentating.

Usain Bolt’s stroll to victory in Beijing earns him the accolade of 'living legend'. But he too will become just a footnote in history (although a very fast one). 

This is the way it is. We dazzle for a moment and then disappear.  

The Psalmist captures the passing glory of our humanity. "As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field".  

But the Psalmist does something else. He contrasts human finitude with divine permanence. "But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting".   

Running, winning and losing in the light of that truth gives ultimate meaning to our lives.   

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