What Makes a Sporting Event Memorable?

Inspiration for blogs can come from the strangest of sources, but I never thought that I would be contemplating my second entry for The UK Sports Network on the back of a sports edition of Channel 4’s popular comedy quiz 8 out of 10 Cats.

During the show’s lead feature, it was revealed by a Harris Interactive poll that the UK’s most memorable sporting moment was when Torvill and Dean skated their way to Winter Olympics gold in 1984. Bolero-tastic, it may have been, but the nation’s most memorable sporting moment? Naturally, my immediate thoughts were the 1966 Football World Cup or the 2003 Rugby World Cup, momentous achievements that have yet to be repeated, but they were found playing second fiddle to ice skating prowess and precision.

This led me to wonder what constitutes a nation’s favourite sporting memory. It can’t simply be a question of sporting popularity – since football would have won hands down (or hands up in the case of Thierry Henry or Diego Maradona).

In fact the list can be split between memories that are very UK-specific and those which are genuinely global greats. A quick run through the list and you would have seen Usain Bolt’s record-obliterating 100m sprint in the same breath as Mike Tyson’s infamous ear-biting incident with Evander Holyfield. That is really polar extremes of the sporting spectrum – in the first instance the absolute sublime and on the other hand the absolute obscene. But the presence of such opposing sporting memories helps appreciate how the human psyche recollects such moments.

In the case of Bolt, it is all about the feat (no pun intended) – what Usain Bolt has achieved in sprinting is near superhuman and is a sporting accomplishment that has been recognised and admired the world over. The Tyson incident is there because of the shock and abhorrence that it caused. Pictures say a thousand words and the image of Holyfield’s post-snack ear is one that will last a lifetime – and is still nauseating 13 years on.

England’s world cup glory in 1966 and its rugby success in 2003 will only be found on the UK’s top 5 list but it is still a surprise that the former is not in top spot even closing on 45 years since the achievement. These feats are what bring a nation together. It is at times like this – when sport transcends society – that memories are made. But factor in the all important element of ‘success in the face of adversity’, ‘triumph against all odds’ and that’s what makes a memory indelible. This is precisely the category that Torvill and Dean fall into. Forget their Sunday night set pieces on Dancing on Ice – it was only because of their achievement in 1984 that this show even exists. British success in winter sport is rare to say the least (think Eddie ‘The Eagle’) so there comes little in the way of expectation, thus the celebration when it does appear.

I started to apply this logic to Andy Murray’s match against Roger Federer last Sunday. 74 years since the last British Men’s Grand Slam winner (Roger, it only feels like hundreds and thousands of years) and a whole nation expected of Andy Murray. Many were tipping him for the title and even the sport’s top pundits started believing that this was ‘Murray’s time’. But even if he had triumphed against the frightening prospect of an in-form Fed, it would not have been up there with the greats because it would have been ‘Murray’s time’ not ‘Britain’s time’. There is only one place where that can happen and that’s Wimbledon. And happen it might just. Murray is on awesome form at the moment and his demeanour, while still retaining his trademark frown and edginess, has become more emotive. And that’s what us Brits like isn’t it – a bit of emotion to our sporting jubilation.

So what do you think – let’s allow The UK Sports Network members to decide – what is your favourite sporting memory?

About author

Chris Hughes
Chris Hughes 15 posts

Chris Hughes is Director of Communications at Sine Qua Non (SQN), a marketing and communications agency with a passion for sport and technology. @chrishughespr @techandsport

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