Julie Summers, Mountain Heritage Trust's Vice-Chair, reports on the launch of an ambitious project that will celebrate the heritage of four hundred and fifty sports - including ours - that are practiced regularly in Britain today.
Our Sporting Life – What does sport mean to you?
Lords cricket ground may be the holiest place in London to anyone with an interest in leather and willow but it is not usually associated with climbing. However, on 25th November 2008 a group of past, present and future sportsmen and women gathered to launch an ambitious project that will celebrate the heritage of the four hundred and fifty sports practiced regularly in Britain today.
Climbing was represented by George Band and Leo Houlding and our heritage by memorabilia from the last ninety years of mountaineering, including the Alpine Club’s facsimile of Mallory’s last note to Odell from Camp V written the day before he disappeared near the summit of Mount Everest in 1924. The poignancy of this was not wasted on cricketer Mark Ramprakash who commented: ‘People say ducking and diving to dodge the West Indian ‘quicks’ on a fast track is bravery, and perhaps it is. But when you consider what they were going through on Everest, it makes you think. They were on the limit physically and climbing into the unknown.’
Outstanding athletes in different sports respect one another. That much is clear. Leo Houlding was talking to a young Waterman & Lighterman of the River Thames who, in 2006, won the Doggett Coat & Badge Race, the most gruelling single sculls race on the Thames. Leo sprang forwards and grasped Ross Hunter by the hand and there was a fantastic electric moment when those of us watching realised that one exceptional sportsman recognised the highest achievement of another.
‘Our Sporting Life’ is all about what inspires us in sport, at whatever level we choose to practice it. And it is also about the heritage of our sport. In mountaineering we have possibly the most mediated of all sports. The popular, televised sports have a vast following of devoted fans who watch avidly. The majority of us interested in mountaineering cannot be ‘spectators’. We have to rely on photographs, written accounts, lectures, films and books to take us to the far flung reaches of the world, or indeed the British Isles, to hear the accounts of new routes, old climbs, dramatic rescues and the like.
The aim of ‘Our Sporting Life’ is threefold. First, in 2009, to collect and collate people’s own experiences and memories about sporting moments that changed their lives. This is via the ‘Our Sporting Life’ website http://www.oursportinglife.co.uk/. It doesn’t matter whether you were inspired by Jonathan Edwards jumping into a sandpit, as he put it himself, or by reading I Chose to Climb or by winning a medal at school sports or putting up a new route on El Capitan, they want to know about it. Take a look and sign up.
There are plans to mount a series of small exhibitions throughout the UK in 2010 focussing on individual sports and that will be condensed into a single, major travelling exhibition in 2011 that will tour the UK finishing in London in time for 2012.
This is a great opportunity for the climbing and mountaineering community to celebrate its rich heritage and stand alongside the Olympic sports in 2012.