26 March 2011
From transport to sport
Brian Micklethwait

Yeah, just take the “tran” off the front.

I’m watching the Boat Race on the telly, and Gryff Rhys Jones has just said something rather interesting about what began it all.  The railways, he said.  The reason the railways made the Boat Race possible is not that they transported people to it, or anything like that.  No, what the railways did was empty the River Thames of commercial traffic, passenger and freight.  That left the river free for sport.

Is that true?  That wikipedia piece has the first Boat Race happening in 1829, at Henley.  It moved down river to west London for the second race in 1836.  Then there was apparently some disagreement about whether to hold it at Henley or in west London.  That seems a few years early to have been kicked off by the railways.  I can certainly see how the railways might have accelerated such a trend.

The horse definitely went from being mostly transport to being mostly sport.  The automobile now looks to be deep into the same transition.  Certainly as regular cars become ever more slow and boring, the attraction of sporty cars gets ever greater.  Sporty cars have long taken on a life of their own, in terms of how they look, how fast they go, and so forth.  It’s the difference between a carthorse and, well a race horse.

Another speculation: Will the rise of remotely controlled airplanes cause personally driven airplanes also to become merely sporty?  Certainly planes are already a bit sporty, but, like cars, they always have been, a bit.


  1. 1836 sounds too early for railways to have made much of a difference although a lot would have been being built at or about the time.

    I do, however, wonder how much commercial traffic there would have been on the Thames at that point or any other point.  Has there really ever been that much so far up the river?

    Posted by Patrick Crozier on  27 March 2011 at 02:19 am

  2. The first section of the London and South West opened in 1838.  As did the Great Western.  I assume these are the two lines that would have made the greatest difference to any commercial traffic.

    Looks like Rhys Jones is wrong.

    Posted by Patrick Crozier on  27 March 2011 at 02:28 am

  3. Serve with the work of BBC have actually participated in a sport in our business

    Posted by evden eve nakliyat on  11 October 2011 at 12:41 pm

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