OLIVER HOLT: The click of the Stockport County turnstiles was the sweetest tune


We lost our major sporting events one by one during the pandemic. We watched them disappear as we could have seen the streetlights go out in sequence along a wide avenue until only darkness remained. Amid all the loss and pain caused by Covid-19, the great escape from the sport – to watch it and play it – has also been washed away.

Little by little, the lights come back on. I went to a test match for the first time in 18 months last weekend to see England and India at the Oval and while the teams put on a great show the best thing was the buzz from the crowds you get on the big pitches on special occasions and the sight of the two groups of fans mingling happily as they walked through Alec Stewart’s gates at stumps.

I sat in a crowd of footballers, as a fan, for the first time in 18 months as well, when Stockport County played Grimsby Town at Edgeley Park 10 days ago. Going through a turnstile and hearing it click and spin sounded like the sweetest of melodies. There were over 6,000 fans, for a game of our fifth level. The part outside was crowded and exuberant. It was loud and beautiful.

Going through the Stockport County turnstiles and hearing the click was a sweet melody

As summer turns into autumn, it feels like spring in British sport. It’s like a rebirth.

Emma Raducanu is a story for the ages in New York, Cristiano Ronaldo has made a moving return to Manchester United, Anthony Joshua will defend his world heavyweight title in two weeks and the Test series had reached its climax ahead of Friday’s shenanigans.

There is a rush to re-embrace the sense of belonging that sport brings to us. This sense of community – among spectators and competitors – reaches its peak in the mass running events which were among the last things to be restored to the calendar. On Sunday, one of the brightest lights will be on again at the 40th edition of the Great North Run in Newcastle.

To some of us, this will look like the greatest sports restoration of all, the most uplifting symbol yet of the hope that a return to something we once knew as normal is possible.

Emma Raducanu's sensational journey to the US Open final has been a story for the ages

Emma Raducanu’s sensational journey to the US Open final has been a story for the ages

More than 57,000 people will run the world’s largest common cause half-marathon through the streets of the North East and the joy, for more than 56,000 of us, will not be to win but to be part of it again. ‘a community.

Running is special like that no matter how fast or slow you do it. You always run to somewhere, you always strive to get there, you always challenge yourself, you always find solidarity with people who are running towards a common destination. And all the time being encouraged and encouraged by thousands of people who don’t know you.

It does wonders for your view of humanity, and at a time when so many are struggling with mental health from the restrictions, it feels like events like the Great North Run and the London Marathon of next month are more important than they have ever been. been before.

Cristiano Ronaldo made a nice comeback at Manchester United, scoring twice against Newcastle

Cristiano Ronaldo made a nice comeback at Manchester United, scoring twice against Newcastle

This weekend, in line with its Great North Thank You campaign, the Great North Run will be launched by four NHS workers, including Dr Mickey Jachuck, consultant cardiologist and clinical director of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, which has become a evangelist for the exercise.

“I’ve always been pretty athletic,” he says, “but I didn’t really see the point in running. It didn’t excite me. Then, during confinement, I did the “Couch to 5k” and really enjoyed it. I lost weight and felt a bit healthier. I started running more and using the blocks of time we were allowed to exercise. And it helped me cope with the things I saw and experienced at work.

“I realized that people are very happy to take pills or have surgery to improve their health, but the perfect treatment is something that would work, be effective, have relatively few side effects, and would cost nothing. for anyone, it would reduce heart disease and stroke, and improve mood, focus, and sense of well-being.

“And that’s exercise. Mass participation events like the Great North Run are a way for all of us to try and get back to normal.

Events like the Great North Run and the London Marathon are more important than ever

Events like the Great North Run and the London Marathon are more important than ever

Thirteen people from all walks of life, people who have dedicated themselves to supporting their community during the pandemic – a board employee, a teacher, a fundraiser, a sports coach, a supermarket worker – will be featured on notice boards every kilometer of the course to highlight that they are the people the race is celebrating this year.

The return of the event and its 40th anniversary is also a triumph for Sir Brendan Foster, the founder of the Great North Run and one of the most popular and influential figures in British athletics.

He got the idea for the event when he and David Moorcroft competed in the Round the Bays race in Auckland and adopted the model of a city-to-sea race.

It was a remarkable success, a race that has become one of the essentials of the national sports calendar and a great regional pride for the North-East.

The Great North Run hints at a return to something we once knew as normal is possible

The Great North Run hints at a return to something we once knew as normal is possible

“Since its inception,” said Sir Brendan, “the last pit in the area has closed and the last ship has been built on the Tyne. The Great North Run has been a constant as the region has changed around it.

One of the best moments of these mass participation events, all over the world, is the point on the Great North Run where you cross the hill after 11 miles and see the shimmering North Sea stretch out in front of you, knowing that the coastal road and the finish line at South Shields is not far away.

A temporary change to the route, to avoid overcrowding, means the track will return to Newcastle before reaching South Shields, but the compensation is that riders will cross Tyne Bridge twice instead of once.

The new arrival, just like the Herculean effort to organize the race this year, will be an uphill struggle but participating has never felt more important or more useful.

Greed destroys the cricket

The abandonment or postponement – whatever it is – of the long-awaited fifth test between England and India at Old Trafford on Friday was less a product of the damage to the game caused by Covid-19 than a sign of a sport which is doing itself untold damage with the greed that comes from trying to cram too much into its schedule.

It has gotten to the point where England can no longer field their premier test team due to the competing demands of white ball cricket, where fans are no longer sure if a match they have been planning for years is going actually take place and where some of the best cricketers, like Ben Stokes, feel the need to take a step back from the sport due to the pressures on their mental health.

Like football, which is currently trying to force the organization of a World Cup every two years, its thirst for money is destroying it.

England's fifth trial prank was a sign of the unspeakable greed that accompanies a busy schedule

England’s fifth trial prank was a sign of the unspeakable greed that accompanies a busy schedule

A SENDABLE RADIO MAKES SPORT A PLEASURE

Despite relentless efforts by elements of BBC radio to alienate older listeners – ie. whoever is out of diapers – he had the foresight to hire a number of pretty brilliant radio commentators.

This was especially evident last week for those who toggled between the evocative descriptions drawn by Isa Guha on Test Match Special during the Oval Test and the masterful painting of Gigi Salmon, as she illuminated Emma Raducanu’s latest adventure in Flushing. Meadows.

Both make sport a pleasure to listen to.

A number of brilliant radio commentaries have recently made the sport a pleasure to listen to

A number of brilliant radio commentaries have recently made the sport a pleasure to listen to


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