The nationalism of sport

The host Britons are doing exceptionally well at the XXX Olympiad (despite Mitt Romney’s doubts), leading to claims by NBC reporters that this is the greatest, most uplifting sporting success in English history.

This is typical of TV, which knows nothing of history. The greatest sports event in English history was its wholly unexpected victory in the 1966 Football Association World Cup, which came at a time when memories of the losses of World War II were still fresh (and you could see bomb craters in London) and the country was in the midst of a distressing economic slump.

As any Englishman will tell you, the ’66 cup changed the public outlook. The well-known writer David Lodge even wrote a novel about it.