Chariots of Fire

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Something for the weekend.  Chariots of Fire.  I have never had much interest in sport, and I doubt if I will be watching much of the Olympics.  However I did greatly enjoy the 1981 film Chariots of Fire, which told the stories of two of the British runners in the 1924 Olympics, Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell.  If the film had focused solely on their prowess as athletes, I doubt if I would have bothered watching it.  Instead, the film is primarily about religion.  Abrahams, a Jew, looks upon his running as part of his life long battle to show his fellow countrymen that he was just as British as they were.  Liddell, the son of Scottish Evangelical missionaries in China, has spent most of his life in China.  He is a pure Scot, but his religion, which is his core, sets him apart from his society, as this reading from Isaiah in the film, dramatically demonstrates:

This all comes to a head when he refuses to run on the Sabbath in the Olympics in a dramatic episode of the film, which is not on Youtube as far as I can tell, alas.  An accommodation is made for him, and he runs and wins a gold medal, as does Abrahams.  Liddell goes on to continue his career as a missionary in China, and dies there in a Japanese internment camp in 1945, of malnutrition and an undiagnosed brain tumor.  The film, although a bit maudlin at times for my taste, is an interesting exploration of the conflicts between religious duties and the demands of civil society.  If only such conflicts were as trivial as those depicted in the film, and as easily resolvable!


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  1. Televised Olympics were, used to be, and are no longer an opportunity to spend time in some part of the world with its culture, weather conditions, gathered peoples, and sportsmen vying for excellence at something. Clean, wholesome, and fair and almost humble sport.

    For example, my fondest memory is of the winter games when Franz Klammer won the downhill ski race on a trail of mostly ice during the years in the 80’s when snow was scarce (and astroturf was new) and competence and strength counted more than any – oh, but this or but that other thing. Salt Lake City year was my last mostly watchable.

    Now, it seems to be a hyped ‘celebrity behavior’ gadget, issue, and glitz blitz of hyperactive blinding flashes and fast talk. Unintelligible presentation for this weak and incompetent former viewer.

    Pity the children who have this circus atmosphere presented for inspiration and example of excellence and competence.

    The speaker in the ‘July, Springfield, and Lincoln’ video, in my opinion, has the sense for presentation and speaking.

  2. I loved Abrahams character in this (one of favorite movies). He couldn’t figure out what made Liddell motivation so strong. He senced it but the end scene when celibrations should be going on the camera was panning out from his face with him in deep thought. I believe in real life Abraham converted to be a Catholic and that is why in the beginning of the movie the funeral was in a Catholic Church…

  3. PM,

    I actually think the coverage has gotten much better in the last couple of Olympics. The excessive amount of different channels that NBC is using means that they are really focused on the sports, especially when on the channels other than NBC proper. So as long as you are not interested in the key sports, you can just watch them. Of course the most interesting sports from my point of view are on MSNBC which means putting up with their horrible, sanctimonious commercials.

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