April 3, 2006 in London

The Boat Race

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My sophomore year at Michigan, I lived next door to this gal who was a member of the varsity rowing team. She was the true definition of student-athlete. She rose early almost every morning to practice and train for a sport that would never get even 5% of the glory showered on the football or basketball team, even if they won a national championship. Yet she never complained. Plus she was even more dedicated to her studies. Most nights you would find her studying at the library.
I thought of her this past weekend, with the media build up to the 152nd annual Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race. Since rowing doesn’t have a huge fan base in the United States, I was surprised to learn that this event is watched by millions of people worldwide. Here is what the official website states:

The Boat Race is one of the most popular events in the British sporting calendar and attracts a massive crowd of around 250,000 to the banks of the River Thames between Putney and Mortlake. For the last five years, the BBC Television audience for the Boat Race has averaged over six million, making it a top five live televised annual British sporting event (along with the Grand National, the FA Cup Final, Wimbledon Men”s final and the British Grand Prix). In 2003 the TV audience for The Race was 7.7 million. The event also has a huge international following with an estimated global audience of 400 million in around 180 countries.

Surprised by these numbers, I decided to head down to Putney Bridge which is only a few stops away from Wimbledon on the train to check out the event for myself. It was indeed a festive atmosphere and I managed to find a perfect spot to view the start of the race. But instead of going to a local bar to watch the end of the race, I raced home since with the rains, many establishments were beyond capacity. However, as the race was over in 18 minutes, I missed it. I did get to see the presentation of the trophy to the Oxford team who won the race. So next year, if I’m around, I’ll have to come up with a better plan to see both the start and end of this 4mile boat race. Better yet, I might just stay home and watch. Things were a bit chaotic around the starting point.

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