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There can be few British institutions that say more about us as a nation than the School Sports Day. Our division into games-worshippers and those who couldn’t care less is never seen more starkly than in the keen faces of kids determined to win the egg-and-spoon race or for senior school pupils the 100m, and their relaxed mates making daisy-chains and chatting. And it’s not just the kids: is there anything more revelatory than dads who just happen to turn up for the event in running shoes: “A dads’ race – I hadn’t realised.” The contemporary history of Sports Days is telling too: non-competitive versions foisted on some of the recent cohorts; and the angry reaction of right wing newspapers and politicians to such developments.
But whatever the nature of the contests (or non-contests) certain elements are timeless threads in the British tapestry. We must have a public-address system that doesn’t work properly, manned by a volunteer who is either a teacher dodging sportier duties or a parent not entirely displeased with his own voice. The smell of newly mown grass must permeate the area. Ideally the kids will represent houses whose names mean nothing to them. One child will win everything in sight. One mum will claim her child has been robbed of glory by blind judges. And there must be plastic medals.
Strangely given our often inclement weather nearly all sports days pass without rain, which may be a sign of approval from the local gods; or that they have money on the red-haired twins in the three-legged race.

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Anne Boleyn Beheaded - 1536, Cromwell Declares England a Commonwealth - 1649, Kew Gardens Opens - 1759, Lawrence of Arabia dies - 1935, Speaker Announces Resignation - 2009
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