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Sunday 31st March 2013

I caught a bit of the boat race coverage as I struggled to get the Rasputin third draft into shape. The BBC, perhaps conscious that they have lost so many of the big sporting events were leading up to this as if it was the FA Cup final with what felt like a couple of days worth of build up. This included a rather incongruous dinosaur mini-golf tournament between two members of the opposing crews. It was a crazy golf course with a dinosaur theme, rather than a golf contest in Jurassic Park (which might have been interesting). If this had been David Beckham playing John Terry at golf then it might have been very, very, very mildly entertaining. But this was two young men who no one is really aware of, who weren't particularly good at golf and had little in the way of personality. The highlights package didn't even really make any sense of the match. It was filler of the most preposterous fashion. What next? Would they train up two crews of non-rowing ex-Oxbridge "celebrities" (none of whom you've ever heard of) to do a mini-version of the Boat Race? Surely not.
My Twitter feed was spinning with resentful comments about the privilege and pointlessness of this contest and it was hard not to agree with that point of view, especially in this time of austerity. To see two boat loads of privileged students, racing in a contest sponsored by an investment bank and then all this wasteful pomp and ceremony around it on a weekend where the government was about to instigate its raft of cuts and taxes on the poor. It was as if this whole event was designed to whip the country into revolutionary fervour.
There was no humility from the crews and not much to shake the (actually not entirely fair) image that these institutions are bastions for the rich and the posh. One of the crew (the one who had lost at mini-golf)'s first action was to thank someone called Theodora or some such ludicrous aristocratic name. I felt ashamed or at least mildly embarrassed to be a Oxford graduand (and a boat race medal winner). It was like a show of opulence that might have been made in pre-revolutionary Russia. And I don't want the UK populace to be incited to revolt until my pithily relevant Russian satire has been made.
There was some swearing from one of the coxes which was treated in a very different manner of forgiveness than it would have been if it had been Wayne Rooney saying "fuck".
If the rich are going to reward themselves and punish the poor I would suggest they keep their heads down whilst doing so. Because if they even look vaguely ashamed about what they're doing, then the forgiving masses will probably feel sorry for them. I am all for the Oxford Cambridge boat race carrying on, but at the most the BBC should be showing the race itself (and maybe then just the highlights) and not all this guff around it. Clare Balding did her best to give the event the common touch, but just looked like a forelock tugging squire of these poncy rowers.
The worst thing about it is that it confirms the image that these universities are only for the elite (either cos you're rich or you're good enough at rowing), which will put ordinary people off wanting to apply. Although there is an imbalance in the favour of the public schools Oxbridge largely operates as a meritocracy and we need people from different backgrounds to go there. But the way things are going this is irrelevant as eventually people will fight back against the way they're being treated and tear down all these institutions brick by brick and bazooka the boat race in mid-flow.
I'd actually suggest that in the future the boat race is scrapped and instead we have one round of dinosaur mini-golf to sort out the best sporting University. And that way it would be easier to let the other Universities join in as well. And the BBC should film it, but immediately throw the film in a big burning bin which is used to keep homeless people warm.

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