...Into a New Century


As sport moved into the 21st century, the major trends of the previous two decades continued. The nexus between commerce and sport has become ever stronger - top-class sport being central in the battle for television viewers; broadcasting and sponsorship income being vital for leading sports and clubs. Football’s Premier League, perhaps with Formula One, has become the most commercially successful sporting competition in the world. The sale by the Premier League of three-year television rights, for the UK alone, raised over £3 billion.

Professional sport has become ever more global. Riches in football have attracted foreign owners to Britain and barriers to international movement of players have long gone. Foreign sportsmen and women, of the highest quality, feature regularly in our major sporting events and on our screens. Many have been adopted “as if our own”. International competitions, from rugby’s world cup to the Olympics, have been central to our attention and memories.

Leading sportsmen and women earn salaries, and sponsorship income, beyond any level previously contemplated. Many have become global ‘celebrities’. (There is apparently a bronze representation, if barely recognisable, of David Beckham on display for worship in a Buddhist temple in Thailand!) Some older sports fans may express nostalgia for past times when sporting heroes, they will claim, reflected values of fair play and loyalty now less evident. Yet, sport has a wonderful and continuing ability of producing men and women (and animals) who inspire and bring lasting pride.

Sporting sculptures continue to be created around the country - but generally reflect heroes of earlier decades. These are inevitably early days for statues or memorials of heroes from the current century. Many of the ‘immortalised’ figures of this era are heroes whose longevity of achievement straddles decades. We start with an Olympian legend who triumphed in three different decades and end with a sculptural exhibition celebrating the London Olympics 2012.

Our sporting heritage is a continuing history. There will be many more immortals of British sport.

Photo of Steve Redgrave
Steve Redgrave