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Free Thinking: Sport vs the Arts

Eleanor Oldroyd Eleanor Oldroyd | 17:18 UK time, Thursday, 4 November 2010

Sage, Gateshead

OK, so there was Nessun Dorma at the World Cup in 1990. French existentialist author Albert Camus was a noted goalkeeper. Visit the British Museum and you'll realise that the sculptors of Ancient Greece quite liked a ripped torso.

But while some footballers allegedly boast a cultured left foot, there aren't many places where you see the artistic and the sporting life of the nation come together.

There may be people out there who own season tickets for the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, AND Stamford Bridge, but they're probably among a tiny - and super-rich - minority.

So what's better - sport or the arts?

It's a question we'll be asking this Saturday night in the first ever simultaneous broadcast between Radio 5 live and Radio 3. A panel of sports pundits and arts lovers will go toe-to-toe in front of a live audience at the Sage in Gateshead.

With a British Wimbledon winner or a repeat of England's World Cup victory in 1966 seemingly a distant dream, should we just admit that what we really do best in this country is staging plays at the Royal Shakespeare Company, or exhibitions at the Tate?

Joining me in sport's corner will be two men whose sporting talents are matched by their brain capacity. Matthew Syed was three-times Commonwealth table tennis champion, but he also took a First from Oxford University. Pat Nevin is as passionate about music and literature as he is about the Scotland football team, for whom he won 28 caps.

They'll be out to argue that watching Lionel Messi in the Nou Camp is as aesthetically pleasing as watching the finest dancers at the Royal Ballet.

That an England victory over Australia in a Test match at Lord's is as emotionally satisfying as Puccini's Madam Butterfly at La Scala in Milan.

But maybe the killer argument belongs to Albert Camus. When asked which he preferred, football or the theatre, what was his response?

"Football, without hesitation."

'So do you agree with Albert or are the arts superior to sport?'

Related Posts
Drawing the battle lines at Free Thinking - Rana Mitter puts forward Radio 3's case

Related Links
What Does Britain Do Best: Sport or the Arts? - full details of the programme


  • Comment number 1.

    That is about the most tenuous and flim flam subject to fill 45 minutes of a Saturday night that I have heard of in a long time. Eleanor's past studio debates with Matthew and other guests have been fun to listen to, but in order to fulfill some obscure regional debate directive, you are putting on an expensive and no doubt boring outside broadcast for a Saturday night.

    You at 5 Live must be desperately casting round for inclusivity subjects to offer to your dwindling numbers of listeners. In the process you are wasting the talent of Eleanor and her guests.

  • Comment number 2.


  • Comment number 3.

    Just be grateful the 5live team isn't Murray, Savage and Groves.

  • Comment number 4.

    Carrie - Do you have any evidence to support your statement that the debate is expensive, or mounted in response to 'an obscure regional debate directive'? You don't sound very inclusive in your thinking, if I may say so, and I'd remind you that the event is called Free Thinking, not Mindless Bile. ;-)

  • Comment number 5.

    Good morning Karmann Ghia.

    It is an outside broadcast for 45 minutes. It is in Gateshead. The main protagonists are London or Scotland based and the broadcast is in the evening. All costs even if local production staff are used behind the scenes.

    For a short programme, with a live audience to deal with, of course it is not going to be as low cost as one of Eleanor's similar debates. If it had been run as a local programme on the live network it would have been cost worthy, but shipping people, as we know, is expensive.

    And then we have the piece to debate. Nothing in it, it is flimsy. In 45 minutes it will never get started and when it does, it will be desperate, believe me. Just look at the background for the idea Elly has given.

    It is well documented that 5 Live has been asked to increase inclusivity of the regions by these type of broadcasts, it is not my idea. Lip service comes to mind.

    My inclusivity is not in question. I have always wondered why the same type of outside broadcasts are not offered to the South West, Scotland, East Anglia, Wales, the South of England, all of the Midlands and anywhere else that isn't London, Manchester and the North East.

  • Comment number 6.

    @carrie - the debate is part of Radio 3's Free Thinking Festival which is a three-day event in Gateshead. We are simulcasting it alongside Radio 3. The Radio 3 production staff working on the debate will be working on other programmes at the festival.

    Eleanor posed a question at the end of her post and it would be interesting see some responses to that rather than presumptive judgements on a programme no one has yet heard.

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    "What's better - sports or the arts?" is a rather silly question to ask though - it is subjective and there cannot be a correct answer.

    Agree with what Carrie has said.

    I have a more pertinent subject that could be discussed. The strike.

  • Comment number 9.

    "So do you agree with Albert or are the arts superior to sport?"

    It is still a ridiculous question. It is like some sub GCSE class discussion topic. Arts and sport are not exclusive and as an example, tomorrow I will be at Twickenham and on Sunday I will be at the Barbican for an evening concert. You are just going to get people trying to prove that they like both, or wouldn't be seen dead at one or the other. 45 minutes is not time enough to expand. Oh, Syed went to Oxford but played table tennis!! For goodness sake.

    It still does not answer the question: what is wrong with the rest of Britain as a venue for any BBC national broadcast?

    Any negativity on here is due to disappointment and long experience of the actual thing not living up to the hype.

    Where have you and AVK been, Nigel? All that talk of keeping this blog informative and alive, and you have only come out of the woodwork because you are irked by my comment. What about the Rajars blog and all the other questions AVK has been asked, and comments invited, by other people on this blog?

  • Comment number 10.

    Are the arts superior to sport ?

    Who can say ?

    I won't lose any sleep over it .

  • Comment number 11.

    @nigelsmith ... said "it would be interesting see some responses to that rather than presumptive judgements on a programme no one has yet heard".

    Frankly, it would be more interesting to:

    1. See the promised Twitter post which was promised two months ago
    2. See the promised Salford post which was promised three months ago
    3. Watch the full video of the Matt Wells interview with the Controller from the Radio Academy session last month which seems to have been unavailable and we've only seen propaganda snippets.
    4. Have any answers on the comically titled "Your Questions Answered" thread.
    5. Have the person that said "I appreciate that it's frustrating when comments aren't acknowledged, questions not answered and people who you've got used to seeing writing posts disappear after a while. I can't guarantee that I'll meet all your expectations but I will endeavour to make sure no one is left in the lurch from now on." live up to his word.

    The audacity of asking the bloggers to answer a question when time and time and time and time again the comments and questions are ignored is breathtaking.

  • Comment number 12.

    I agree the arts are superior to sport.

  • Comment number 13.

    The debate is actually "What Does Britain Do Best: Sport or the Arts?" - not quite the same as Eleanor describes it.

  • Comment number 14.

    And of course that should be "What Does Britain Do Better".

  • Comment number 15.

    And the answer is................................

    The blog is overwhelmed with feedback from the millions who listened.

  • Comment number 16.

    I listened to the start but when it became clear that the 5live team had completely misinterpreted the brief I switched off.

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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