magnificent trivia

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Large-scale sporting events—*mega-events, or media events—have combined performative spectacle with the sporting action or endeavour itself. Typical of such phenomena are the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games (see Olympic ceremony), particularly in the broadcasting age when global audiences in the billions can be claimed and reported. Such spectacles have what is known as the ‘wow’ factor, and can hold huge audiences spellbound and speechless in what has been described as a form of ‘magnificent trivia’ (Alan Tomlinson, Sport and Leisure Cultures, 2005, following his use of the term in 2000). The term, or terms close to it, have been variously attributed in other contexts. Kevin Mitchell of The Observer wrote, in the wake of the 2001 destruction of Manhattan's World Trade Center, that ‘sport is our magnificent triviality’. Phil Bull (1910–89), founder of horse-race betting publication business Timeform in 1948, is credited with coining the term ‘the great triviality’, as a description for sport (The Oxford Pocket Thesaurus of Current English, 2008). The power of the term ‘magnificent trivia’, though, lies in its truly oxymoronic impact; the Bull term uses ‘great’ as a mere qualifier, while ‘magnificent trivia’ evokes dimensions of splendour, human accomplishment, and irresistible appeal in the sport-related spectacle alongside an infantilization of the onlooker.

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.

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