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Higher Education News from the Collegiate Way

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Chariots of Fire: College Sports as it Should Be

— University-level sports in the United States is such a swirl of scandal and corruption that it’s probably difficult for people in other countries even to begin to grasp what goes on. Hardly a week passes without another national news story about coaches buying prostitutes for student players, trustees throwing elderly people out of their homes to expand football stadiums, administrators pressuring instructors to pass athletes who have never done any coursework, multi-millionaires chauffeuring university presidents on private jets to go watch basketball games, and on and on. If you’ve ever wanted to find signs of the impending collapse of the American Republic, you need look no further than big-time university athletics.

It’s wonderfully refreshing, then, to read a report from Great Britain about collegiate sports as it should be. Today’s edition of the Cambridge Evening News carries a story about a charity road race to be held this month in which many of the Cambridge University colleges will participate, a race that takes its name from the great collegiate film Chariots of Fire. In stark contrast to American college sports, which is a financial parasite at nearly every institution, in the Chariots of Fire race the runners actually pay to participate, with this year’s proceeds going to a local ambulance brigade. There couldn’t be a finer model than this for other institutions to emulate.

Ashley throws down challenge

CAMBRIDGE’S colleges are quick off the mark when it comes to charity.

This year’s Chariots of Fire charity relay race has already received 16 entries from college teams, with more expected as the deadline approaches.

Many colleges have taken part in the race since it was created 15 years ago by law firm Hewitsons and finance experts RSM Robson Rhodes LLP.

Others joined in later as the reputation of the event, which has raised about £500,000 for charity over the years, became more widely known.

Jesus College has a long history of supporting the race and its IT department is fielding a team for the sixth time.

Team manager Ashley Meggitt said: “We’re not the strongest running team in the world but we always have a great time at the event, which raises so much money for charity.

“I’ve instigated a tough training regime which involves hiding the chocolate biscuits, inventing computer problems on the other side of the college so someone will have to get up and investigate, and explaining that 1.7 miles, the length of the race, isn’t much further than from our office to the Bun Shop, which we can also see from our office window.”

The Jesus IT department is one of the biggest among the Cambridge colleges and he believes there is no other college IT team to beat them.

He said: “I challenge any other college IT team to have a go if they think they’re fast enough.”

Other college teams already taking part include Churchill, Clare, Corpus Christi, Fitzwilliam, Queens’ and St John’s, many of them entering more than one team.

The event, which is supported by the News, takes place on Sunday, September 24, and is expected to attract about 400 teams of six. The aim is to raise money for the East Anglian Air Ambulance.

Charles Hewitson, of Hewitsons Solicitors, said: “The colleges have always been strong supporters of the race and I am delighted that this year is proving no exception.”

John Golding of RSM Robson Rhodes LLP added:

“The event is suitable for runners of all abilities, and while some are running to achieve the best time they can, others are there just to take part in a great family event and enjoy the atmosphere.”

Chariots of Fire teams must have six members and the entry fee for each team is £100.

How to take part in the race

IF YOU want to obtain an entry form for Chariots of Fire, you can get one direct from the website – www.chariots-of-fire.co.uk – or from the main sponsors.

The addresses are:

  • Hewitsons, Shakespeare House, 42 Newmarket Road, Cambridge, CB5 8EP.

  • RSM Robson Rhodes LLP, Daedalus House, Station Road, Cambridge, CB1 2RE.

  • Cambridge Evening News, Winship Road, Milton, Cambridge CB4 6PP.

The entry fee for each team is £100.

Update · 27 September 2006 — John Devlin has kindly pointed me to Cambridge University’s news release on the results of this year’s race. Congratulations to the Caius Middle Common Room!

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© Robert J. O’Hara 2000–2016