Famous (horse) race meetings

The Grand National: at Aintree, near Liverpool, in March or April It is England's main steeplechase (race over fences). The course is over seven kilometres and includes thirty jumps, of which fourteen are jumped twice. It is a dangerous race Jockeys have been hurt and horses have been killed.

The Derby: at Epsom, south of London, in May or June. It is England's leading flat race (not over fences).

Ascot: near Windsor in June. Very fashionable. The Queen always attends.

As I have mentioned horse-racing, I think it will be good to draw attention to racing in hole.



There are all kinds of racing in England — horse-racing, motor­car racing, boat-racing, dog-racing, and even races for donkeys. On sports days at school boys and girls run races, and even train for them. There is usually a mile race for older boys, and the one who wins it is certainly a good runner.

Usually those who run a race go as fast as possible, but there are some races in which everybody has to go very carefully in order to avoid falling.

There is the "three-legged" race, for example, in which a pair of runners have the right leg of one tied to the left leg of the other. If they try to go too fast they are certain to fall. And there is the egg-and-spoon race, in which each runner must carry an egg in a spoon without letting it drop. If the egg does fall, it must be picked up with the spoon, not the fingers.

Naturally animals don't race unless they are made to run in some way, though it often seems as if little lambs are running races with each other in the fields in spring.

Horses are ridden, of course. Dogs won't race unless they have something to chase, and so they are given a hare to go after, either a real one or an imitation one.

The most famous boat-race in England is between Oxford and Cambridge. It is rowed over a course on the River Thames, and thou­sands of people go to watch it. The eight rowers in each boat have great struggle, and at the end there is usually only a short distance between the winners and the losers.

The University boat-race started in 1820 and has been rowed on the Thames almost every spring since 1836. At the Henly Regatta in Ox­fordshire, founded in 1839, crews from all over the world compete each July in various kinds of race over a straight course of 1 mile 550 yards (about 2.1 km).

Horse racing is big business, along with the betting which sustains it. Every day of the year, except Sundays, there is a race meeting at least one of Britain's several dozen racecourses. Nine-tenths of the betting is done by people all over the country, by post or at local betting shops, and it is estimated that a tenth of all British men bet regularly on horse races, many of them never going to a race course.

Horse racing accounts for about half of all gambling, dog racing for a quarter (after increasing by 27 per cent in 1987-88). The total gambling expenditure is estimated at over three billion pounds a year, or nearly 1 per cent of the gross domestic product - though those who bet get about three-quarters of their stake back in winnings. There is no national lottery, though premium bonds are a form of national savings, with monthly prizes instead of interest. About half of all households bet regularly on the football pools, although half of the money staked is divided between the state, through taxes, and the operators. People are attracted by the hope of winning huge prizes, but some winners become miserable with their sudden unaccustomed wealth. Bingo sessions, often in old cinemas, are attractive mainly to women, and have a good social element. More popular are the slot machines in establishments described as 'amusement arcades'. There has been some worry about the addiction of young people to this form of gambling, which can lead to theft.



Even if they are not taking part or watching, British people like to be involved in sport. They can do this by placing bets on future results. Gambling is widespread throughout all social classes. It is so basic to sport that the word 'sportsman' used to be a synonym for 'gambler'.

When, in 1993, the starting procedure for the Grand National did not work properly, so that the race could not take place, it was widely regarded as a national disaster. The £70 million which had been gambled on the result (that's more than a pound for each man, woman and child in the country!) all had to be given back.

Every year, billions of pounds are bet on horse races. So well-known is this activity that everybody in the country, even those with no interest in horse-racing, would understand the meaning of a ques­tion such as 'who won the 2.30 at Chester?' (Which horse won the race that was scheduled to take place at half past two today at the Chester racecourse? The questioner probably wants to know because he or she has gambled some money on the result.) The central role of horse-racing in gambling is also shown by one of the names used to denote companies and individuals whose business it is to take bets. Although these are generally known as 'bookmakers', they some­times call themselves 'turf accountants' ('turf is a word for ground where grass grows);

Apart from the horses and the dogs, the most popular form of gambling connected with sports is the football pools. Every week, more than ten million people stake a small sum on the results of Saturday's professional matches. Another popular type of gambling, stereotypically for middle-aged working class women, is bingo.

Nonconformist religious groups traditionally frown upon gambling and their disapproval has had some influence. Perhaps this is why Britain did not have a national lottery until 1994. But if people want to gamble, then they will. For instance, before the national lottery started, the British gambled £250,000 on which company would be given the licence to run it! The country's big bookmakers are willing to offer odds on almost anything at all if asked. Who will be the next Labour party leader? Will it rain during the Wimbledon tennis tournament? Will it snow on Christmas Day? All of these offer opportunities for 'a flutter'.

Apropos of the Wimbledon tennis tournament: Wimbledon is a place to which every tennis-player aspire. And I want to write some words about it.


People all over the world know Wimbledonas the centre of lawn tennis. But most people do not know that it was famous for another game before tennis was invented. Wimbledon is now a part of Greater London. In 1874 it was a country village, but it had a railway station and it was the home of the All-England Croquet Club. The Club had been there since 1864. A lot of people played croquet in Eng­land at that time and enjoyed it, but the national championships did not attract many spectators. So the Club had very little money, and the members were looking for ways of getting some. "This new game of lawn tennis seems to have plenty of action, and people like watching it," they thought. "Shall we allow people to play lawn tennis on some of our beautiful croquet lawns?"

In 1875 they changed the name of the Club to the "All-England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club", and that is the name that you will still find in the telephone book. Two years later, in 1877, Wimbledon held the first world lawn tennis championship (men's singles).3 The winner was S. W. Gore, a Londoner. There were 22 players, and 200 spectators, each paid one shilling. Those who watched were dressed in the very latest fashion — the men in hard top hats and long coats, and the ladies in dresses that reached to the ground! The Club gained £ 10. It was saved. Wimbledon grew. There was some surprise and doubt, of course, when the Club allowed women to play in the first women's singles championship in 1884. But the ladies played well—even in long skirts that hid their legs and feet.

The Wimbledon championships begin on the Monday nearest to June 22, at a time when England often has its finest weather. It is not only because of the tennis that people like to go there. When the weather is good, it is a very pleasant place to spend an afternoon. The grass is fresh and green, the players wear beautiful white clothes, the spectators are dressed in the latest fashion, there may be members of the Royal Family among them, and there are cool drinks in the open-air cafes next to the tennis courts. Millions of people watch the championships on television.


Almost every sport which exists is played in Britain. As well as the sports already mentioned, hockey (mostly on a field but also on ice) is quite popular, and both basketball (for men) and netball (for women) are growing in popularity. So too is the ancient game of rounders.


This sport is rather similar to Amer­ican baseball and ancient Russian lapta, but it certainly does not have the same image. It has a long history in England as some­thing that people (young and old, male and female) can play together at village fetes. It is often seen as not being a proper ‘sport’.

However, despite this image, it has recently become the second most popular sport for state schools in Britain. More traditional sports such as cricket and rugby are being abandoned in favour of rounders, which is much easier to organize. Rounders requires less special equipment, less money and boys and girls can play it together. It also takes up less time. It is especially attractive for state schools with little money and time to spare. More than a quarter of all state-school sports fields are now used for rounders. Only football, which is played on nearly half of all state-school fields, is more popular.


The British have a preference for team games. Individual sports such as athletics, cycling, gymnastics and swimming have comparat­ively small followings. Large numbers of people become interested in them only when British competitors do well in international events. The more popular individual sports are those in which social­izing is an important aspect (such as tennis, golf, sailing and snooker). It is notable in this context that, apart from international competitions, the only athletics event which generates a lot of enthu­siasm is the annual London Marathon. Most of the tens of thousands of participants in this race are 'fun runners' who are merely trying to complete it, sometimes in outrageous costumes, and so collect money for charity. The biggest new development in sport has been with long-distance running. 'Jogging', for healthy outdoor exercise, needing no skill or equipment, became popular in the 1970s, and soon more and more people took it seriously. Now the annual London Marathon is like a carnival, with a million people watching as the world's star runners are followed by 25,000 ordinary people trying to complete the course. Most of them succeed and then collect money from supporters for charitable causes. Many thousands of people take part in local marathons all over Britain.

The Highland Games

Scottish Highland Games,at which sports (including tossing the caber, putting the weight and throwing the hammer), dancing and piping competitions take place, attract large numbers of spectators from all over the world.

These meetings are held every year in different places in the Scottish Highlands. They include the clans led by their pipers, dressed in their kilts, tartan plaids, and plumed bonnets, who march round the arena.

The features common to Highland Games are bagpipe and High­land dancing competitions and the performance of heavy athletic events — some of which, such as tossing the caber, are Highland in ori­gin. All competitors wear Highland dress, as do most of the judges. The games take place in a large roped-off arena. Several events take place at the same time: pipers and dancers perform on a platform; athletes toss the caber, put the weight, throw the hammer, and wrestle. There is also a competition for the best-dressed Highlander.

Highland dancing is performed to bagpipe music, by men and women, such as the Sword Dance and the Reel.

No one knows exactly when the men of the Highlands first gathered to wrestle, toss cabers, throw hammers, put weights, dance and play music. The Games reflected the tough life of the early Scots. Muscle-power was their means of livelihood — handling timber, lifting rocks to build houses, hunting. From such activities have developed the contests of tossing the caber, putting the weight and throwing the hammer. Tossing the caber originated among woodmen who wanted to cast their logs into the deepest part of a river. Tossing the caber is not a question of who can throw it farthest. For a perfect throw the caber must land in the 12-o'clock position after be­ing thrown in a vertical semicircle. The caber is a very heavy and long log..

Conker Contest and British Marbles Championship

Every year, usually on the Wednesday nearest to 20th October, about a hundred competitors gather to take part in the annual conker competition in a chosen place. The conkers are collected by children from an avenue of chestnut trees. The conkers are carefully examined and numbered on their flat sides, then bored and threaded on nylon cord. Each competitor is allowed an agreed number of "strikes", and a referee is present to see fair play. There are prizes for winners and runners-up. The contest usually starts at about 7 p. m.

It is said that in Elizabethan times two suitors for a village beauty settled the matter by means of a marbles contest. What is now the Marble Championship is believed to be a survival of that contest. The game of marbles dates back to Roman times. Teams of six compete on a circular, sanded rink. Forty-nine marbles are placed in the centre of the rink, and the players try to knock out4 as many as possible with their marble. The marble is rested on the index finger and flicked5 with the thumb. The two highest individual scores battle for the champion­ship with only thirteen marbles on the rink. Similar contests are now held in some other English-speaking countries.



The well-known sporting events

The Boat Race: (between Oxford and Cambridge universities), on the River Thames

in London at Easter. The course is over seven kilometres. Oxford have won 64

times, Cambridge 69 times.

The Wimbledon Tennis Tournament: in July, at Wimbledon, south London, regarded

by many tennis players as the most important championship to win. There is great

public interest in the tournament. Many tennis fans queue all night outside the

grounds in order to get tickets for the finals.

The Open Golf Championship: golf was invented by the Scots, and its headquarters

is at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, St. Andrews, Scotland.

Henley (Rowing) Regatta: at Henley on the Thames (between London and Oxford).

An international summer event. It is a fashionable occasion.

Cowes Week: a yachting regatta. Cowes is a small town on the Isle of Wight,

opposite Southampton, and a world-famous yachting centre.



At the end of my course paper I want to make a short review of what I have already written and write what I haven’t written.

Many kinds of sport originated from England. The English have a proverb, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." They do not think that play is more important than work; they think that Jack will do his work better if he plays as well, so he is encouraged to do both. Association football, or socceris one of the most popular games in the British Isles played from late August until the beginning of May. In summer the English national sport is cricket. When the English say: 'that's not cricket' it means 'that's not fair', 'to play the game' means 'to be fair'.

Golf is Scotland's chief contribution to British sport. It is worth noting here an interesting feature of sporting life in Britain, namely, its frequently close connection with social class of the players or specta­tors except where a game may be said to be a "national" sport. This is the case with cricket in England which is played and watched by all classes. This is true of golf, which is everywhere in the British Isles a middle-class activity. Rugby Union, the amateur variety of Rugby football, is the Welsh national sport played by all sections of society whereas, elsewhere, it too is a game for the middle classes. Association football is a working-class sport as are boxing, wrestling, snooker, darts and dog-racing. As far as fishing is concerned it is, apart from being the most popular British sport from the angle of the number of active participants, a sport where what is caught determines the class of a fisherman. If it is a salmon or trout it is upper-class, but if it is the sort offish found in canals, ponds or the sea, then the angler is almost sure to be working-class.

Walking and swimming are the two most popular sporting activi­ties, being almost equally undertaken by men and women. Snooker (billiards), pool and darts are the next most popular sports among men. Aerobics (keep-fit exercises) and yoga, squash and cycling are among the sports where participation has been increasing in recent years.

There are several places in Britain associated with a particular kind of sport. One of them is Wimbledon — a suburb to the south of Lon­don where the All-England Lawn Tennis Championships are held in July (since 1877). The finals of the tournament are played on the Cen­tre Court. The other one is Wembley — a stadium in north London where international football matches, the Cup Finals and other events have taken place since 1923. It can hold over 100,000 spectators. The third one is Derby, the most famous flat race in the English racing calendar, it is run at Epsom near London since 1780.

Having written my course paper I think that I have proved sport’s deserving attention. Especially sport is a very interesting theme concerning the United Kingdom. Of course, I couldn’t illustrate all Britain sports, but which I still do reflect Britain’s life with all contradictory combinations. Both life is calm and exciting, and sport is calm with golf’s followers and exciting with football’s fans.


1. Which is the English summer national sport?

2. Which kinds of sport can you name in English?

3. Which game can be called the most popular game in the world?

4. How many players are there in a football team?

5. What has given British football a bad name recently?

6. What is a football pool?

7. Football is played chiefly with the feet. What about rugby?

8. How do Rugby Union and Rugby League differ from each other?

9. What is called a test match in cricket?

10. Which place in Britain is associated with lawn tennis champion­ships?

11. Which place in Britain is associated with a yachting regatta?

12. Which famous horse-race meetings does the Queen call on?

13. What kinds of racing do you know?

14. What events take place at Scottish Highland Games?

15. Where is the Royal and Ancient Golf Club located?

16. What was about half of all money bet on in 1993?

17. What is a ‘conker’?

18. What is ‘jogging’?

19. What is more important in sports: the ability to win a victory or the ability to lose without anger; absolute fairness or physical power?

20. What English idioms which have come from the world of sport do you know?




1. Приложение к газете «1 сентября» «English»// «Football, made in Britain, loved by the world», 2001, №13, p.2

2. Britain in Brief, Просвещение, 1993

3. Peter Bromhead «Life in Modern Britain», Longman, 1997

4. James O’Driscoll «Britain. The country and its people», Oxford University Press, 1997

5. David McDowall «Britain in close-up», Longman, 2000

6. Satinova V.F. «Read and speak about Britain and the British», Minsk, 1997

7. Material from the site: www.scotland.com



1. Levashova V.A. «Britain today»

2. David McDowall «Britain in close-up», Longman, 2000

3. Oshepkova V.V., Shustilova I. I. «Britain in brief»


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