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Big, scary few months for sport





There’s an Indy 500 story from the weekend that South Africans will relate to and shows that the world we live in is none too discerning about how it chooses its victims.

Kiwi Scott Dixon and fellow former race winner Dario Franchitti (he of ‘Dancing with the Stars’ fame) were robbed at gunpoint while in a Taco Bell drive-through lane shortly after concluding their driving business at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The robbery happened shortly before 10pm less than a mile from the circuit where Dixon had hours earlier clinched pole position for Sunday’s Indy 500. While they were ordering with their car windows down, two youngsters approached and held a gun to Dixon’s head, demanding his wallet and phone, which he duly handed over.

No major damage done as police officers later arrested two boys ages 15 and 14.

Confirmation that anything can happen, anywhere, any time. This notion was rammed home far more tragically a few days later when a bomb ripped through a packed Manchester Arena while people were enjoying a sold-out concert.

Athletes such as stellar footballers and even the Proteas cricket team were suddenly thrust into the media spotlight for their thoughts, not on the upcoming game, but on far more serious issues. No wonder some seemed at a loss for words. Not too much media training available for such eventualities.

Though the cynic in me says there is a macabre element of ‘competitive mourning’ when a terrible incident such as the Manchester bombing occurs. People fall over themselves to be first or most emphatic to register their sympathy and festoon Facebook pages with national flags in solidarity with victims. Perhaps that’s just because I didn’t grow-up in an era where social media devices are seemingly welded to fingers.

The point I’m trying to make is that the world we live in can be a sinister place. Proteas team boss Dr Mohammed Moosajee said in an interview after the Manchester bombing that some members of the squad had reservations about touring the UK.

True, that little island has had a disproportionate share of recent incidents. The stoic Brits know, though, that life must continue as normal, or the bad guys win.

As major sporting events in Britain, and indeed around the world, predictably stepped up security in the wake of Manchester, it’s sobering to realise just what soft targets major sports events are. You can bring in the most sophisticated, experienced anti-terrorism measures known to mankind, but if someone, somewhere is hell-bent on destruction, then there’s not really that much anyone can do about it.

The beginning of the northern-hemisphere sporting summer is such a special time. The rich red clay of Roland Garros awaits, followed by Wimbledon and its emerald lawns. The Proteas have a full tour of England to look forward to, not to mention the ICC Champions Trophy.

Three of golf’s four majors will be played in the space of three months. The Tour de France awaits. There are Grands Prix in Austria, Britain, Hungary, Belgium and Italy. The Confederations Cup precursor to next year’s World Cup.

And what about down south where the Boks are getting set to tackle France, and the British & Irish Lions set out to try scale the rugby Everest that is New Zealand.

Here’s hoping that a botched drive-thru restaurant robbery by a couple of misguided Indiana kids is the worst thing that happens off the field this sporting year.


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