Today I read a story that did not surprise me. It was that the Olympic athlete Mo Farah has admitted to beating up a man who apparently 'got in his way' while he was running in Richmond Park in 2009. The man was walking with a woman with a pushchair and Farah insisted that they moved out of his way as he was training along the path. The path is in a park that is open to the public, it is not a sports arena not even a sports centre, it is free to people to walk around. Farah called the police and tried to get the other man charged, arguing that he had started it. However, Farah had left the man so injured that the police would not believe Farah's version of events. Now Farah is black and the other man's ethnicity is not given. Typically, if I had heard the story I would have assumed that a white man had punch Farah and the police sympathised with the white man. However, Farah condemns himself by his own words in his autobiography. Yes, he may be a nationally recognised athlete, but that gives him no authority to order members of the public about and then to attack them viciously if they do not comply with their wishes.
The fact that Farah cannot see what he has done wrong and how he has bullied and then attacked people going about everyday business, it was Christmas Day when you expect many people to be walking in Richmond Park, shows how far removed from reality his mindset is. Can you imagine his indignation if he had been out with his family and the story had happened in reverse? Yet, the reason why he cannot see it this way is because we live in an increasingly divided society. Many people think they are better than everyone else. In part by writing this blog, I am subscribing to that view, because I feel my words are right and are worth reading. However, the lauding of sports people as with members of the military, leads to them having an inflated attitude of themselves. Yes, instruct people where they are to go if you are on a running track or keep them off a military installation, but do not think that extends to a park. It has rules which are enforced by officials connected to the park and in many parks in London even by a specific park police. However, that power does not extend to every individual who is upset that someone else has happened to choose at the same time. That is life, just get over it, do not attack people.
You might argue that Mo Farah has such recognition and status that other people should do what he wishes. I feel that no-one not even the Queen has such a right. If people are acting within the law, then no-one can censure their behaviour. Pushing a pushchair in a park is not a crime. Even if you feel that people like Farah should have special privileges, this does not mean they extend to every sports person whether they compete at a national, country or local level or are just hobbyists. However, as I have noted before, Farah might be at one end of the wedge, but there are thousands of others who see his kind of behaviour as acceptable for them too. I have written here before about abuse I have received from 'proper' cyclists in all the expensive kit as if I was contaminating their space, simply cycling along a public road (not in a velodrome or along a cycle race route). They feel they constantly have to assert that they are better. The same applies to runners especially alongside canals but also on pavements and even on roads. I remember cycling down a hill in a residential area that was poorly lit suddenly to find tens of runners coming right the breadth of the road towards me. Unlike them I was lit up, they were the ones who shouted at me to get out of the road. They felt they had the privilege to run where they liked and somehow I should know this was their route. I just hoped a 4x4 would skid around the corner and collide with them to reduce their arrogance.
There are case after case that I could cite and more come to mind as I write this: swimmers who feel that the lane rules (i.e. swimming clockwise or anti-clockwise and keeping to a certain speed in specific lanes) do not apply to them and power up and down the centre of the slow lane. Yes, be confident, but putting on your running kit or getting on to an expensive bicycle does not make you better than me and certainly not better than the elderly people you terrorise. Yes, it is admirable that you are doing some sport, but it is admirable that that couple are walking with their child or that elderly person is getting to the shops and back. I used to respect Farah. I have worked in the area he lives in and have met people who have trained with him. He seems a joyous, friendly, family man who has achieved a great deal for Britain. Yet, when running in a public space, he needs to remember that he is in fact no better than the rest of us. To assume that you have rights above that of other ordinary people is bad enough; to beat up someone for simply walking in a park is something utterly shameful and he has lost my respect by his own confession.