As one critic has tersely put it, ‘It is time it was more widely recognised that by the late nineteenth century sport lay close to the heart of British imperial culture’ (Mangan 1). He goes on to say that while certain aspects of this connection have been rehearsed, ‘the significance of this ideology in the context of the British Empire should never be underestimated’, and it is questionable whether it has yet been sufficiently appreciated. He describes ‘this ideology’ as follows: ‘A potent education ideology known as athleticism evolved in response to a late Victorian obsession with character and imperialism’ (Mangan 3). Others speak to its twentieth-century manifestations, as, for example, in the evolution of the practices of fitness (Hargreaves). Certainly there has been quite a lot of treatment of Empire ideologies and their consequences in this last wave of critical debates around the postcolonial, nationalisms and transnationality. At the heart of these debates is the idea of fitness — national, racial, sexual, moral — and athleticism, or more to the linguistic point, sport, the apt metaphor for this ‘condition’. Sport is performative in any number of grammatical ways: it is a noun in two senses, not only to do with physical practice but spiritual mettle; it is a verb — the donning of clothing or attitude; it is both adjectivally and nominally characterological.
Reizbaum, Marilyn, An Empire of Good Sports: Roger Casement, the Boer War, and James Joyce’s Ulysses, Kunapipi, 23(1), 2001.