On the other hand, walking back along the crowded Embankment from the Globe Theatre towards Waterloo, minded to check out the giant can art on the walls of the Tate Modern, we entered a sudden density of people, heard roars and screams and saw men flying though the air. The Nissan Qashqai Challenge is in full swing. Mountain bikers launch themselves from a tower down a steep ramp, clear an abyss, hit another down slope, sandbank, take off, hurtle high to the next sandbank, clear the ground again and, in mid-air, either i. do 360s in the horizontal plane ii. do 360s in the vertical plane or iii. let go of the bike entirely apart from one hand on the handlebar then remount in order, just in time, to hit the steep slope that marks the terminus of the Challenge run. The fourth possibility involves crashing out and rolling about with one’s bike in the abyss.
Gripping stuff. Rather more so than the spectacle of neo-medievalists being sunny (see previous post). The celebration outside the Tate is concerned with contemporary issues of panic, abandonment, recklessness, the difficulty of feeling mortal, the allure of danger and its pal death. Young male athletes enact a popular concern with bodies that are light – they can fly; tough – they can smash cartoonly into walls and resurrect; disposable – death loses its sting as the wider world unravels.