To the delight of local devotees, the Albert Kahn Foundation museum that is but a Temba Bavuma lofted drive from the Parc des Princes in north-west Paris has reopened after a long period of renovation. Kahn was a man ahead of his time. As a philanthropic banker who made his money during the early years of the 20th century, not only did he donate large quantities of his wealth but he created scholarships for young women to travel the world — which was his own great obsession.
The museum’s freshly appointed main exhibit records in magnificent detail his own extraordinary world tour that commenced in early 1909. Accompanied by only his chauffeur, Albert Dutertre, who was also his official photographer, the two men travelled to
Japan, China and pretty much everywhere in between and returned to Paris with more than 3 000 carefully protected glass negatives, as well as copious meterage of moving film.
The bon mot from Kahn that greets one at the wall by the entrance to the exhibition captures his essence and his imploration: “I ask only one thing of you; keep your eyes wide-open.”
As the “around the world in 80 minutes” guided tour of the exhibition gently unfolded, one’s attention wandered — first transported by the galaxy of photos and journal entries of both Kahn and Dutertre to a different, pre-selfie, pre-pandemic age of travel, and then to an entirely different fantasy world in which a calendar of sporting events were imposed on top of the global adventure.
It got me thinking. What would be the perfect world tour that would strike the perfect balance between travel and sport?
It turns out that 2022 provides the perfect canvas upon which to paint such an adventure: around the world in 80 games.
Which seems about right. For every day watching sport there would be three and a half of travel and other forms of cultural inquiry and discovery.
If you happen to be soutie cricket fan, the year can begin and end in Australia. And so it commences with The Ashes and the fourth test at the Sydney cricket ground and ends in December with the iconic Boxing Day Test between Australia and South Africa.
(Note to reader, to save time and space, the word “iconic” has been omitted from the rest of this piece. Kindly insert, in your mind, before every reference to a particular ground or tournament, since almost without exception what follows is “iconic”).
Between the two test matches are sandwiched four other red-ball Test Matches (a dash of slap and tickle white ball stuff); a variety of high-end football; attendance at three seminal golfing tournaments and three equivalent tennis ones — representing 5/8ths of the combined “majors” of both sports — plus a sprinkling of rowing, cycling and rugby.
Oh, and the Ryder Cup.
Hence, January would have been spent almost entirely in Australia, with inter-state road trips (this is past fantasy, so there are no Covid-19 travel restrictions) before and after a jump across to Tasmania for the Ashes denouement, so the time before the start of the Australian Open tennis is filled.
A quick digression on governance: in the case of tennis tournaments, two days is deemed sufficient, whereas for the golf tournament, much like a Test match, seeing the whole drama unfold is an imperative for the globe-trotting observer.
From Oz to Yaounde for a dramatic switch in mood and infrastructure. Cameroon was the host of the African Cup of Nations this year; an excellent opportunity to see some of the world’s best paid footballers playing on their home turf.
Thence another drastic shift in climate and political culture: the Winter Olympics in China, and a chance to visit the new economic and geo-political super-power at close quarters, as well as downhill skiing and indoor curling.
End of February, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine begins, a flight to Scotland to a bit of Six Nations rugby — Scotland versus France, the eventual grand-slam winners, at Murrayfield.
Time to warm up and mirror the pro golfers with their “Spring Swing” into the southern states of the USA to escape winter and get the season going. The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass with its iconic — there’s that word again — island 17th green.
From Orlando, Florida, it’s just a short hop down to Barbados for the second test of England’s tour to the West Indies, to join the red-raw sunburned serried ranks of the Barmy Army. Sailing between the various islands of the West Indies is a must-have, although there’s only time for one yacht-ride west to the third and final test in Grenada.
There is then something of a lacuna in the international sporting calendar, so for lack of anything else a trip to India to sample at first hand the bling of the Indian Premier League, which this year is mainly happening in the four cricket stadiums of Mumbai.
This is where the intrepid traveller can requite his or her longings, either with three weeks of touring around India or by making a long and complex overland journey through the Middle East to the European summer.
The North London Derby, which this year looks like it will be a play-off for the fourth Uefa champions place. A must for any Arsenal (or Spurs) fan — all fire and brimstone, and delicious contrast to the gentle hues of County Championship cricket games in Leeds and Taunton to follow, as an English summer (with luck) blossoms, a beguiling sandwich filler before an English Premier League finale at Anfield.
The first of several Eurostar trips comes next, to catch the beginning of the French Open tennis at Roland Garros and at the end of the week, across town at the State de France, the Uefa Champions League. An early start the next day, to get down to Monaco for the only Formula One race that is irresistible — the start of a month languishing up and down the French and Italian rivieras, to recover strength. 53 days gone; only 27 to go. Got to keep the eyes wide open.
Back to Britain for a day at the Henley Regatta and a couple at Wimbledon — a real dip into “The Season” — and up to Scotland again, but with time to spare to explore before the start of The Open at St Andrews, “the home of golf”.
The journey back south permits a pint or 10 of Castle Eden at the Dun Cow in Durham and the opening match of the Proteas’ summer tour of England — albeit an ODI. Jump back onto the Eurostar for a couple of days of watching extremely fit men in lycra whizz up and down hills in France; the Tour de France is really just an excuse for a longer jaunt in rural France, before the serious red-ball stuff starts back in England. The “Home of Cricket” beckons, accordingly, for the First Test, marking the end of the European sporting summer, at least for this latter-day Albert Kahn, and the start of a rugged drive down through East Africa to the bottom of the continent in time for the Rugby World Cup Sevens, which by all accounts is an absolute hoot. Plus it’s in Cape Town this year.
Back to Italy for the Ryder Cup in Rome and then the final games of the Fifa World Cup. This, of course, is the bucket-list, high road version. There is, no doubt, a more granular, more exotic, low road iteration, which would open the eyes even wider, if one cared to look.
As the great West Indian Marxist historian CLR James asked, with the most powerful line of sports-writing rhetoric ever written: “What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?”