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OU on the BBC: Empire - Playing The Game

Updated Wednesday 7th March 2012

How the Empire was shaped by sportsmen - and how sport became at the heart of so many national identites.

Playing cricket in Chennai, India Creative commons image Icon twobobswerver under CC-BY-NC-SA licence under Creative-Commons license Children playing cricket in Chennai, India Jeremy Paxman traces the story of the greatest empire the world has ever known: the British Empire.

He continues his personal account of Britain's Empire by tracing the growth of a peculiarly British type of hero - adventurer, gentleman, amateur, sportsman and decent chap - and a peculiarly British type of obsession - sport, the empire at play.

He travels to East Africa in the footsteps of Victorian explorers in search of the source of the Nile; to Khartoum in Sudan to tell the story of General Gordon - a half-crazed visionary who 'played the game' to the hilt; to Hong Kong where the British indulged their passion for horse racing by building a spectacular race course; and to Jamaica where the greatest imperial game of all - cricket - became a battleground for racial equality.

Playing The Game is shown first on BBC One in England and Northern Ireland on Monday, 12th March 2012 at 9.00pm; and in Wales on BBC Two at 9.00pm on Tuesday 13th. For further broadcast details, visit

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