David Owen

History repeats: when we address this issue in classrooms or ordinary life, we are often struck by humanity's obstinacy, our tragic inability to adapt.

When history repeats itself in sport, it usually carries no such baggage.

Last week's superb cricket Test match between England and India in Birmingham enabled England fans to wallow, and ultimately to exalt, in nostalgia untainted by its darker cousin, melancholy.

This was because of a coincidence of venue and a similar pattern of play to a famous game 13 years ago, when England beat Australia by an extraordinarily narrow margin and went on to win the best series of long-form (30-hour) cricket matches ever played.

Ultimately though, this first episode of the current England versus India series was not quite as close as the Edgbaston epic of 2005 when a final Aussie fight-back on the fourth morning carried them to within a nudge or nurdle of victory.

And now that the tensions of the moment have subsided, the differences between cricket's current place in the world and where it stood 13 years ago are much more striking than the similarities.

During that unforgettable English summer of 2005, besides the timeless drama of Kevin Pietersen versus Shane Warne, we were just starting to grow accustomed to a promising new form of the game called Twenty20.

Introduced two years earlier, in June 2003, this ultra-short (circa three-hour) format appeared to offer a new tool for attracting young people to the stately old game and helping it to adapt to busy modern lifestyles.

England and India played out a thrilling first Test at Edgbaston ©Getty Images
England and India played out a thrilling first Test at Edgbaston ©Getty Images

Fast forward a decade and a half and the 20-over game has become a financial juggernaut threatening the very existence of long-form cricket.

The long days and lingering evenings that are the hallmark of a British midsummer seem increasingly to be reserved for one-day formats, with the subtleties, varied cadences and stern mental examinations of the four- and five-day game slowly shuffled off towards the fringes.

Those two titanic Edgbaston Tests spanned very similar dates: August 4 to 7 in 2005; August 1 to 4 in 2018.

This time around, however, the match was the first in a five-Test series; in 2005, it was the second Test, the series having started at Lord's on July 21.

There have been other key changes.

Those 2005 Ashes were the last time the England Test team could be viewed live on home soil on free-to-air television.

The switch to pay-TV triggered a cash-versus-accessibility debate that has never really ended.

A riffle through Wisden reminded me that 2005 was also the year when the International Cricket Council, cricket's global governing body, moved out of Lord's, the north London venue redolent of all that is most traditional in the game, and upped sticks to gleaming Dubai.

Meanwhile, Twenty20, a strapping adolescent, looks increasingly like it might provide the vehicle a) for cricket to re-enter the Olympic fold it vacated in 1900 and b) for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to enhance the Games' marketability in populous India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka many times over.

That is if this role is not bequeathed to some yet shorter format, whose intricacies and delights we have yet to be fully acquainted with.

Thoughts of history repeating itself are also quick to surface when worries periodically manifest, as they have again during this scorching northern-hemisphere summer, concerning the effect of hot weather on the Summer Olympic Games.

Global warming might lend such concerns a veneer of topicality, but the phenomenon is hardly new.

Describing the cross-country race at the 1924 Paris Olympics, David Miller's Official History of the Olympic Games and the IOC notes that "the temperature touched 35°C (95°F)", adding that only 15 of 38 starters would finish and that "ambulance men could barely cope with the demands".

Twenty20 has grown so rapidly that it is a threat to the longest form of cricket ©Getty Images
Twenty20 has grown so rapidly that it is a threat to the longest form of cricket ©Getty Images

In consequence of this, it was decided to start the 1924 Olympic Marathon at 5pm, when the great heat would have cooled down.

Thirty-six years later, the 1960 Olympic Marathon in Rome finished, in Miller's words, "in the cool of the evening moonlight along the Appian Way".

One upshot of elite sport's commercial age, over the past 30 years or so, in which broadcasters and sponsors have pumped squillions into the sector, enriching some properties beyond their owners' wildest dreams, has been that the interests of said broadcasters and sponsors have come gradually to the fore, rendering late adjustments for the benefit of live spectators and athletes problematical.

The Summer Olympics have run into October as recently as 1988 and 2000.

The last four Summer Games, and the next three starting with Tokyo 2020, have been scheduled for July and August, however, i.e dates likely to fall within the hottest part of the northern-hemisphere year.

Heat and the Olympics is, in other words, a perennial issue that will probably need managing for as long as live spectators and real flesh and blood athletes are part of the show.

Tokyo 2020 will require thousands of us to operate at as close as possible to our peak potential in conditions (while outside) of blazing heat and sapping humidity; this so that the maximum possible quantity of eyeballs may be drawn for the longest feasible amount of time to the screens via which the vast majority worldwide will witness the action.

In this context, I would like to make one small plea, which will be as relevant in all likelihood to Paris 2024 and Los Angeles 2028 as it is to Tokyo.

This is that security and live audience arrangements be coordinated as closely and sensibly as possible.

Often, for perfectly good logistical or operational reasons, you arrive at a venue to find that the entrance through which your particular category of personnel is expected, for perfectly good security or organisational reasons, to gain access is a long walk away, sometimes across a featureless concrete expanse.

Many of us, equally, will have stuff we must lug around.

Heat haze in Tokyo this week which will be an issue for Olympic and Paralympic organisers in 2020 ©Getty Images
Heat haze in Tokyo this week which will be an issue for Olympic and Paralympic organisers in 2020 ©Getty Images

Something as simple as copious shaded walkways and water supplies would make an enormous difference.

So potentially, if it works, should the NEC face recognition system that we learnt would be used to verify the identity of "athletes, officials, other staff members and media representatives" at Tokyo 2020.

"This latest technology," the press release promises, "enables swift entry to venues which will be necessary in the intense heat of summer".

A new approach to address a perennial Olympic problem; if it can cut back on queueing in full glare of the sun, it will be welcome.