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James Pallister reads a wry and timely history of sport, stadia and spectators

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Jägermeister, the ‘medicinal’ short, was the first brand to swap shirt space for sponsorship in football; ball games, female participation in sport and bikinis all existed by 400 AD and Fritz Auer’s wife’s stockings were key to the development of the 1972 Munich Olympic Stadium

These gems and more are revealed in a lively new volume which explores the symbiosis of stadia, sports people and spectators.

The prompt for Volkwin Marg’s new book The Choreography of the Masses, published by Jovis Verlag, was the 2012 UEFA Football Championship, rather than anything currently happening in East London. But it makes an excellent companion to the Games, starting as it does with the Olympian ideals of antiquity, their austere and gruesome iterations in Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, and taking the reader on a light-hearted, well-illustrated romp through chapters on physical education and sport in the 19th century; the modern Olympic Games; sport and politics; sport and commerce; ending up at stadia design, where it covers key projects by Nervi, Foster, Patrik Schumacher, Günter Behnisch and Fritz Auer.

The topics are by no means exhaustively covered but give an entertaining, enriching, set of texts about competitive sport and its place in society, whether it’s details of an Ancient Greek’s training regime (‘neither cake nor sweets nor ice-cold water or especially wine, are permitted’) or a cheerful exploration into German football hooliganism (popular among bankers, doctors and the unemployed, seemingly), followed by a list of Olympic events in which violence at stadia hasn’t occurred (rowing comes out well).

The evident enjoyment that has been had in compiling this book comes across in its wry captions. A typical example detailing the Thriller in Manila reads: ‘Joe Frazier, before the fight. Afterwards he didn’t look so good.’

Choreography of the Masses: In Sport. In the Stadium. In a Frenzy, by Volkwin Marg, Jovis Verlag, 232 pages, paperback, £32

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