How much would it be worth Oxford paying me to watch next year's boat race against Cambridge?  Or how much would Cambridge be prepared to pay to stop me watching?

It's Saturday night in Kyiv and the Oxbridge alumni of the city are gathered at the Golden Gate pub (next to the eponymous 1037 Kyiv historical landmark) to watch the 157th Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race.  The atmosphere is convivial and it's a good chance to meet numerous interesting and upwardly-mobile Kyiv types, including a number of Chevening alumni and people who went to other fine universities including Manchester. Several work for British companies in Kyiv.  A team picture is here:

Kyiv Oxbridge alumni & friends 26.3.11 

In the run-up to the race I mention to those gathered that since I went up to Cambridge myself in 1976 I have seen the race live on TV, or in person, more than a dozen times.  Curiously, every time I have done so, Oxford has always won.  Indeed, 1976 was the year Oxford's longest-running winning streak of 10 wins began (ahead of 9 wins each in 1861-9 and 1890-98 - check it out).  Since 1976, Cambridge has won 12 times, but never when I've been watching.  

We then watch the race.  Cambridge, despite being a strong favourite, suffers a crushing defeat.  Several Oxford alumni immediately note that they would pay me good money to watch again next year.  Their Cambridge counterparts say they will pay me more to stay away.  I hope that if the Kyiv Oxbridge alumni organise an event to watch next year's race I can attend again - and lay the jinx to rest.  But if not, I'm open to offers.

Leigh Turner
British Ambassador to Ukraine

NOTE:  You can read all of Ambassador Turner's blogs by visiting: 

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