Posts Tagged ‘ Olympics ’

Olympics End, Reality Bites.

In a scene reminiscent of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, the massed British television audience that has been mesmerised by two weeks’ worth of moving images and flashing lights, will emerge from their homes in a state of confusion, rubbing eyes startled by daylight and sore from televisual staring. In that moment a new instinct will take hold, one forged from hours and weeks committed to watching strangers from foreign lands leap, and sprint, and dive and dash, as their eyes adjust to the outside world they run, charging forwards, their lungs carried by all the hope and expectation that accompanies seeing somebody else win a shiny piece of metal…

…and then, then they begin to remember. A shrivelled corner of their memory sparks alight strangely familiar sensations. On the streets upon which they have just sprinted, where there should be flags of every nation, where there should be lithe individuals being carried aloft the shoulders of adoring crowds, where there should be a nation in which not just post boxes are painted in gold but the very roads and pavements as well, where there should be this ‘great’ Britain that they have been told about for so many days, they find something else…

…the masses would have been safe from the truth had they not stepped out of the front door, had they not left the security of their living room where the BBC and front pages of the Sun would keep them blissfully unaware. Their mistake was to be inspired. Having left their sanctuary and ran out in the expectation of buying several hundred pounds worth of exercise equipment, they found that their local sports shop was no longer there. A sun stained ‘closing down’ sale sign peaks out from behind cracked white washed windows…

…in that moment of deflation, another shock hits the masses, they had just been running, something most had not contemplated for half a decade and more. Feeling a touch on the side of hungry, the masses attempt to remember what they once did for nourishment before a time when Olympic success could sustain them. Each mind strains to recall, and then it comes to them, a powerful image, burnt into their frontal lobes, McDonalds, McDonalds, McDonalds, McDonalds…and would you like a Coca Cola with that…

…heavy with fatty foods and disappointment, they remember, ‘we can always buy those things on the internet’. Ah the internet, home of the Nike sponsored florescent shoes and home delivered exercise bikes. Too tired to run back, they wait patiently, then increasingly less so, for the bus to take them home. As they wait they find people sleeping in corners, in rough clothes…what are these things, these unfamiliar wretches? Surely this is not Britain, there were no homeless people on show in the opening ceremony, so where did these come from? They hand over £3 to ride the bus, littered with shredded pages of the Metro, each tattered page carrying a memory of an athletic hero. The masses remember the faces, the names are on the tip of their tongue…they are sure it will come back to them…

…getting home, internet on…Nike shoes on sale and an exercise bike on its way. It seems a little expensive, but the masses follow the Government example and spend based on dreams and ambitions, rather that which remains dwindling in the broken bank. 3-4 days to delivery…3-4 days to wait. Television had delivered so many heroes recently, perhaps there will be some more while we wait. Eastenders and Coronation Street are our heroes now, and we sit, and begin to fester once more…

…3-4 days later, the Nike shoes and exercise bike arrive. The shoes look great, and are comfortable around the house, in the pub…the exercise bike looks complicated…it is assembled in weeks to come, and serves as the most effective of clotheslines, and dust mats…

Unlike the children freed by Indiana Jones, the masses will not run into the arms of jubilant families in a magically enhanced lush paradise of hope and opportunity, they will instead run back into Britain, and in remembering what is actually going on in the country as opposed to the magical fantasy land so expertly woven by the state, and will quickly wish that the distraction had not left them. As the wise elder spoke to Indy, ‘now you see the power of the rock’…for the masses, they might begin to understand the distractive power of the Games, and for that reason more than any sense of inspiration, they will wish it never ended.

GSTQ Wins Gold.

There was much excitement today as the ‘British’ national anthem took gold in the cycling. The likes of Gary Lineker and Piers Morgan were quick to celebrate the fact that the plucky and humble anthem was able to stand up to the challenges posed by other anthems and take top spot on the podium after a hard day of competition. Stiff opposition came in the form of the Chinese national anthem, which had been bolstered in recent days by having had so many opportunities to be practiced, equally the Americans had been presented with the opportunity to fine tune their anthems performance on several occasions. Yet today it was all about GSTQ.

The anthem had encountered a number of difficulties in recent days, with prominent Welsh sportsmen being roundly hounded by some very important television types for not doing their bit to help the anthem win gold. Further controversy followed a male cyclist, who having done the hard work of winning his event, then spectacularly failed to secure gold for GSTQ in a disastrously silent rendition of the anthem.

Yet today was all about the anthem. As a female cyclist secured the race victory, her name was lost in a blur of congratulatory texts and tweets in celebration of the anthems achievement, as she ensured its position at the front of the field with a heartfelt singalong version. Mayor of London Boris Johnson was first in line to offer his support, suggesting that ‘while the anthem has had some great days in the past, I remember singing it at a rally for some monarch a little while back, that was big, but this is mega, this is huge, London can really be proud that it played host to such a great anthem’.

Hopes remain that the anthem will go on to win more gold medals as the Olympics continue, but on this day, celebrations will go on long into the night, and the anthem can go back to its hotel room and enjoy a well earned rest having finally secured its first gold medal.

N.B. We may have misinterpreted the Olympic coverage, and a cyclist might actually have won the gold…but it could easily be the other way around.

Things we learnt from the Olympics. No.2

The world can like North Koreans.

 

As Kim Un Guk of North Korea danced and waved, something very strange happened, an international (though predominantly British) audience cheered and celebrated the unlikely victory. There can be few environments in which a North Korean who repeatedly salutes his national flag, outside of North Korea that is, where his actions would be celebrated, but such is the effect of the Olympics perhaps. Any questions about the conditions he endured through his training, or indeed the conditions of those in North Korea who are not elite athletes, were put aside for a moment, and he was a hero to all.

Politics aside, Kim was particularly entertaining and could not have done much more to ender himself to the crowd, just goes to show that a smile and a wave really can go a long way.

Things we learnt from the Olympics. No.1

The most complicated ticketing allocation system in the world…is exactly what it sounds like.

Having offered constant reassurances in the run up to the games, that the threat of empty seats in front of world television audiences would be a thing of the past, Seb Coe had to hide behind the four spectators who watched the first day of gymnastic events as the very opposite happened. The lottery system always seemed a little obscure, after all, decades of people paying money for the events they wanted to see, seemed to have worked out rather well. The dramatic change in policy, which resulted in track and field fans being issued with football tickets, and swimming fans observing boxing, was indeed confusing to some, and was perhaps at least a contributory factor in the empty seats around stadiums.

The dream is realised, a stunning empty stadium, the plan all along.

This has not deterred Boris Johnson from introducing a public transport lottery system. Passengers might not end up on the bus that will take them where they want to go, but they will be guaranteed a spot on the vehicle (though that guarantee is not guaranteed)…that is how the Olympic model was intended to work yes?

We don’t hate the Olympics, but… Cardiff and the World.

We were really going to try and resist this one, but given all the very forced hoopla in the Welsh media coverage regarding the theoretical importance of the Olympics ‘coming’ to Cardiff, it became difficult to resist. For weeks now we have been fed a steady diet of saturated fat based oozing of appreciation for the significance of the Cardiff based Olympic events. Hardly a day has gone by during the last five weeks where there has not been a story extolling the virtues for the city and for Wales, of several football games being played here under the shadow of five colourful rings and the silhouettes cast by ‘London2012’ bunting.

Now, comments from the likes of the chief medical officer for Wales, that the presence of the Olympics will inspire some into physical activity, probably have some merit, if you turn a blind eye to the fast food dominated corporate sponsorship. We are not going to dismiss the good time had by people coming into the city to watch the games, after all, Cardiff is a proven venue for major international sporting events, it was always going to go well. Indeed, we don’t really begrudge the football competition being in Wales, it’s nice to be involved in something that, we can hope, will have some form of legacy for the British Isles. What we don’t like is the barefaced lies spun around the handful of games to be played in Cardiff, and what they will do for the city.

Sebastian Coe heralded Cardiff as a true Olympic City on the morning of the first football games, experts told us of the way in which the football matches would raise the profile of Cardiff and Wales to a global audience, indeed BBC Wales presenters were tripping over each other to tell us that ‘yes, the eyes of the world are all on Cardiff’. But were they? Of course there was plenty of coverage from Cardiff, but how many news carriers were really going to the effort of spinning the ‘Welsh’ story in all this?

A quick look at the British newspapers this morning might give an indication of the profile boost Cardiff was receiving yesterday. The Daily Telegraph, Times and Guardian all carried front page photographs of the first fixture to be played in Cardiff yesterday. Of those, the Guardian elaborated briefly on the location of the fixture, both The Times and Telegraph decided to concentrate their analysis on the furious North Koreans (who of course were not playing in Cardiff). The Daily Express and Mail did not overlook the Olympics, but instead chose to run stories detailing the life and times of royal Zara Phillips. Meanwhile the Star had a full page spread discussing David Beckham’s role in the opening ceremony. However the Independent, Sun, and of course, the London Evening Standard all acted as if nothing had happened at all, for them the Olympics won’t even begin for another day.

Internationally, the Wall Street Journal carried no more than Nick Hornby whining about his lack of Olympic spirit, The New York Times covered the football…featuring the US women’s team, playing in Scotland, but equally failed to make mention of the fact that the game was outside of London. In France, Le Monde was unaware of any Olympic opening games. Belgium, Germany, Ireland, no sign of Cardiff on the front pages in any of those. Even in New Zealand, the other nation to be involved in the opening game in Cardiff, saw little need to put the story on their front page. We could go on, but there are a lot of national newspapers globally to cover which failed to turn over their banner headlines to ‘Cardiff’s day in history’.

The point here, is that despite the great insistence of the Olympic organisers and the BBC, the eyes of the world were not on Cardiff, and they were never going to be. This was not some great promotional opportunity for Cardiff and Wales, and it was never going to be. Cardiff is not an Olympic city, and sadly, it will never be. It helped out, briefly, while the actual Olympic city of London continues to attract the world’s attention. Go back to all those newspapers on Saturday morning, how many do you think will have front page spreads on London and its marvellous opening ceremony? If it is any short of all of them, it will be a surprise.

So, we don’t hate the Olympics, and we don’t hate them visiting Wales, but we do hate being told, so insistently, that this is a really good thing for us. It was a nice thing perhaps, a good thing in that tourism via 30-40,000 extra sports enthusiasts coming into the city is always welcome, and a positive thing if it encourages only a few Welsh children to play some sport rather than watch it on television while chowing through their Olympic branded cheeseburger. But please stop pretending, stop trying to persuade people in Wales that this will be anything more than that. The Olympics start on Friday with an opening ceremony in London, that is where the eyes of the world will be, and that is where they will remain. Most importantly, when all this is done and dusted, and the athletes and world media make their way home, it is London that will be remembered, not Cardiff, or any of the other places to have elements of the games farmed out to them.

So can we please just treat this for what it is? Giving a small proportion of games out to distant parts of the British Isles was an effort in head patting, an exercise is distracted people from the fact that the main beneficiaries of the games will be London, despite everyone in Britain having to foot the bill. Even that is not a problem, London is hosting, why shouldn’t London be the primary beneficiary?! But stop pretending otherwise. Just let us enjoy the games without all the so-forced and oh so heavy propaganda. We certainly don’t hate the Olympics, but Seb Coe and his organisational team sure make it hard not to.

We are all TeamGB…

(Warning, features strong language.)

So the sporting farce that is the British football team had its first unveiling last night, a lethargic warm down against the youth of Brazilian football. However, little attention is really falling on the 90 minutes of play, and more on the final few minutes before the kick-off, in particular the singing, or non-singing of ‘national’ anthems. Now given the controversy surrounding the formation of a British footballing team, the fears of Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish football federations that their existence might be threatened by such a creation, you would have thought those in charge of the team (that would be the English Football Association) might have had a degree more forethought than to select the English (yes, we know, it doubles as the ‘British’ anthem as well) national anthem for the team to sing. After all, there are so many musical alternatives which would not have the connotation of being the song of the English football team to choose from, yet, that is what they plumped for. What did they really expect the three Welsh internationals to do? One wonders if the lack of representation of players from Scotland was more to do with an expectation that any ‘problem’ players who might cause issues with the singing of certain anthems, would be removed from the equation – those good ol’ subservient Welsh will surely step in line though and bleat out the English anthem. But wait, they did not.

Now, we are all supposed to be in this together right? Unity, harmony, Britain together and all that which goes along with the Westminster propaganda machine that has been trying to pursued us that we do actually really like each other. Well, while twitter is far from the most reliable platform for gauging the mood of the nation, it’s about as valuable as those vox-pops which the BBC tend to rely on for their evidence based journalism, so shall we consider for a moment what the reasonable, rational, ‘all in it together to the last’ attitudes of the ‘British’ public were saying about the Welsh players and their ‘failure’ to sing the anthem? Here are a few examples (again, a warning here, some of these feature some very strong language).

‏@ManicMummyat40 Ryan Giggs should be ashamed of himself – sing the National Anthem! #englishandproud #olympics2012

@djmickbrown great to see giggs and bellamy not singing our national anthem..tossers..if they dont want to b part of it properly then please go home.

‏@richardgorman1 Giggs captain? Sing the nation anthem you welsh sheep shagging no mark

‏@ItsCareyBear Ryan giggs not singing the english national anthem #welshcunt

@BiHo1984 Shameful that Giggs and Bellamy weren’t singing the anthem before #GBRvBRA.. Definitely shouldn’t have invited these sheep-shaggers to play.

@Alanmc87 Giggs and bellamy not singing anthem..welsh bastards!!! Ah 1-0 Brazil

‏@BillyRTaylor Lol Giggs won’t sing the anthem, welsh cunt

@ricky_aj_hall Giggs and bellamy not singing the national anthem? Fucking die u horrible cunts! Neymar with the headband reminds me of a young ricky hall

@itisnate Giggs your captaining GB and you don’t sing the anthem you welsh twat and pearce you ugly twat you should of picked beckham #TeamGB

‏@StJakey Ryan Giggs you stupid Welsh cunt.. He shouldn’t Captain the Great Britain team if your not going to sing the Anthem! And you Bellamy #CUNTS

Now, we would be the first to say that this is just a snap shot. There were an equally large number of people celebrating the fact that the Welsh players were not singing the anthem, some sympathetic to the fact that as an English anthem as well, that it would be difficult for them to sing it, while a smaller proportion probably took the most sensible line, and suggested people just get over it. However, it is telling that, with such little prompting, that so much bile can be spilled forth, not just over individuals, but over the Welsh in general. We are sometimes criticised in Wales for being a little too sensitive about the slurs we receive, but the age old response would be to remove the word Welsh from the tweets above, and replace them with the words Black, Jewish, Indian, do that and several of last night’s tweeters would currently be receiving knocks on the door from the local constabulary. But it’s generally okay to say such stuff if it’s ‘just the Welsh’ isn’t it? (Though off course given the state of the British judicial system, it does appear that racial slurs in the football are perfectly acceptable, so maybe we are just out of touch.)

Anyway, back to topic, Giggs and Bellamy ‘disrespected’ the anthem by not singing it, yet there was no Welsh flag waved, no spitting on the soil as the Queen was mentioned, no turning backs and walking to a quiet corner while the teams lined up. There was no protest, this was just a few people choosing not to sing the anthem which represents their biggest sporting rivals. And yet, the hatred that burst through the thinly veiled surface of TeamGB unity is there for the world to see.

So perhaps, when the world comes to ‘London’ as the British Isles is being branded and the picture perfect image of a united kingdom of loyal love all Brits is poured onto the planet’s television screens, maybe we might refer back to nights like this. Nights where the true reflection of Britain, and it’s tolerance to it’s ‘regions’ comes pouring out. We are all TeamGB after all, so long as you don’t show that you are Northern Irish, Scottish or Welsh.

Poor Sales for Olympic Football…Go Figure.

It would appear that Olympic bods are a little concerned about the state of ticket sales for their under 23 knock about football tournament. The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, better known for hosting 70,000+ fans cheering on fifteen gents in red, currently looks set to welcome around a mere 15,000 people to watch the so called ‘TeamGB’ join other youth teams from around the world in a contest for the 7th most significant tournament in world football. Why then is this leg of the Olympics, part of what is usually sold as the greatest show on earth, failing to whip up the sort of fervour that competitive sporting fixtures usually invite when hosted in Cardiff city centre?

From a Welsh perspective, attention would well be drawn to the most recent press conference regarding the forthcoming tournament. Plenty has been written over the lack of a Welsh FA endorsement for the TeamGB concept, and there is little point wading through all of that once more. But if anyone wanted an insight as to why Welsh fans are not flocking to snap up their taste of the Olympics, look no further at the figures who made up the press conference panel. At one end, we have the manager of the England Women’s team, Hope Powell, next to her, occasional England Men’s team manager and former England international Stuart Pearce, and then over to the other side could be found Clive Woodward, former England rugby international and manager of the winning English Rugby World Cup squad. So, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, these are the figures spearheading your campaign, do you feel the pride in your English, English, English, oh so very English management team, well, do you? Not even an attempt of tokenism towards the non English elements of this TeamGB farce, a sentiment not helped by manager Pearce asserting that he would have no qualms selecting an all English first XI (though he stressed the same for an all Welsh XI, though that would require having enough of said nationality to put out that many players…we will wait and see on that one).

TeamGB was a pandering to England’s love of their beautiful game, and in it the authorities in London saw a chance to soften up those noisy ‘regions’ of Britain who felt they were being shafted financially in order to give London yet another advertising boost in front of the world for a few weeks. Well London, we are not buying the trade off, and we are not buying the tickets.

Couple that with the fact that the whole concept of football being played out in the Olympics is a farce in itself – remember everyone, if it’s in the Olympics, then the Olympics has to be the pinnacle of that sport’s ambition. Well, I don’t see the football World Cup being downgraded, so Cardiff and Hamden get the pleasure of hosting a second rate tournament which should not even be in the Olympics, which barely represents them, as part of a pat on the head for not making too much noise about being sold out so that the English capital can enjoy another day in the sun. Thanks London Olympic Committee, but no thanks.

TeamGB football has been a misguided concept from day 1, while dropping some events outside of London (hello London Olympic Committee, you do realise that you are shipping off parts of the Olympics to a different country yes? Was that in the French plan, to give Belgium some long distance track events?) is a nonsense. Wales will not be sold on the idea, and Wales will not be sold out for some colourful rings. Sadly, we don’t seem to have much choice about it, apart from not turning up to see any of the meaningless matches, and that, for us, will be exactly what we will do.

Oh, and when you do drop into Cardiff London Olympic Games, clean up after yourselves, London is a filthy little place – don’t treat Cardiff as if it was one of suburbs…which of course, is exactly what you are doing.