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August 07, 2012

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nick s

I'm not sure that's the right narrative. There's the alternative narrative where Romney served as a useful scapegoat -- as dsquared put it at the time, the numptie who dives in short just as the shorts go long -- and then the opening ceremony was a grand messy trifle.

My crowd of London mates were fairly grumpy bastards beforehand, but most of them got tickets to relatively low-key events and began enjoying themselves before the British medals started coming, and my guess is that the hacks sensed a counter-counter-narrative as well.

The volunteers have mostly turned out not to be a faceless jobsworth IOC infantry, and it's them, not G4S, who are the first point of contact. It's a shitload of sport that isn't conducted -- for the first time in a long time -- within the marginally less tight cordon of Sky. It's a mashup of Jeux Sans Frontieres and Brigadoon, and it still delivered Boris hanging from a zipline.

Charlie

Certainly the BBC gets credit here. Was expecting iPlayer to stutter and fizzle, but it hasn't. And no ads, ever. Contrasts with the parlous state of test cricket.

bert

I was at the triathlon today.
As a spectacle, catatonically dull. As an experience, surprisingly warm and fuzzy.

Brits came first and third, though. So, warm, fuzzy and shiny.

hellblazer

Parlous state or parlous coverage?

nick s

Certainly the BBC gets credit here.

Absolutely. The coverage has been a bit ragged at the edges, but the direct comparison has been to the atrocious NBC coverage, and like the nod to the NHS in the opening ceremony, it comes out pretty well. It'll be interesting to see how Sky reasserts itself when the Premier League kicks off.

Charlie W

Parlous state of coverage.

Anyway, I'm all for sticking to guns, so will say that there are three things here. One of them is UK lottery funded sport, like cycling and rowing. This continues to do well, certainly as judged by its adopted criteria of success. The second thing is what LOCOG did, that is, the mounting of the games. This has been perhaps OK, but has certainly had problems, the unjust ticket allocation being the worst of it. The third thing is what the broadcast media are dong and the BBC are doing it well. Most pre-event criticism of the Olympics focussed on the LOCOG contribution. A good 'Team GB' performance doesn't fix that. However, I suppose it might make the nation's sports-connected efforts, in aggregate, the performance and the staging, seem worthwhile.

dsquared

Very much a Y2K effect on the London traffic and organisation I think - after a whole year of "policestateZillanestwohourwaitsCHAOS!", the system adjusts to protect itself and we are all amazed.

Ray

Sport as war, innit?
Back before one of the invasions of Iraq, there'd be stories in the papers about tanks behind berms and chemical weapons, is this war even justified, how much will it cost etc.
Then the invasion starts and SUPPORT THE TROOPS! AREN'T OUR BRAVE BOYS DOING BRILLIANT! LOOK AT OUR CLEVER BOMBS!
Give it six months and we'll be back to velodromes sitting idle, final bills arriving, hang on, does this mean we weren't welcomed as liberators?

belle le triste

No, it's not just that -- at least not for Londoners in my neck of the woods. We were promised -- as Olympic bystanders -- a seething hell of an August, and actually it's felt, in that respect at least, more pleasant than usual. Road-traffic seems down; everywhere feels, if not actually unpeopled, certainly much less crowded than we'd feared (or indeed than usual). Of course for local shops and small businesses this has probably been a catastrophe -- I have a friend who runs a market-stall in various places East and South, and she says it's been a dreadful month, no one buying, no one even turning up. Ordinary tourism is also down -- global economy mixed with upfront scare-stories about LONDON NOT READY, presumably -- and my guess is that quite a lot of folk scheduled their holiday to coincide, either so they could see some sport live, or stay at home and watch it all on telly, or get out of town altogether for the duration. Result = quieter streets, buses easy to board, less rush-hour jam...

Phil

Ordinary tourism is also down -- global economy mixed with upfront scare-stories about LONDON NOT READY, presumably

If our experience is anything to go by, it's much simpler than that. Hotels are charging silly money in the hope of getting it off Olympic tourists; non-Olympic tourists are therefore staying away. Also, the organisers are making it very easy to get to the games sites and equally easy to go straight home again afterwards.

We went down to see the second-round men's table tennis, as you do, and initially planned to make a weekend of it by staying over in our usual Premier Inn; we even had some idea of having another weekend in London some time this summer. Then we looked at the prices and thought again. Our Olympic Experience went like this (Contributions to the Local Economy in bold):

train to Euston
tube to Bank (despite awful warnings to avoid this, the most direct route; it wasn't even busy)
DLR to Excel (this was busy, as was the venue)
found somewhere to sit (not easy) and ate our sandwiches
queued for the one single solitary water fountain
watched the table tennis (the Brit won, which was nice)
queued to get out (this was quite quick, despite the numbers)
DLR and tube back to Euston
had a meal for four at the Doric Arch (formerly the Head of Steam)
bought a copy of the last issue of the Word at W. H. Smith's

and, er, that's it. London didn't get a lot out of us, nor we out of London.

Igor Belanov

Unfortunately, the medals in many ways represent a massive success for 'austerity' in sports funding.

After the perceived 'disaster' of GB's low medals haul in Atlanta, money could have been poured into sports facilities, boosting participation and encouraging 'success' that way, while at the same time improving opportunities for ordinary people to enjoy themselves and stay fit.

Instead, sports funding went to elite athletes and was targeted to sports where GB was thought more likely to win medals. As a result, people are kept happy with the acquisition of 'shiny things, and convinced of GB's status as a great sporting nation.

At the same time, leisure centres and school fields are being closed and/or sold off, and European countries with more mature attitudes to sport still have many more sports facilities than we do.

redpesto

It helps that the shiny things are in events at the beginning of the Olympics (think of the 'Rebecca Who?' moment at Beijing compared to the one track and field gold 'the nation' had to wait over a week for).

Charlie W

I'm all for sports facilities, myself. But as far as I can tell the main benefits of elite sports funding are access to high level coaching and sports medicine, and salaries / stipends for athletes that allow for full time training and take away the stress of having to earn a living. The second of those looks to be very important, but also hard to come by, even with lottery money. If you're lucky, a generous employer (the Royal Navy, say) might put you on indefinite sabbatical. A 'sport for all' type policy doesn't address this issue at all. No reason not to support both elite sports and general sports though.

ajay

Igor: as long as Britain remains well supplied with public pools, bike shops, parks and hills - and it is - there really is no excuse for people not to get fit. The idea that Brits would all be lean and healthy if only we had enough badminton courts and public velodromes is a bit odd.

ajay

Phil: don't tube tickets also count as contributing to the local economy? Otherwise good point...

Phil

Not when you don't have to buy them - they came with the Games tickets. Presumably LOCOG got a deal.

Jakob

ajay: I dunno; yes, Britain is well enough supplied with hills, parks etc. that getting fit should just be a matter of buying running shoes; however, sport's often more fun.

ajay

Phil: aha. I didn't know that was the deal.

Seeds

Talking of the approx £10m cost per extra medal won, there's an interesting article on the LRB blog right now showing medal score per unit GDP.

Rather than the more comforting (for Brits) medal score per unit population.

Seeds

And you can count me with dsquared as "someone who isn't very interested in sports and who, under normal circumstances, wouldn't give a monkey's about how Plucky Team GB are doing".

But... I've been having a long, ludicrous and (initially) light-hearted argument with a Spanish friend about whether Spain or Britain is better at sports (don't ask). So I've been checking the table regularly to see how much more convincing I've become each day.

For similar gloating directed at Australians, the Daily Mash has this.

Igor Belanov

"Igor: as long as Britain remains well supplied with public pools, bike shops, parks and hills - and it is - there really is no excuse for people not to get fit. The idea that Brits would all be lean and healthy if only we had enough badminton courts and public velodromes is a bit odd."

You might just be missing the point here.

You could get fitter by jogging 5 miles every day or running up and down stairs all evening. Sport, however, provides a lot of motivation and purpose, as well as enjoyment. If you're pushed for time then an hour playing five-a-side football, squash or swimming is more fun and more exercise than going for an hour's walk. If sports facilities are much less accessible then it will be those that are more dedicated or have more time that will get the opportunities. And that is one of the main reasons behind current sports funding and the medals programme.

Igor Belanov

"But... I've been having a long, ludicrous and (initially) light-hearted argument with a Spanish friend about whether Spain or Britain is better at sports (don't ask). So I've been checking the table regularly to see how much more convincing I've become each day."

Quite right, it is a ludricrous argument. Partly because the host country in an Olympics almost always gets a medal boost, and particularly when they invest heavily in making it happen. In Barcelona in 1992 Spain won a lot more gold medals than GB. It didn't necessarily make Spain a better sporting nation than Britain then, just as GB's medals haul in 2012 doesn't mean that Britain is such a great sporting country as some flagwavers seem to believe.

Barry Freed

I take your point but personally I'd much rather walk for an hour in the woods/hills than playing football, squash or even swimming (most days) but maybe that's just me.

dsquared

Sport, however, provides a lot of motivation and purpose, as well as enjoyment.

yes, this is the bit I don't agree with.

dsquared

Is there any way, btw, that we could do the moon landing thing with the Olympics, and just have a massive and slightly bizarre symbolic theatre event once every few years, followed by two weeks in which we all agreed to smile at each other, and the newspapers printed a daily made-up medals table with us winning? I'm quite enjoying all the camaraderie and party atmosphere, but every time I've crumbled and checked out a bit of the sport to see if I was being excessively curmudgeonly ... nope, it's still the same tedious bollocks it ever was. And there isn't even trackside betting, which is the only thing that makes any sport worthwhile.

EDIT: actually boxing's OK too. and cricket. Otherwise rubbish from soup to nuts I'm afraid.

chris williams

Actually, eight billion quid would get a couple of Brits on the Moon: also an excuse for a party. As for the limp pics, I've enjoyed a couple of games of football and I'm looking forward to some basketball, but to be honest I mainly sorted these out so the kids wouldn't turn on me in later life if ever they become sports fans. For me, any sporting thing that could possibly happen in the limpics has already been overshadowed by Wiggins winning the tour, leading out his sprinter in Paris, and making the century's most brilliant acceptance speech so far.

jamie

Yes, agree on the actual sport. It sort of ruins the whole thing.

And I'll tell you something else: if I was 14 now and Cameron was making school sport voluntary, I'd be in real danger of becoming a Tory.

redpesto

Igor Belanov:

Partly because the host country in an Olympics almost always gets a medal boost, and particularly when they invest heavily in making it happen. In Barcelona in 1992 Spain won a lot more gold medals than GB.

See also host nations and World Cups.

(*coughs*1966*coughs*)

Igor Belanov

I've never really seen why school sport should be voluntary, or that it's so onerous. You'd think it was like some US high school movie or something. They even let the kids wear tracksuit bottoms and jumpers to go out in these days. Maybe kids should be excused Maths or Science if they find it boring or difficult.

skidmarx

“I feel that too much is put on children to be sporty. A lot of kids hate sports and it really is hard for fat children to be accepted in sports.
“Over the years many people have come up to me and thanked me for playing Roland, as they felt he was the only character that they could relate to when they were growing up.
“Nothing has changed over the years since I was on television — children still are bullied for being different.”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/news/9376669/Grange-Hills-Roland-to-host-Olympics-for-the-obese.html

Phil

Igor... naah. I won't start.

I'll just say that things seem to have improved since I was at school; my son endured a couple of years of rugby, but switched soon afterwards to fencing, climbing(!) and judo(!!), all of which he both enjoyed and was good at.

I was OK at badminton, or so I discovered one wet day when the teacher left us to muck about in the gym; we never officially got to play it. Then there was (at another school) the teacher who told us one week to bring in tennis racquets, and the next week taught us the rudiments by showing us how it was done, pairing us off and leaving us to it. Much later - several weeks later, in my memory - there was only one kid in class who wasn't making the ball go where it was supposed to, and it was me. The teacher then came over to me, looked at me, told me I'd never learn and it was no use his trying to teach me, and then looked at my racquet and told me it wasn't a proper racquet at all but a "beach bat" - as indeed it was. (Thanks, Dad.) So that was it for me and tennis. (Exactly how not having a proper racquet was the consequence of my lack of skill on the court I'm not sure.) Obviously I could have got into sport later on, but the association with gratuitous and repeated humiliation was a bit too strong.

Not that I am... who am I kidding, you'd be bitter.

Seeds

"Quite right, it is a ludricrous argument. Partly because the host country in an Olympics almost always gets a medal boost, and particularly when they invest heavily in making it happen. In Barcelona in 1992 Spain won a lot more gold medals than GB. It didn't necessarily make Spain a better sporting nation than Britain then, just as GB's medals haul in 2012 doesn't mean that Britain is such a great sporting country as some flagwavers seem to believe."

Naturally "home advantage" is ground we've alrady covered, along with Spain's past glories in BCN. But yeah, I was serious about the ludicrousness. Neither of us care at all about sport (to watch) and it's a spin-out of an even more preposterous argument about which nation has left a greater "positive cultural legacy" to the world, which in turn came out of a pissed discussion about Gibraltar and what would happen if the Guiris had pinched the entire Iberian peninsular and not just a little bit at the bottom. Previously I'd assumed Britain was shit at ALL sport and I was reduced to arguing that we'd invented several of them. No idea if that's strictly true. But then it was never a "strict truth" kind of argument.

Gareth Rees

The idea that elite sport can somehow get the rest of the population involved in sport is as ludicrous as other forms of "trickle-down" wishful thinking. Elite sport picks winners and showers them with money, while the losers get nothing. Grassroots sport, on the other hand, consists entirely of losers.

Chris Williams

Oddly enough, the owners seem very keen to rubbish the 'all must have prizes' attitude supposedly held by teh libruls, yet seem remarkably gung ho about the world-view expressed by such as Steve Jobs and a host of Olympic has-beens who pervade the after-dinner circuit: 'all can have prizes'.

Phil

I think they're two sides of the same coin. The X Factor is all about how everyone has a song in them and anyone could be the next big star - some of the time. The rest of the time, it's all about how 99% of civilians are crap, and the 1% are still crap until they've been ritually humiliated by the professionals to the point of losing the ability to think for themselves (they don't call it "Boot Camp" for nothing). And even then most of them are losers, because there can only be one winner. But that one winner... it could be anyone! Keep dreaming, kids.

Phil

PS Really, competitive sport is better than pop music from this point of view - at least in sport you know whether you can do it or not. When that Indian woman said she'd be back at the Olympics, only as an athlete, she just sounded deluded. A stage-crasher saying "I'll be back, and next time they'll be paying to see me" would just sound healthily ambitious; setting yourself up for almost certain failure in the entertainment industry doesn't seem crazy any more.

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