YEARLY ARCHIVE: 2010
Jonathan Franzen: The Corrections
There are three human institutions that I have long argued are holding back human development; religion, the nation and the family. On the first two it is relatively easy to make a fairly persuasive case and gain a sympathetic hearing, but when it comes to ‘the family’ far fewer people are prepared to entertain its demise.
Naomi Campbell Speaks Out
Naomi Campbell has spoken of the obvious racist dimension to the western fashion industry, her latest condemnation making page three headlines in The London Evening Standard. Despite her high profile modelling career, Campbell stresses that it is still near impossible for models of Black and Asian origin to capture the top fashion posts.
Wikileaks: A New Global Sport
What have we learnt from the latest tranche of secret documents heroically dragged into the public domain by Wikileaks this week? Simply, that the entire planet is run by a shady cabal of gangsters, both government and freelance, sometimes in loose cooperation and sometimes in fierce rivalry.
Government to Measure Happiness!
There is very probably no pre-ordained purpose to human existence at all. In fact, we should only use the word, ‘probably’ out of deference to the principle of scientific scepticism. We should have absolutely no truck with any manner of primitive obscurantist superstitions that pass for modern day religious belief.
The Murdoch Empire Knows No Bounds
Rupert Murdoch and his international News Corporation already have a massively undemocratic control over British affairs and I’m not just talking about sport. Whether he succeeds in buying the remaining part of Sky is largely immaterial to his already massive, unaccountable, undemocratic influence over British politics.
George Monbiot for Chancellor
Empires that rise are certain to fall. There has been, to my knowledge, not one exception to this rule. Britain is certainly no exception. Apparently Britain is so broke that it can’t even afford to continue the network of School Sports Partnerships carefully constructed by the Youth Sport Trust over the past decade.
FC United – Is This The Future?
Humanity under the capitalist mode of production was becoming increasing alienated from the production of life’s necessities because the capitalist owned the entire process of production and the worker was reduced to a mere cog in a machine, forced to sell his/her labour power in a heartless labour market…
Another Black History Month Comes and Goes
In a perfect world, black history would be celebrated and debated every day and there would be no need for black history month. When you consider that ‘people of colour’ account for four out of every five people on our planet, it seems only natural that black history should be at the very heart of the human story.
It’s Wayne’s World – But its not Wayne’s Fault
the opulence of Wayne’s world and his historic record-breaking deal stands in stark contrast to the other news that rocked the city this week. It is now estimated that 40,000 people in the Greater Manchester area will lose their jobs as a result of chancellor George Osborne’s plan to cut £83bn from public spending to fight the deficit.
Stadiums, Stadiums, Stadiums – Olympic Notes No3
Athens got some. So did Sydney. Beijing got some terrific ones. Delhi threw up some impressive ones with just days to spare. South Africa recently built or renovated ten of them. Dubai just can’t stop building them. London got a new one at Wembley and Cardiff got one to celebrate the new millennium.
The Three Trillion Dollar War by Joseph Stiglitz
Ever wondered why even in the richest countries in the world, Americans and the Brits struggle to get their schools funded, their health care sorted and their leisure facilities up-dated? It’s been the same old story over the decades and next week we are told things in the UK are going to get a whole lot worse.
Olympic Legacy: Going, Going, Gone
I’ve been trying to think if there are any positives to the thirteen years of Labour government. I suppose there was Sure Start, which attempted to break the cycle of deprivation and low aspiration. Then there was devolution which, as Europe becomes more of a centralised authority, was a definite step in the democratic direction.
The Agnostic Mr Barnes
In a cleverly crafted piece on the rise and fall of sporting empires, institutions and individuals, Simon Barnes, writing in The Times 22/10/10 shows why he is light years ahead of the rest of the journalistic pack, with only fellow Times correspondent, Matt Syed, able to match him for depth and dimension.
The Geopolitics of the Ryder Cup
Have you ever been bemused by the incongruity of the European Champions League draw or, for that matter, any of the draws for contemporary European football? Kazakhstan is there and so is Azerbaijan and Armenia. Many of the republics of the former Soviet Union are included.
The Selfish Gene Revisited
Frans de Waal, a leading primatology professor, gave a thought-provoking synopsis of his latest research (The Age of Empathy: Nature’s lesson for a Kinder Society) in the Sunday Observer. This research once again throws doubt on the wisdom that sport, and life, are primarily governed by our animalistic, competitive nature
The Commonwealth Games – Hail the Indian Sub-Continent
Approximately one in five of the human race live in what is generally referred to as the Indian sub-continent, a geographical area that includes Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and of course India itself. Within this geographical region there have been civilisations since the dawn of human history…
In My Dreams I Dance by Anne Wafula Strike
It is great to be able to report on a greatly uplifting human sporting tale. Anne Wafula, in her book, In My Dreams I Dance, paints a beautiful autobiographical picture of her life from a healthy baby struck down with polio, through to her amazing achievements in both Kenyan and British Paralympics wheelchair racing.
23 things they dont tell you
What better place to start in order to get a handle on the ever expanding bubble that is the English Premier League than Ha-Joon Chang’s smart little indictment of free-market capitalism. This book is tailor-made for understanding just why the EPL might be heading for one almighty implosion.
Cricket Reflects Life
Cricket, like sport generally, is but a reflection of life itself. Everything we see in sport, be it the highly professional, highly commercialised, highly globalised version, or the stuff at the other end of the spectrum, the local school or club match with nothing but pride and a cheap shiny trophy at stake, reflects what’s all around us.
Mother Russia Woos FIFA
Two very contradictory articles appeared in The Guardian 10/9/10 concerning Russia and its future prospects. The first was a Guardian Editorial 10/9/10 outlining both the grim economic prospects of post-Soviet Russia and also the autocratic nature of its power structures.
Women Hold Up Half the Sky
Women hold up half the sky, said Mao Tse-tung many decades ago. It’s one of my favourite and more memorably slogans from my utopian and somewhat infantile student days, but the slogan still has resonance, and is a poignant reminder of just how patriarchal and misogynistic our world still is.
The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
I first came across Jacobson the writer at his launch of his ‘Mighty Walzer’, a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story set in 1950’s Manchester with hard-bat table tennis as a constant backdrop to a young life emerging from the Jewish Diaspora of that city.
The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
I started reading Dawkins latest offering, ‘The Greatest Show On Earth’. I liked the title because it seemed to be a direct salvo at FIFA and the IOC, who grandiosely like to call their respective tournaments the very same thing. Having recently suffered through the FIFA World Cup Final in South Africa…
Liverpool For Sale
It was Des Kelly in The Mail 9/8/10 who for me, came closest to hitting the proverbial nail on the head, with respect to prospective new owners for Liverpool FC. In a blistering broadside of a heading, Get real, we sold our soul to Chinese ages ago
The Great Game, The Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn
The Great Game here does not refer to the English Premier League nor the Champions League nor FIFAs World Cup. No, here the term refers to that bloody game between Imperial Britain and Imperial Russia in the nineteenth century for control of Afghanistan, a battle that has now spanned three centuries…
Marina Hyde takes off the gloves: Olympic Notes No 2
It is not only Matthew Syed and myself who have had a gut-full of Olympic hype. Marina Hyde writing in the back pages of The Guardian 26/08/10 gets right down to her bare knuckles and lays one fair and square on the nose of the IOC, while landing a sharp kick to the FIFA groin whiles she’s at it.
Gold for Somalia
When Mo Farah won gold at the European Championships yesterday it was far more than just another excellent athletics performance. To understand the importance of Farah’s victory, one has to consider the place that the Somalian community currently occupy in the British socio-economic system – rock bottom.
Matt Syed; Cynic or Enlightened Realist? Olympic notes No1
Two years to go until the London Olympics and Simon Barnes is getting all misty-eyed in The Times. As he waxes lyrical about the Olympics and, ‘their unique tension, their unique meaning’, he tells us cynics to look elsewhere. I took his advice and turned to Matthew Syed’s column in the sports pages.
How Did Sport Get So Big? by Tim De Lisle
In keeping with the title of this quarterly magazine, a cultural offshoot of the more well-known The Economist, Tim De Lisle has produced a highly intelligent essay on the new religion we commonly refer to as sport. De Lisle starts off by offering his readers a comparison between sporting coverage in 1966…
It was Ibrahim’s ninth birthday and what a birthday he was having. His flight to Saudi Arabia had been delayed for a whopping 12 hours but he was not to be defeated. When we located the table at Heathrow’s Terminal 3 he was already in full flow. By the time we left three hours later, he was still playing and very much in control.
Who Are We? by Gary Younge
During any sporting event, especially international ones and particularly the really big ones like World Cups and Olympic Games, the question of conflicting allegiances can come into play. This is particularly true for those who might be considered immigrants or somehow not quite native…
World Cup Journalism – Part 8
With the momentary pause in FIFA’s never-ending road-show, come the legacy predictions. And they can only be predictions at this stage because we are dealing with intangibles like the ‘national feel-good’ factor or the ‘nation building bonus’. Will the extravagant new infrastructure ever be fully used again? Probably not.
Ping London – St Pancras Ping
The grand opening of Ping London took place in the equally grand location of St Pancras station and what a great occasion it was. Jointly organised by Sport England, Sing London, the participatory arts organisation, and the often staid English Table Tennis Association, it was anything but a staid affair.
Why England Lose
By using hard statistics and pumping them into a complex mathematical computer programme they claim to be able to see a definite pattern as to why some countries do better than others, including dear old England. According to this method, England perform as expected and at times do rather better than expected.
World Cup Journalism – Part 7
Post-mortems on Team England’s early demise from the World Cup are a dime a dozen. Interestingly the BBC and Channel 4 dragged in Matthew Syed, author of, ‘Bounce: How Champions Are Made’, to offer their viewers some enlightenment, but all Syed could do was say how complex and unfathomable it all was
Ping London – The revolution begins
In 1917, Lenin’s Bolsheviks captured the Post Office, the railway station, the armaments depot, the Winter Palace and other strategic points. In no time at all St Petersburg was in the hands of the Reds with barely a drop of blood being spilt. Ninety-three years later, Ping London is using a similar strategy.
The End of Overeating by David Kessler
Dr Kessler will be rather pleased with the timing of the NICE report which chimes perfectly with the contents of his latest text, ‘The End of Overeating’. A clear an indictment of the food industry as you will find, and a clear scientific explanation as to the obesity time-bomb we are witnessing across the planet.
World Cup Journalism – Part 6
I still don’t believe it. It’s got to be one of those media April Fools jokes, except that it late June. It simply beggars belief that this is a genuinely kosher article. Yet it gets full page prominence in The Guardian so I can only assume that Marina Hyde is on to something that we should all better know about.
African Soccerscapes by Peter Alegi
Divided into six bite size chapters, Alegi, a professor of African history at Michigan University, offers readers a comprehensive account of African football from the British Empire through the anti-colonial struggle and beyond into national independence and finally to the age of corporate globalisation.
World Cup Journalism – Part 4
A contender for best World Cup article must go to Paul Vallely in The Independent. ‘A Big Day for Football. A Giant Leap for a Continent’, Vallely produces a jaw droppingly optimistic account of Africa’s future economic prospects and in so doing, totally wipes away decades of stereotypes of Africa as a basket-case.
World Cup Journalism – Part 5
Two curiously contradictory pieces appeared in this week’s press, the one heralding a new found African unity between African nations, the other highlighting simmering tensions within South Africa between the majority black population and the sizable minority coloured population.
World Cup Journalism – Part 3
It screamed out of the front page of this morning’s Telegraph 10/6/10, ‘England United: How Football Draws Us Together.’ I just couldn’t resist. I grabbed my copy, rushed home and I wasn’t disappointed. All the usual cliches about dear old England, with barely a hint of journalistic reflection.
World Cup Journalism – Part 2
They say it is the Beautiful Game. You wouldn’t be jumping to agreement with that assessment if you read Donald McRae’s interview with the Cameroon’s captain, Samuel Eto’o. Apart from his leading role for the Cameroon, winning the Olympic Gold in 2000 and the African Cup of Nations twice,
World Cup Journalism – Part 1
Like the profit that FIFA and its corporate sponsors will accrue, journalistic words on or about the forthcoming World Cup will be measured in the millions, if not the tens of millions. But who will lift the trophy for the most inspired, socially penetrating journalism is yet to be determined…
Corruption Is A Threat That Sport Must Take Seriously, an Interview with Nic Coward
I was sitting in a cafe a couple of days ago, perusing the Evening Standard, the highlight of which was an interview with a bloke called Nic Coward, who it turns out has been acting chief executive on two occasions for the Football Association and who is now chief exec of the British Horse Racing Authority.
Bounce: Matthew Syed
Matthew Syed has produced a revolutionary text. Not a bad achievement for a man who used to describe himself as a Christian Socialist, who stood as a parliamentary candidate for Tony Blair’s New Labour Government, who is currently employed in Rupert Murdoch’s mean and nasty global media empire.
Pele: The Autobiography by Pocket Books
While the global financial speculators have been busy at their dirty work distorting and undermining global currencies, which themselves are on the brink of ruination due to the mountains of debt accumulated by successive governments, I thought I would indulge in a little light escapism…
Ping – The People’s Sport
Try as they might, efforts over the past twenty years to promote football as the universal people’s sport, have always rung a little hollow to me. Maybe if we consider football as the people’s spectator sport, the case becomes a lot more convincing.
It’s not About the Bike! by Lance Armstrong
Somewhere in the vaults of my brain I did recall some controversy concerning his Tour de France victories. Armstrong was embroiled with the rest of those cheating, drug taking, and performance- enhancing European bikers whose evil deeds seem to dominate the cycling news year after year.
Where’s the joined up thinking: Election time in Britain – Nick Harris
Nick Harris has done a dour and somewhat predictable job in The Independent in interviewing the three likely contenders for Sports Minister. Perhaps things might have been enlivened a little had he included some questions and answers from the Green and socialist left but that is not the British way.
Invictus: John Carlin, Book Review
A Hollywood style film has recently been made on the basis of the book, though I couldn’t bring myself to watch it because films rarely catch the nuances of a complex story and Clint Eastwood the director, rarely offers any nuances in any of his films. Carlin’s book on the other hand is a classic…
We can see right through the Glazers
Today, on the 28th day of February, 2010, a significant historical event will take place. Today, at Wembley Stadium, thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of Manchester United football supporters will make a highly visual protest at the corporate play-thing their once proud community football club has become.
Dear Gordon Brown
I doubt you would be surprised to hear that the response has not been enthusiastically received. Might I humbly offer some simple suggestions on how the UK might substantially increase its financial contribution to both elite and community sports, not to mention the health, education and the housing programmes.
Olympic Legacy – ePetition response
We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to ensure adequate funding for those Olympic sports for which UK Sport has not so far confirmed details.
Young Gifted and Gay
After twenty years of running a table tennis club and a full forty years of involvement in table tennis, I cannot recall a single instance of a player openly declaring his/her homosexuality. Surely if the one-in-ten statistic is anywhere near accurate, London Progress must have had its fair share of gay members.
A Festival of Olympic Elitism
Can you imagine any of the Olympic athletes competing at the winter games in Vancouver being from anywhere other than a privileged background? The sort of lifestyle required to be slogging up and down ski slopes and the like just does not seem to chime with the day to day grind of working class life.
John Terry and a Parallel Universe
There were a couple half decent articles in The Sun the other week. The first one, by a Jane Moore, was entitled, What does JT say about Britain? It starts out with an attention grabbing paragraph: Alicia Douvall is the psychologically damaged cosmetic addict who ricochets from one shallow sexual liaison to another.
Simon Jenkins – Bourgeois Londoner
I love to read Simon Jenkins on the question of the much hyped Olympic legacy. Jenkins has from the very start consistently decried the mega stadium approach in favour of something more down to earth. I seem to recall his plea that we use our existing venues rather than create shiny new white elephants.
Londongrad: The Inside Story of the Oligarchs by Mark Hollingsworth & Stewart Lansley
This is not fiction, this is the real thing and it certainly is not fun; Russian gangster capitalism spilling out onto the streets of London, complete with lethal poisonings, exploding helicopters and shadowy KGB/FSB units tracking down oligarchs that refuse to play ball with the Russian government.
Bring Back the Hard Bats
A slightly surreal interview with Barry Hearn appeared in The Guardian recently which caught my imagination not just for what he had to say about sports promotion but also for the sheer energy and enthusiasm of the man. Hearn started out an East London chancer, the son of a bus driver and a born optimist.
The Curious Case of Matthew Syed
Matt Syed is most definitely becoming a positive force in sports journalism. From right in the belly of the beast, Syed is regularly producing thought provoking editorials which, along with the long established excellence of Simon Barnes, now makes The Times the most thoughtful sports pages on offer.