La Flamme Rouge edition 15; dateline 1 March 2017
Let’s not blame it on Rio
Pictures of the facilities built for the Rio Olympics in advanced disrepair that were all over the media recently were somehow both deeply shocking and wholly unsurprising. Nothing conveys a sense of decay like a swimming pool with no water but these facilities were being used for an Olympic Games only six months ago. In fact, given the rather extreme interpretation of the principles of the ‘just in time’ manufacturing process, many are only are only just six months old. While the IOC continues to stall and blather in the face of Wada’s evidence that the Olympics and much of international sporting competition is being subverted and undermined by government-funded doping programmes, these images of the legacy of the most recent Olympics do as much as anything to lead us to the inescapable conclusion that the whole concept of the Olympic Games is now so broken, corrupt and removed from reality that it is now time to bring the whole sorry affair to a close. Let nations spend their money on something else to promote sport and the fine principles of inclusion, endeavour and togetherness that the IOC puts up for sale so successfully. Let someone else pay for their travel and their hotels while we get on with playing our games, making friends and building communities.
Toot toot, says the electorate
These are depressingly interesting times in British politics for anyone capable of a base level of logical thought but it is interesting how much of the sport, leisure and culture sector still pops into the political environment despite the determination of our politicians. Witness the travails of Paul Nuttalls of the UKIPs, who turned up in Stoke to campaign for the vacant parliamentary seat dressed as Mr Toad, one of the most popular characters of children’s literature. He laughed off suggestions that he looked what the fashion writers might call “a bit of a tit” and strode on, pushing his credentials as an academic, charity bigwig, local resident and Hillsborough victim for the benefit of the Stoke electorate. As each strand of this not very carefully constructed campaign was dismantled, he was reduced to insisting that while he had not actually lost close friends or relatives at Hillsborough, he had at least been there on that fateful day. Now with plenty of time on his hands, at least he’ll be able to tackle those few misguided souls who have continued to suggest that he would struggle to find his match ticket.
Proofing the best that art has to offer
To the Tate Modern where the Leisure Review seems to have set up camp, the better to luxuriate in the joys of curved concrete and underground performance art (imagine LFR’S delight when we learned rather than a new cutting-edge ‘happening’, this was literally art being performed underground). While we trailed the editor around The Radical Eye exhibition that brings Elton “Sir Elton” John’s own collection of photographs to the public, we were delighted to be able to bring a little of our sporting knowledge to this gathering of aesthetes. We may not know much about art at La Flamme Rouge but we do know that Joe, the heavyweight champion of the world, spelled his surname as in St Louis the city rather than John Lewis the shop. No doubt it’s been put right by now but we would be grateful if any TLR reader were able to confirm that this oversight had been dealt with.
• Read the Leisure Review’s review of The Radical Eye exhibition.
In the last issue of LFR we noted with regard to Mr Cameron that nothing became him like his leaving. It is an observation that bears repeating when considering the rather brutal end to Claudio Ranieri’s time as manager of the Premier League champions, Leicester City. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation (we don’t know much about football but “not many” and “too bloody many” respectively would seem to cover it), Claudio was the personification of dignity, issuing an elegantly crafted statement expressing his heart break that such a situation had come to pass, returning a few days later to say good bye to his former colleagues at the club and even answering questions put to him through his car window with patience and politeness. Just as David Cameron’s departure from his post reminded us that he had always been idle, careless and self-indulgent, so Claudio Ranieri reminded us that even when he’s at his lowest ebb, he remains a man of dignity, intelligence and no little self-control. Would that we could say the same of ourselves.
Medals available: queue here
Jo Pavey’s campaign to have the world athletics championship medal she should have won presented at the athletics world championships in London this summer has been backed by some big names within the sport so there is a chance that it might happen. Retesting of stored blood samples has seen numerous results being overturned and Pavey’s fourth place in the 10,000m in 2007 will now become a bronze. Jessica Ennis-Hill can also claim gold for the 2011 world championship heptathlon after the Russian winner subsequently tested positive. Similarly, Goldie Sayers can now claim bronze in the 2008 Olympic javelin competition and the GB men’s 4x400m team are due an upgrade. The only slight problem for the athletics authorities would be that such a display of natural justice could see queues of cheated medal winners stretching from London’s Olympic stadium (is it still called that?) all the way down the Bow Road to the Tower of London. The world athletics championships might have to be extended to a full month to fit in all the anthems. At LFR we are still lobbying the leading lights of world athletics to ensure that in each case the defrocked doper should have to present the medal to the rightful recipient and, seeing as one of the LFR team once had a pee next to Milord Coe, it can only be a matter of time before our well-connected campaign bears fruit.
Clinging to gold
Bradley “Sir Wiggo” Wiggins and Dave “Sir Dave” Brailsford have been having an uncomfortable time in the spotlight recently. One is trying to justify the use of using injected corticosteroids as a hay fever remedy and the other is being asked by the Commons culture committee to explain why, having spent years explaining how the mastery of every conceivable detail is the key to success, he didn’t know about this or anything else that was happening in the organisation he was running. Along with various allegations of bullying, sexism and the failure to fully disclose the contents of an internal inquiry to one of its major funders, this has been something of a torrid few months for British Cycling but at least Mo “Sir Mo” Farah has stepped, or rather been pushed, forward to shoulder a little of the unwelcome attention currently being visited upon the shining lights of British sporting achievement. Farah is once again having to answer questions about the sort of thing that might have been done by the sort of people he definitely hangs around with and reiterate that he’s definitely going to continue hanging around with them because they’re great and everyone should just leave him alone. It all serves to make the off season a bit more interesting for fans of pedalling and running about, and if nothing else it surely puts to bed the question of whether it is appropriate to present awards and honours to sports people until they’ve been retired for a long, long time.
Abuse claims shift Planet Football on its axis at last
To the surprise of no one living outside the gravitational pull of Planet Football, the UK outpost of the Beautiful Game (copyright Sepp Blatter and numerous other variously convicted and compromised individuals) has eventually found itself having to deal with allegations of widespread sexual abuse of children and young people within football clubs around the country. Given the popularity of the game and the numbers of people involved, it was always unlikely that football would stand immune while other sports were having to accept and deal with similar allegations but the initial response of the FA and others within the Football Family (copyright everyone making money out of being associated with the world’s most popular and financially rapacious sport) seemed to be a determination to stall enquiries, downplay the scale of the issue and cling to the use of the past tense, all strategies familiar to anyone with an interest in the history of how so many other sports authorities have tended to deal with allegations of abuse. From the initial claims the trickle became a flood when several ex-professionals went public with their own stories. An NSPCC line set up specifically for cases arising from the football abuse stories quickly received 1,700 calls and by the end of 2016 the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) confirmed that 429 new victims of child sexual abuse in football had been identified; 214 police forces across the UK are dealing with 155 suspects and a total of 148 clubs are now involved. Whatever else the FA might have on its agenda this must be top of its list. With criminal investigations ongoing, football’s perennial defence of selective deafness and organisational sclerosis will not suffice this time.
Doping addressed, reputations salvaged
If the FA was surprised to discover abuse within its midst, imagine its shock to find one of its Premier League clubs subject to investigation and sanction by the anti-doping authorities. Manchester City was found to have failed to inform UKAD of the whereabouts of some of its players. This is top-flight football so obviously there was no actual wrong-doing and no individual – and certainly not the team itself – would be serving any penalty. There was an admission of some sort of administrative error on behalf of the club, the anti-doping authorities delivered the equivalent of a very mild rebuke shouted across four football pitches on a squally day, and fines equating to several hours salary for one of City’s reserve team mainstays was levied. Thus the spotless reputation of professional football is maintained to the delight of millions.
Tales of a net and other barriers
LFR bows to no one in its distaste for the home-counties, “Come on, Tim!”, whites-on-whites world so carefully projected and protected by so much of the UK tennis establishment for so long but we swallowed the unpleasant taste that sometimes rises to the back of the throat when faced with the prospect of physical exercise and once again accompanied our most junior colleague to the Sunday morning tennis sessions in our local park. When we had last joined the racquet-wielding throng the sessions were encouragingly busy, a result, we assumed, of the fact that some coaches turned up every Sunday morning with a supply of racquets and balls, kids turned up on a five-quid-a-head basis and everyone had a great time getting tennisy whatever the weather and whatever they happened to be wearing. So successful was this approach that online booking had to be introduced, which has made it all a lot easier to manage for the coaches but also resulted in fewer kids being able to play. There’s always a good reason for these things but it seems so many sports manage to find new barriers to place in the way of people wanting to play.
La Flamme Rouge
Unpalatable and irreverent, unreliable but essential