Edition number 23; dateline 3 September 2008
Setting fire to the Blazerati
“Plus ca change; plus la meme chose” as our French confreres are apparently wont to say. Tenth in the medal table they may have been with fewer medailles d’or than our cycling team alone but when it comes to finding the mot juste they cannot be bettered. With the gold nose cone on the plane home hardly dry and the victorious Great Britain and Ireland team still saying a fond farewell to whichever Brazilian volleyball players they had used up their condom allowance with, what do we find in the British media on Bank Holiday Monday? Thanks to Radio 4 we learn that the CCPR’s Tim Lamb is terribly concerned that “community clubs” will be left behind as elite and school sport are given all the 2012 money. And on the front of the Guardian’s sport pages we learn that the British Olympic Association “will target third place in the London 2012 medal table”. On this last item, the medal targets for our Olympic sports are set by UK Sport, Little Lord Moynihan, and you were conspicuous by your absence until ‘we’ had already achieved and excelled said targets. And as to the CCPR, just what are you for? What do you contribute to the sum of British sport? The most recent news release on your website is a report of your own AGM IN JULY at which “Brigid Simmonds OBE will say that the sport and recreation sector is struggling to maintain the status quo in the face of increasing bureaucracy and over-regulation.” Brigid who? Is that the woman from BiSL? BiSL?? And whom, might we ask, are they? Add all this to the farrago with the boxing squad’s six-week-old dirty linen being laundered immediately before three semi-final bouts and the picture of British sport consistently being undermined by a self-serving, out-of-date, patrician blazerati is all too easily conjured to mind.
Choose before Sidey gets angry
And while Sideliner is on the Olympic hobby horse, pass me my big knobbly thing on a chain while I take a swipe at the nay-sayers who claimed we only win in sports practised solely by the upper classes. Or to misquote the little blonde fellow from Mock the Week, “sports that Africans can’t afford to take part in”. There is no more proletarian pastime than cycling – ask that arch-patrician Norman Tebbit – unless it is boxing, which exceeded its target, and despite being poor we still bagged four medals at running and jumping. On the other hand, we blew out in equestrianism, the sport of Princesses Royal, and between shooting and archery and fencing we won nary a single gong of any hue. But having shattered that argument as easily as Usain Bolt shatters world records, let me ask you this: if the single most important factor in the development of talent is strong parental support – and you can ask Lords Coe and Hoy if you doubt me – how comfortable would those making accusations of elitism be if we took all of the Olympic funding and spent it on social cohesion, anti-drug and anti-crime measures? More bobbies on the beat but no sports development officers? No competition managers but more nursery places for single mothers? Sideliner offers you one or the other, invites you to choose and then shut the hell up for the next four years because you’re getting on my wick.
The home front assessment
As performance directors of under-performing sports consider the jobs pages of Coaching Monthly, it’s time for the Row Z team to report back on whether their Olympic targets were met. The work experience boy had a mixed experience but he learned a great deal for London 2012, notably to invest in satellite television as the BBC’s choices of sport were about as sound as Jean Van de Velde’s shot selection at Carnoustie in 2000. The old man that does the garden when its not too wet (or too hot or the afternoon) has the ‘red button’ and reckoned that while BBC1 viewers were watching Sue Barker prattling over pictures of two Kenyans and a Moroccan receiving running around medals he (the gardener not the Moroccan) was watching Ben Ainslie being presented with his third Olympic gold. Priorities a bit skewiff there, Mr National Broadcaster? Or are you so up the fundament of the Baron Coe that you’ll continue to show endless athletics even when precisely none of us are watching. Field and track (copyright Steve Backley circa the high jump silver) is not “everybody’s second favourite sport”, Seb, and no matter how expensive the talking heads are that Sue simpers around, it’s time has passed; and your one gold medal was won by a disgraced drugs cheat, however many siblings she has. But the team’s proudest achievement as been a 100% boycott of all ceremonial – except British gold medal presentations – as a protest against the Chinese record on human rights, Tibet and cheating at tae kwan do (and judo). We even avoided our plucky Brits’ eight minutes of fame at the handover bit but that was more because we worried that Mayor Boris might do something embarrassing. He didn’t disappoint and I quote a correspondent of this column who writes: “Boris in Beijing: shambling along the serried ranks of a totalitarian regime throwing military style salutes in a mocking manner; the jacket; the buffoonery; the idiot.”
Joe Strummer and Shanaze’s brother: they also serve
Sadly for us the team lifted the boycott to peek at the handover party from Buck House. The person who suggested that Scouting for Boys should assay an easy listening version of London Calling should be sent to whichever Chinese forced labour camp has a vacancy following the bumper bookings occasioned by the last fortnight’s attempts at protest. Although, looking on the bright side, we could power an entire opening ceremony if someone could hook up a generator to Joe Strummer as he spins in his grave at a rate somewhat higher than the cadence of Shanaze Reade’s legs just before she blew out so spectacularly. Sideliner has nought but respect for Dave Brailsford and his team but with all that investment in our cycling team could we not have afforded to buy Shanaze her own bike rather than make her borrow her eight-year old brother’s?
Elbows, batons and barons
The post-Beijing not-so-merry-go-round has spun its first high-profile casualty onto the safety surfacing with Dave Collins leaving his post as UK Athletics' performance director instanta. Galling enough to be sacked because eight over-paid, over-broadcast popinjays couldn't pass a baton between them (surely the athletics equivalent of walking and chewing gum?) thus causing 'the team' to miss the medal target by one. But to hear the chair of your erstwhile employers telling the world that you would still have been sacked if you'd doubled the tally to ten must indeed rankle. Dave Collins is an engaging, intelligent, straightforward individual who has spent his time in post doing what he was paid to do. His only error? Not being matey with the little baron, we suspect.
Row Z: Olympic special
The view from the back of the stand