Row Z edition 47; dateline 1 October 2010

Delhi treat for Commonwealth athletes
As if the threats of dengue fever, terrorist attack and collapsing bridges were not enough for Commonwealth Games participants to endure, we now hear they are to be forced to watch the opening ceremony in its entirety. As our arts and opening ceremonies correspondent said: “That’s three hours of their lives they’ll never get back.” As an aside, we were going to use the approved nomenclature “Commonwealth Games athletes” but they have lawn bowls and shooting in this one.

PR: an insider speaks
As the commercial reality of trying to run a business with fewer customers spending less more carefully starts to bite, we hear this story allegedly originating from within a virtual super nova in the PR firmament. It seems one of three posts in their leisure-related section had to be axed and the section head called the three young women in the threatened posts into her office. She asked them all their opinions of the latest gadget from a client’s portfolio of fitness machines. “I thinks it’s a marvellously iconic piece of kit which will revolutionise how people keep fit,” said the first. “I think it’s the most fantastically original and innovative use of new technology the industry has ever seen,” said the second. “I’m sorry,” said the third. “I only think it’s great.” Number three has left to pursue other projects.

A Mann truly in his prime
With the project board that is bringing together ISPAL and ISRM to form the new institute for sport reportedly making it clear that both organisations’ incumbent CEOs would be “not needed on voyage” it was no surprise to hear that Sue Sutton was asked to leave the Reading bastion of the institute formerly known as ILAM over the late August Bank Holiday. What caused more ripples to cross the surface of the pond that is the industry we call culture was the name of the replacement for the litigious former hockey development manager and inveterate joiner of support networks that is Sutton. Consultants from every point of the compass have contacted Row Z to point out the similarity between ISPAL chair Peter Mann and the eponymous anti-heroine of Muriel Spark’s seminal short novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Brodie, played memorably on film by Maggie Smith, was a teacher at the buttoned-up Marcia Blane school in Edinburgh who groomed a claque of her favourite girls to become the “crème de la crème”. Mr Mann’s influence seems to be almost as pervasive with Marcus Kingwell, recently of Mann’s now-defunct Pmpgenesis, being asked to steer the good ship ISPAL into a safe dock in the midlands. Given the uncanny resemblance between Mr Mann and Maggie Smith, don’t be surprised if you hear him say, “Give me a consultant at an impressionable age and he is mine for life.”

Seeds of doubt
And on the subject of the new arrangement of deck chairs on the Titanic that is the professional body sector, Sideliner has been briefed by a man in a three-piece suit about applications to the privy council for chartered status. It seems that should anyone in the profession that is applying to become chartered be less than convinced about the process or the people carrying it out he, or indeed she, can make their concerns known to the clerk to the council and he (and it is a he) is duty bound to consider them. Sideliner can’t think of anyone who might want to avail themselves of such an offer, although the two former chief executives of the merging bodies might be able to identify somebody.

Breakfast and champions
And so to Belfast for a £3.50 pint of beer, a good night’s sleep and breakfast in Carrickfergus with the local paper – winsomely enough it’s the Evening Telegraph’s morning edition – and a read of the back pages over an Ulster Fry. Back page lead? Gaelic football. Inside two pages? Gaelic football. Next two pages? Gaelic football. Next two? Gaelic football. Seven pages (and did we mention the lead picture story on the front page?) on one sport might be considered extreme if the world cup of Gaelic football had kicked – or is it punched? – off but this was for one game; and the local team hadn’t even won it. The paper also covered rugby union, cricket, hockey, ice hockey, motorcycling, boxing, golf and horse racing. And greyhounds and bowls and squash. And all about local athletes, sorry, participants. Great paper, lovely view, cracking hash browns – breakfast of the year.

At the Arts End

Planks of wrath at the Met
Scooping this month’s award for not spotting the blindingly obvious are the good people at New York’s Metropolitan Opera who, having commissioned Cirque du Soleil’s Robert Lepage to direct Wagner’s Das Rheingold on their behalf, are surprised that his predilection for “jaw-dropping hi-tech wizardry” is not having the desired effect. Lepage has created a set so heavy that the stage has had to be reinforced and he makes it do so many clever things the music at times is not the focus of attention. Quite what Bryn Terfel, who gives his Wotan with the expected gusto, thinks of being upstaged by 24 fibreglass planks is unknown but At the Arts End we say, “Told you so.”

Who’s next?
Norman Tebbitt seems convinced that Ed Miliband is either a snake oil salesman or someone who rubs himself in snake oil – a snake oil purchaser? – but nearly every other commentator is happy enough to point out the new Labour leader [Note, not New Labour leader. Ed (that's the Editor, not Ed Milliband).] is relatively young and then trot out references to The Who and their seminal single My Generation. While happy enough to consider The Who’s back catalogue as a source of political commentary. Sideliner prefers the allusion in their 1978 offering Who are you?. Of course with any luck Miliband will get his and his party’s acts together and, with one backward glance at the ConDem pact, lead the nation in a rousing chorus of Won’t Get Fooled Again.

Amusing Irishman, we hope so
Saturday mornings on Radio 2 are soon to be enlivened by the presence of camp, Irish comic Graham Norton in the slot previously occupied by Jonathan Ross. Norton, who took a £500,000 pay cut to stay at the BBC in January when the knives were out for “talent” like Ross, is a favourite of the woman who comes in two mornings a week to do the books and many like her who will doubtless be looking forward to the surely self-referential  feature “I can’t believe it’s not better”.

Oxford bids for most bookish of titles
Good luck to Oxford in its bid to become the UNESCO World Book Capital City in 2014, although one would have thought the good burghers would have been begged to do it a good long while ago given the fact that every third shop seems to be flogging Morse books along with the ice cream and the genuine Oxford University hoodies. The campaign is being led by Oxford Inspires, whose chairman (tut tut, chaps) Tony Stratton told the Arts End, “For centuries Oxfordshire’s authors have provided people of all ages around the world with timeless tales of imagination, passion and adventure, from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy or Lewis Carroll’s Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. It’s hard to ignore the rich heritage and impact this staggering literature has had on the world we live in today.” Author of the Morse canon, Colin Dexter, said, “I occasionally go to the bookmakers, and I would certainly bet on Oxford winning this title.” Doubtless the man on the Blackbird Leys omnibus would have been in full accord had he actually learned to read at his sink estate primary school.

Tony Curtis RIP
Farewell then, Bernard Schwarz, film star and heart throb whose early performances were “guided by testosterone not talent” and who made some of the clunkiest television ever with Roger Moore in The Persuaders. You made some bad films and some good films but none better than Some Like It Hot with Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe, who was your lover; another of your skills.

Drawing a veil

This month we shall be treating these impostors just the same:

The interminable bloody Formula 1 season in which nobody admits that it's all about the cars; Ricky Hatton and his battle against drugs in a luxury clinic; the Ryder Cup in the rain; the unremitting patronising of Exeter Chiefs right up to the moment when they beat Gloucester; Spanish cyclists with drugs in their system shock; the organisation purporting to lead the sector that still hasn't spotted the typo in the revolving banner on its website; local authority and government agency employees using the comprehensive spending review to avoid doing a hand’s turn in August, September and probably most of October.

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