Friday 2 February
All sporting arguments are put into context when an Italian policeman is killed during rioting at a Serie A game between Catania and Palermo.

Saturday 3 February
Jonny Wilkinson follows Serena Williams’s example and returns to the international sporting stage after a lengthy lay-off. Having spent the last three years or so recovering from multiple injuries and learning to play the guitar, Mr Wilkinson enters the fray to break the individual scoring record in the Calcutta Cup.

Monday 5 February
The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority launches a review of the secondary school curriculum, proposing a new focus on a personal approach to learning. Among the suggestions are more trips to museums, theatres and galleries, and new approaches to lessons, such as science and PE teachers combining lessons to teach anatomy. While a new generation of pupils contemplates doing an extended range of lessons in its pants, sports minister Richard Caborn begins the week in which he will become the longest-serving sports minister by suggesting that asbos should include six-hours of physical activity or competitive sport each week. VisitBritain launches a map locating the key sites of the UK’s rock and roll heritage to calm everyone down.
Tuesday 6 February
The Australian Bureau of Statistics helps out its colleagues at Tourism Australia by publishing figures that show 2,433 overseas visitors have died in the last seven years, many in incidents involving insects, animals and extreme heat. The Royal Court’s new artistic director, Dominic Cooke, unveils a new programme that will “look at what it means to be middle class”. UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner says he has seen enough of that sort of thing and that GB teams should no longer include “also-rans”. London 2012 organisers submit Europe’s biggest planning application for the 2.5km² Olympic site. “This is an investment not a cost,” says Lord Coe, his eye’s moving rapidly from side to side under the glare of the television lights. Amid much talk of heritage, American business men George Gillett and Tom Hicks agree to buy Liverpool FC for £470m and promise a new ground that will be the “greatest facility in the sport”. Work to dig up Stanley Park will begin within sixty days, they say.
Wednesday 7 February
Darrell Hair says he is going to sue the ICC for racism following the whole abandoned Test farrago of last summer. Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, puts his name down for the Autumn Museum Blockbuster Stakes when he announces that a part of the Terracotta Army from the Qin Shihuandgdi tomb in China will come to London in the autumn.

Thursday 8 February
An Equal Opportunities Commission poll suggests that 82% of people think achieving a work-life balance is difficult, while two thirds think jobs should change to suit families. Meanwhile, a New Scientist guide to stress reduction at work includes a nap and a short bout of cat stroking among its suggestions. Snow closes schools across a central band of England, causing tens of thousands of supposedly lethargic and inactive pupils to spring out of bed at 6.30am and spend the day running around the local park all day like sugar-crazed athletes in training.
Friday 9 February
Camelot books the National Gallery to unveil plans to start a worldwide lottery if it wins the next ten-year licence to run the UK lottery. The only other bidder for the licence, Sugal and Damani, hands out a press release on the Gallery steps, enabling the National Lottery Commission to declare the bidding process “highly competitive”.

Saturday 10 February
Dublin’s Croke Park, home of the Gaelic Athletic Association, welcomes a non-Irish sport for the first time and introduces a continent of sports fans to a impressive stadium of which they had previously never heard. France either spoils the day or makes it, depending on your Gaelic perspective, by nicking the Six Nations victory in the last minute of the game. Sam Allardyce blames the England football team’s latest dreary performance on a school curriculum that has created a fat and lazy nation. “This is not a football problem, this is a country problem and a massive one,” says Sam, holding his stomach in.

Sunday 11 February
England’s cricket team wins the one-day series final against Australia, going from hopeless wasters to sure-fire favourites for the cricket world cup in the space of a week.

Monday 12 February
Gordon Brown, Tessa Jowell and Richard Caborn use a tour of the new Wembley Stadium to announce his support for an English bid to host the 2018 football world cup finals. The FA reciprocate by revealing that they still haven’t had a handover of the stadium from Multiplex and that this year’s FA Cup final at Wembley is still in doubt. The NFL, planning to bring American football to London in September, checks the small print of its contract.

Tuesday 13 February
Research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that a nap during the working day could reduce the likelihood of cardiac problems by a third. Tessa Jowell writes to The Guardian to explain why she would prefer to confer Grade 1 listing status on 221b Baker Street, the site of the rooms occupied by the hero Sherlock Holmes, rather than a house in which Conan Doyle had lived. Guardian readers desperately hope that this represents a previously unnoticed flair for whimsical literary irony from the culture secretary rather than an attempt to list the residence of a fictional character which didn’t exist even when he wasn’t living there. Three-quarters of the scenic Welsh coast is at risk of erosion and flooding, according to the National Trust report, Shifting Shores. “There may be no option but to allow the coastline to evolve naturally,” they note helpfully.

Wednesday 14 February
Unicef places the UK at the bottom of a list of 21 developed nations for the well-being of children and adolescents. Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark top the poll. Strong winds sweep central London as every politician with a hole in their head draws breath. Natural England suggests that a general right of access should be introduced for Britain’s coastline. Plans are unveiled for a nine-metre statue of an embracing couple by sculptor Paul Day as the artistic centre point of the restored St Pancras, London terminus for the Eurostar.
Thursday 15 February
Reports in the building trade press suggest that McAlpine, the preferred bidder for construction of London’s Olympic stadium, is quoting a price of £630m to build the stadium, slightly at odds with the £280m in London’s bid document. British Oscar nominees Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, Stephen Frears and Patrick Marber use the imminent red carpet opportunity to urge the government to continue its support for British Theatre. “Receiving an Academy nomination is an honour,” says Marber, “but I owe it all to the years I spent developing as a writer in the subsidised theatre.” Gary Neville speaks out against the subsidising of agents’ salaries by their millionaire footballing clients. Ever the good union man, he points out that his fellow professionals could save themselves a few quid by using PFA representatives instead. In another good omen for the Tour de France’s visit to London in July, prologue hopeful Bradley Wiggins manages to injure himself while stationary when his towel catches in his spokes.

Friday 16 February
In Ireland they have found yet another use for the gift that keeps on giving, WD40. Pub landlords in Cork have been advised that a simple squirt of the magic oil on cisterns and basins combats drug use by instantly congealing any powders dropped on it. Italian health minister Livia Turco launches a series of health initiatives. She points out that poor lifestyles were linked to 90% of deaths in Italy. 41% of Italians do no exercise and 9% are now officially obese.

Saturday 17 February
Michael Sprott brings Audley Harrison’s post-Olympic career to an abrupt halt in the third round. “I thought I was OK,” said Audley, failing to remember the several minutes he spent flat on his back on the canvas.

Sunday 18 February
Good news, presumably, for the fox-hunting fraternity as a survey of masters of hounds suggests that they are finding fewer foxes in the countryside. ‘Sources’ suggest that Chancellor Brown is planning a £1.9bn ‘raid on the lottery’ to fund the Olympic overspend, while similar (but presumably different) ‘sources’ suggest that the FA can’t be trusted with world cup bid. An independent delivery organisation on the 2012 model is being considered by ministers, they say. Large gin and tonics all round in Roehampton as Andrew Murray defends his SAP Open title in San Jose, while his brother Jamie wins the doubles title at the AMSE event.

Monday 19 February
Panic on the streets of London as the congestion charge extends west bringing areas such as Kensington, Notting Hill, Knightsbridge and Chelsea into the zone. In 2006 the congestion charge brought £122m profit, which supports investment in the capital’s bus services. The congestion charge creates yet another financial problem for Chelsea FC which announces losses of £80m for the year ending June 2006. This represents  a £60m improvement on the previous year. Around 75% of the club’s £130m turnover is thought to be taken up by the wage bill. Brent Council says that it hasn’t been able to confirm the two dates proposed for Wembley’s preparation events on March 11 and 24. The first match to be played would have been an England women’s international, possibly a step too far for the history of the FA’s spiritual home. The Greater London Authority will use the savings from a fuel deal with Venezuela to provide half-price travel for Londoners on income support and the Commons transport committee finds its own angle on the 2012 debate, warning that the current transport plans are naïve and that the London Olympics could be ruined by gridlock. “Now is the time to get on with the difficult decisions,” adds committee chair Gwyneth Dunwoody helpfully. Meanwhile research from the British Olympic Association ranks British athletes 34th in the world league, level with Eritrea, Latvia and Qatar, down 18 places from 2005. “There is much room for improvement,” says BOA chief exec Simon Clegg. UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner agrees but adds a note of caution. “I am not going to get hanged on a medal target,” he says. Sheffield is confirmed as one of three cities in the running to host the 2010 International Paralympic Committee world swimming championships.

Tuesday 20 February
Manchester United’s Champions League (sic) match makes uncomfortable viewing as United fans are herded into over-crowded fenced areas and attacked by police at the Stade Felix-Bollaert.

Wednesday 21 February
The Charities Commission warns that some of the UK’s biggest charities are at risk owing to their dependence on contracts to deliver public services that do not reflect the realities of the costs involved. Several dozen people mark the centenary of the birth of W H Auden and the Barbican unveils plans for an exhibition of explicit art this autumn. In a new approach to audience development, it will be over-18s only. The Audit Commission unveils service standard reports for local authorities having scrutinised their leisure and cultural services.

Thursday 22 February
Wimbledon strikes a belated blow for equality with the announcement that the All England championships will have equal prize money for men and women in this year’s competition. The Commons science and technology committee publishes a report on drugs in sport. Recommendations include: more research, an independent agency to administer testing, a four-year minimum ban and a pilot programme for a doping passport but Mr Caborn says that present system is “robust”. One sporting body that is putting on bulk would appear to be London 2012.  LOCOG/ODA will soon move into a third floor of the tower at Canary Wharf, according to the ever-reliable papers. Nicholas Kenyon, controller of BBC Proms, is appointed new MD at the Barbican. Graham Sheffield, Barbican’s artistic director who was widely expected to succeed John Tusa, says, “I’m not going to go off in a huff.”

Friday 23 February
A Guardian/ICM poll shocks the nation by revealing that parents are not 100% accurate in their knowledge of what their teenage off-spring get up to when left to their own devices. In a break with centuries of tradition it seems that young people are smoking, drinking and losing their virginity. The English National Opera announces that 10% of posts in the organisation will be lost due to uncertain finances. In the financial year ending March 2006 the company was running a £375,000 deficit. Meanwhile, the MoD reveals that they spent £18,000 in 2002 on experiments to establish whether blindfolded squaddies could use special sensory powers to divine the contents of sealed envelopes. They could not.

Saturday 24 February
Police concerns that the appearance of an England team at Croke Park would result in unrest prove wide of the mark. God Save the Queen is received politely and followed by a gentle round of applause from the Dublin crowd. Ireland then proceed to give the white-shirted bastards a good thrashing.

Sunday 25 February
Amelie Mauresmo offers to play five-set finals if it would make people feel better about the money and the GB cycling team take five golds in the Manchester leg of the World Cup. Victoria Pendleton takes a clean sweep of the three women’s sprint competitions. The League Cup final is either marred or considerably enlivened, depending upon your particular perspective, by a general melee of Chelsea and Arsenal players. Despite not a single punch being thrown, never mind landed, cards and bodies are strewn all over the pitch. Jamie Murray takes his second successive ATP tour title in Memphis. Back-slapping all round at the LTA.

Monday 26 February
The DCMS and Foreign Office underline their commitment to accessible culture by committing £250,000 to the preservation of Scott’s hut in Antarctica. Jan Ulrich, still embroiled in the continuing drugs enquiry that has engulfed professional cycling, retires at the age of 33.

Tuesday 27 February
The National Gallery makes its bid for the summer arts blockbuster market with the announcement of the Dutch Portraits in the Age of Rembrandt exhibition. The Institute of Psychiatry predicts that predicts that 1.7 million people in Britain will be suffering from dementia by 2051. Diana Melly, wife of 80-year-old jazz legend George, reveals her husband is suffering from the early stages of dementia but can still remember the words to songs and is still performing. “He’s always been, as it were, the absent-minded professor so a lot of it was not easy to spot,” she told the BBC. Sports Direct, the sports retail business that includes the Sports World discount stores, Lilywhites, Dunlop, Donnay and Slazenger among its brands, floats on the Stock Exchange, enabling Mike Ashley to sell 43% of the business for £929m. UK Sport launches a search for prospective stars of the 2012 Olympics in Trafalgar Square. Only men over 6’3” or women over 5’11” need apply. “These kind of schemes do work,” says the very tall Steve Redgrave.

Wednesday 28 February
Yet more excitement for the culturally passionate with the discovery of a note from Richard Wagner to a Milanese couturier which suggests that the great composer may have been a cross-dresser. This news puts Daniel Radcliffe’s debut in Equus into the shade while a paper in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests those involved in contact sports should have hepatitis B vaccinations to prevent the disease spreading. The Prime Minister takes to his feet in the Commons during prime minister’s question to defend the Olympic 2012 endeavours. “I think the Olympics will do an immense amount for London, for the whole of the country,” he says. Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, who includes fellowship of the good ship ILAM among her many honours, announces her retirement at the age of 37.

the world of leisure
February 2007

Sam Allardyce blames the England football team’s latest dreary performance on a school curriculum that has created a fat and lazy nation. “This is not a football problem, this is a country problem and a massive one,” says Sam, holding his stomach in.



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