Friday 1 February
The Arts Council have apparently backed down a bit. At the end of his first week in the job Arts Council chief exec Alan Davey confirmed that eighteen high-profile theatres and arts companies have been reprieved following the recent campaigning. However, the fate of another 188 who will lose their grants is also confirmed. Gordon Brown announces £775m over the next three years for school sport; £100m will be for competitive PE. In plenty of time for the Olympics the Chinese authorities arrest Hu Jia, a noted dissident and critic of the government. Don’t think it won’t happen here when the time comes. Sales of pints in pubs dropped 8% in December, says the British Beer and Pub Association; apparently sales in Scotland, where the smoking ban has been in place for longer than in England and Wales, are showing signs of recovery. The UCI, cycling’s international governing body, tells the 2012 team that their mountain biking course at the Weald Country Park in Essex isn’t hilly enough, prompting the official 2012 response: “Bugger!”

Saturday 2 February
Monsieur le President Nicolas Sarkozy marries Carla Bruni after much speculation and paparazzi pursuit. She’s a singer and we love a wedding so The Leisure Review offers a hearty “Chapeau!” to them both. TLR’s Sideliner keeps a very low profile as Wales beat England at Twickenham. In Birmingham Dwain Chambers runs the qualifying time for the world indoor athletics trials, putting him on a collision course with UK Athletics. Lewis Hamilton is subjected to racist abuse by Spanish motor racing fans while he is tinkering with the overdrive at the Montmelo circuit. “Any repetition will result in sanctions,” says the FIA, the governing body, causing absolutely no one to quake in trepidation. 

Sunday 3 February
Brazil explodes into carnival, making residents of the UK feel a very long way from the summer. St Moritz hosts the first of three Sunday horse race meetings on the frozen lake. The New York Giants win the Super Bowl against the odds and we manage to find a British angle: the Giants kicker, Lawrence Tynes, is Scottish.

Monday 4 February
The cream of England’s footballing talent (at least those permitted by their bail conditions and or marital situation) gather at the feet of Signor Capello. He susses them out immediately, banning mobile phones, insisting on punctuality and not letting them leave the table until everyone’s finished eating. Expect pocket money to be withheld in the event of poor results. US conservationists lament an apparent “ongoing and fundamental shift away from nature-based recreation”. There are 25% fewer visits to wilderness areas than in the 1980s and they fear that the trend could threaten efforts to preserve the natural environment. Sport England is reported to be firing up the head hunters to find someone to fill the post of director of sport, a position vacant for the past two years. Former Olympic 100m champion Maurice Greene retires. The England and Wales Cricket Board announces a £30m, five-year investment package which will include a scholarship programme, a national performance centre (at Loughborough, natch), subsidies for 10,000 coaching courses and £14m of grants for community clubs.

Tuesday 5 February
Such are the vagaries of the travel market that the URL has changed hands for £560,000. Schools minister Kevin Brennan launches a new policy document on risk management within schools and warns against a generation of battery-reared children. “We have to educate people about the real risks they face,” he says. Sania Mirza, India’s tennis number one, says she will not play in tournaments in her home country as the abuse she receives from protesting Islamic groups is not worth the grief. British Airways signs a £40m deal to become the official airline of 2012, possibly putting the kibosh on UK Sport’s deal with Virgin.

Wednesday 6 February
The National Trust unveils the first solar panels on a Grade 1 listed building, Dunster Castle. It’s the future, they say. Dig out the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition for a study suggesting that there is a genetic link to obesity. Vanity Fair cancels its famed Oscars party in light of the Hollywood writers’ strike. Olympic Watch: covering the shortfall after the PFI disaster that was Metronet, the company that took on the upgrade of the London Underground, will cost the Department for Transport a cool £2bn. England’s match against Switzerland is preceded by almost 30 seconds of silence to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Munich air disaster. Culture secretary Andy Burnham appoints Philip French as a special advisor. Philip joins the DCMS from Supporters Direct, the group dedicated to empowering fans within professional football. Ructions in South Africa as Cricket South Africa impose a quota of at least seven players of colour within a squad of fifteen. Captain Graeme Smith and coach Mickey Arther threaten to resign. Jamie Murray has a bit of a dig at his brother for deciding not to play in the Davies Cup. “It kind of affects the way we feel about him,” says Jamie.

Thursday 7 February
The Premier League votes unanimously to explore plans to take an extra round of competitive matches to cities around the world. “This concept recognises the truly global appeal of the Barclays Premier League whilst understanding that the traditions of the English game have always underpinned our success,” says Premier League chief exec Richard Scudamore, managing to keep a straight face all the way through. Meanwhile, Rafa Benitez, the apparently permanently disgruntled Portuguese manager of Liverpool FC, moans about international friendlies and the impact on a congested fixture schedule. Bafta backs out of an agreement to screen The Last American Freak Show, prompting ire from the film-maker in question. Government water saving plans include a ban on covering your front garden with Tarmac and reducing personal consumption. English Heritage announces a £2.1m grant for the repair of the roof of Lichfield Cathedral, the only surviving three-spired cathedral in Britain.

Friday 8 February
The Liberal Democrats condemns Britain as a ‘Prozac nation’ which spends an estimated £77bn on mental health. Glasto goes hip-hop with the announcement of a 2008 line up that includes Jay-Z. Three gamekeepers in North Yorkshire admit charges of using baited traps to catch birds of prey on grouse and partridge moors. Want to boost your town’s tourism figures? Have a vision of the Virgin Mary. 150 years after Saint Bernadette did just this, Lourdes is planning to welcome 8 million visitors this year. The Premier League’s planned creation of the International Self-preservation Society has some critics: Alex Ferguson is upset no one consulted him and the Japanese football authorities don’t want foreigners coming in and taking all their fans.

Saturday 9 February
Camden Market goes up in flames, gutting the Hawley Arms and all else in the immediate vicinity. Morale at Britain’s colleges of art is very low, says acclaimed landscape artist Graham Cowley. “We’ve ended up with the educational equivalent of British Leyland,” he says, struggling to get his Austin Princess to turn over never mind start. Tooting Bec lido hosts the winter swimming championship, the first time its been held outside Finland; water temperature at the lido is a bracing 3 degrees C. The FA has woken up now, working out that it can get some benefit from the negotiations over its support for the Premier League Away Day. Expect a really hard bargain to be driven.

Sunday 10 February
Good news for British film-makers at the BAFTAs but for all the additional interest as a result of the Hollywood writers’ strike, the television audience reaches only three million, a bit of a disappointment for the BBC. It seems that the British Olympic Association is to review the rules about athletes commenting on political matters in Beijing. The Six Nations championship hits its stride in the second week, as does the Italian team taking England very close. City beat United at Old Trafford for the first time in over two decades and worries regarding a minute’s silence to commemorate the Munich air crash prove unfounded. The FA finally apologises for banning women from playing football 87 years after the event. Dwain Chambers wins the trials for the world indoor championships and sets UK Athletics a thorny problem. Another art heist! Works by Monet, Degas, Van Gogh and Cezanne worth an estimated $163m are stolen from a Zurich art museum.

Monday 11 February
Mayor Ken officially unveils plans to transform cycling in London with twelve super cycleways, cycle priority zones and an extensive hire scheme. Badminton’s Olympic hopeful Richard Vaughan says he won’t be keeping quiet about human rights issues in Beijing. GCap, one of the leading players in radio broadcasting, slashes its digital output, raising questions about the long-term viability of digital radio. Research from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston suggests that keeping fit in your seventies can have a real impact on the chances of your making into your nineties. Ebay removes commemorative items given to fans attending the Manchester derby from the site, saying the trade breached its “offensive materials” policy. This will no doubt have come as a surprise to United the club that pioneered selling everything in football that may or may not be nailed down.

Tuesday 12 February
UK Athletics are clear that no one wanted it to happen but Dwain Chambers is selected to run for Great Britain in the world indoor championship. However, he won’t be running in the weekend meeting in Birmingham as promoters Fast Track decline to invite him. Posters for the Royal Academy’s exhibition of the work of Lucas Cranach the Elder are deemed too racy for the London Underground. National Trust employees are to get the 29 February off to minimise their carbon footprint. Australian PM Kevin Rudd apologises for his nation’s treatment of the indigenous Aboriginal population. The Asian Football Confederation say that they won’t be welcoming Premier League matches.

Wednesday 13 February
Five hours of culture for all school pupils is refashioned as “an aspiration” by culture secretary Andy Burnham as teachers’ unions suggest that the plan is unworkable. Madonna screens her first film as a director. She’s also co-written and executively produced the work, Filth and Wisdom, which is roundly panned by critics. A study by the New Local Government Network finds the boards of quangos, which collectively spend £123bn a year, dominated by people living in the south of England. This, says the NLGN, leaves large parts of the country unrepresented. Figures from the Playboy Enterprises show the corporation posted a loss of $1.1m. “We are not satisfied with this performance,” says chief exec Christie Hefner. The Premier League’s chief exec Richard Scudamore defends the plan to take the “39th Game” abroad. “We still have the support of the twenty clubs,” he says. Meanwhile, in entirely unrelated news, the list of the world’s richest football clubs include Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal in the top five. The Astan cycling team is told that it will not be included among starters in this year’s Tour de France following the team’s association with doping in recent years. This means Alberto Contador, last year’s winner, will not be defending his title. Owner of the Festival Fireworks UK company, Martin Winter, and his son, Nathan Winter, are held on suspicion manslaughter following the explosion at the company’s factory in which two people were killed in December 2006.

Thursday 14 February
Windows at the Stephen Lawrence Centre designed by Chris Ofili are broken in what is being treated as a racially motivated attack. Chinese authorities suggest that Spielberg was “misguided” in his criticism of China’s involvement in Darfur, while closer to home some suggest he was pretty daft to get involved in the first place. The Guinness World Records brand is sold for £60m. FIFA chief Sepp Blatter all but ends the Premier League abroad by giving the plan both barrels. “This is definitely abuse of association football,” he says. After much argument, it seems that Sir Trevor Brooking has persuaded the FA to put another £6m a year into grass-roots football. Tessa Jowell will write to every MP whose constituency benefits from an Olympic contract following concerns about the effects of the government’s £9bn investment. Jane Fonda, who is performing in The Vagina Monologues in the States, refers to the title of one of the monologues and hence says the ‘C’ word live on breakfast TV. Cue collapse of American society by lunchtime.

Friday 15 February
America survives Foul-mouth Fonda and Scot Mark Beaumont arrives in Paris having completed his journey around the world by bike; it took him 195 days and six hours. On reflection its seems that Cranach the Elder’s Venus to promote the Royal Academy exhibition of his work will be acceptable on the London Underground. Ever the principled and steadfast protector of the national game, the Football Association announces its “serious reservations” over the 39th Game proposal; that FIFA has said it would knacker any thoughts of the world cup coming to the UK obviously has nothing to do with it and all previous comments about using FA support for the plan to lever concessions from the Premier League are to be immediately forgotten please.

Saturday 16 February
Forty thousand tickets for the T in the Park festival in Scotland sell out in an hour. Arsene Wenger thinks that a European super league is on its way and for Liverpool FC, the most notable victim of the FA Cup fifth round by virtue of being beaten at home by Barnsley, it can’t come quickly enough.

Sunday 17 February
Northern Rock is nationalised so we’re all sponsors of Newcastle United now. ITV is planning an official complaint over the sponsorship of the BBC sports personality of the year award. An 18th century three-seat privy in Kent acquires Grade II listing. The American Association for the Advancement of Science hears that between sixty and ninety minutes of exercise a day are required for long-term weight loss. Bernie Ecclestone dismisses the racial abuse of Lewis Hamilton in Spain as a one-off and nothing to worry about. Andy Murray wins in Marseille and the Davis Cup seems a long way away, particularly for his brother Jamie, who wins a doubles tournament in Florida. In the pool Australian Eamon Sullivan breaks Alexander Popov’s eight-year-old 50m freestyle world record.

Monday 18 February
Research from the Chartered Management Institute suggests that managers in the UK put in the equivalent of forty days a year in unpaid overtime; 68% of respondents said that extra work affected their ability to exercise. Polly Stenham will be one of the youngest playwrights to have had their work performed in the West End when her play That Face opens at the Duke of York’s in May. Paintings by Cezanne, Degas and Van Gogh, recently liberated from the E G Buhrle collection in Zurich, are recovered by Swiss police. England’s women retain the Ashes in a one-off test in Austalia, prompting the ECB to announce central contracts all round, a first in the world of women’s international cricket. A fourth Italian tennis player is suspended for betting on games in contravention of ATP rules.

Tuesday 19 February
Parliament’s culture, media and sport select committee meet Richard Scudamore to discuss, among other things, the 39th Game. “It’s certainly not a dead duck,” he tells MPs, who roll their eyes in unison. Dubai’s plans to market itself as the new home of the international club scene are hastily edited as ‘drum’n’base’ pioneer Raymond Bingham, AKA DJ Grooverider, is sentenced to four years for possession of cannabis found on his person when he arrived in the UAE. Apple and the BBC have done a deal to allow BBC programmes to be downloaded to an Ipod for mobile viewing. The public accounts committee steels itself for an appearance in The Leisure Review Olympic Price Watch but still publishes a report that suggests an £800m initiative to cut the prevalence of university drop outs has been a waste of money. The Lonely Planet guide to London points everyone to the East End instead of the West End for a good time. Meanwhile in Rome police get in on the fashion for art recovery, finding a load of looted works and arresting 31 people suspected of being part of a European trafficking ring. InterContinental, the world’s largest hotel group, announces a 19% rise in profits for 2007 and says it will continue to open a hotel a day around the world.

Wednesday 20 February
The National Audit Office notices that none of Whitehall’s permanent secretaries have a financial qualification and wonders if putting £678bn of spending in the hands of financial amateurs is a good idea. A plan to build six million square metres of space under the streets and canals of Amsterdam to house cars, sports halls and other amenities is submitted to the city’s government. The cricket world shifts on its axis as the Indian Premier League auctions players for the new twenty-20 competition. In Kuala Lumpur the International Cricket Council backs proposals for umpires to take action to end the custom of sledging. “The policy is now one of zero tolerance,” says an ICC spokeman, omitting to mention that it has been against the spirit of the game, and hence the laws of the game, for decades. Pat McQuaid, president of the UCI, cycling’s international governing body, brands the Tour’s decision not to invite the Astana team, and hence the defending champion, “a disgrace”.

Thursday 21 February
The Theatregoers’ Choice awards give a gong to ‘Joseph’ (see TLR passim) and plenty more to Hairspray and Equus. British Waterways and Natural England have their budgets cut (from £48m to £34m and from £181m to £176m respectively), along with others, as part of big cuts at Defra; the department was forced to address a £1bn overspend in the next three years. The National Child Measurement Programme shows that almost one in four children entering primary school are overweight, a proportion that rises to one in three by the time they leave at the age of eleven. FA chairman David Triesman gets to the front of the queue of people waiting to drive a nail into the coffin lid of the Premier League’s 39th Game idea. “At the moment we have not seen a sustainable plan to which we can agree,” he rages. Mike Winch resigns as vice president of UK Athletics following disagreement over the Dwain Chambers selection and warns that athletics is in danger of dying from the roots up. As if to prove the point, it seems that Linford Christie, himself banned for drug use during his career, has been asked to carry the Olympic torch in London on 6 April by Mayor Ken.

Friday 22 February
It seems that Linford won’t be carrying the torch. The letter signed by the mayor inviting him so to do was “a mistake” says Ken, raising the hopes of everyone still unhappy about the congestion charge. Owners of the Oakwood theme park in Pembrokeshire are summoned to answer health and safety charges following the death of a sixteen-year-old visitor on one of the park’s rides in 2004.

Saturday 23 February
A stuffed turkey is to represent Ireland in the Eurovision song contest and has been made ante-post favourite with some bookies. The BBC hosts an all-day festival of Six Nations rugby to the delight of some and dismay of others.

Sunday 24 February
The New York Philharmonic is visiting North Korea. All the orchestra’s demands for the trip, including live broadcast and an appropriately sized venue, have been met, according to the Philharmonic’s president, Zarin Mehta. “There’s going to be major interaction with their musical community,” he said. Tom Daley qualifies for the Olympic diving competition. His appearance in Beijing will make him Britain’s youngest male Olympian.

Monday 25 February
The Watts Gallery is to sell two of the paintings in its collection, together worth £1.4m, to safeguard the future of its collection but will avoid having its registration with the Museum Association cancelled thanks to the latter’s new guidelines on “de-accessioning” published today. Prozac and similar antidepressant drugs have no more effect than placebo on patients with anything other than severe depression, says a review of all data on the drugs, some of which it seems drug companies chose not to publish. The ‘supercasino’ finally bites the dust with some palliatives for Manchester in the form of some grant extensions. Blackpool’s mayor and the chairman of the town’s development agency write to the papers to remind the prime minister that he promised a regeneration programme for them. A European map of heart disease has Scotland and Northern Ireland coloured in with the reddest of red pencils. The Council for the Advancement of Arts, Recreation and Education points out that Sport England has over £200m of unreleased lottery grants in its bank account.

Tuesday 26 February
Olympic Price Watch goes shopping: Tesco is thought to be saving £1 billion (say it in your best Dr Evil voice) by using off-shore accounts for its property deals. The ‘supercasino’ battle continues for those think that the remaining plan for another sixteen or so casinos is a bad thing and also for those who still want some supercasino development cash. The government is to spend £170m to train 3,600 psychological therapists to combat depression and related illnesses. Digging begins in a German village where some believe the legendary Amber Room, looted from a St Petersburg palace by the Nazis, to be buried. The Premier League cancels its meeting with Sepp Blatter to discuss the 39th Game plan after it becomes apparent that the FIFA supremo was inclined to be more than blunt in his explanation of his opposition. Will they finally get the message? It seems that the HSE has issued a ‘stop notice’ on plans to redevelop the Oval following safety concerns (see World of Leisure passim). Kenyan marathon runner Susan Chepkemei has been banned for a year following an out of competition drugs test. It seems treatment for pneumonia in a Nairobi hospital last year is the culprit on this occasion.

Wednesday 27 February
Olympic Price Watch goes mental! Overspend on the new GP contract has been £1.7bn over three years but that is topped by Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel-winning economist, who estimates that the cost of the Iraq war has now reached $6 trillion. And you can add interest onto that. New EMI boss Guy Hands says that “the suits” will be taking over A&R duties and thus the music industry will be saved from its latest death (anyone remember how home taping killed it the last time?). A typically British earthquake, the biggest for 24 years, injures one person and mildly interests hundreds of thousands more. Italian courts have ruled that it is now a criminal offence for gentlemen to touch their tackle in public; it’s a great Italian superstition apparently and now they will have to leave their attributi alone. The new president of WADA, John Fahey, says the war on drugs may never be won.

Thursday 28 February
The basement car park of the Swiss embassy in London is covered is the work of the ultra-fashionable Banksy, a legacy of the ambassador’s initiative to counter his nation’s reputation as a staid and amoral financial haven for dubious individuals, organisations and governments. It seems that Prince Harry has been working abroad for a few weeks. NME readers have voted Wembley as the best live venue, a rich irony given that it has not yet been given the seal of approval as a football venue. Thomas Krens, the director of the Guggenheim and the man responsible for two decades of the museum’s expansion as a collection and as a brand, is to stand down after twenty years with the organisation. Foreign secretary David Miliband visits China and says that a boycott of the Olympic Games should be rejected.

Friday 29 February
London embassies now owe a total of £10m in parking fines and congestion charges. The Cypriot resort of Ayia Napa, one-time clubbing capital of the world, is to ban British soldiers from the town, although officers will still be welcome. FIFA has negotiated the right to impose flexible sanctions for positive drug tests and will sign the WADA code on doping in a few months, according to Sepp Blatter.



the world of leisure
February 2008

Sunday 10 February: Another art heist! Works by Monet, Degas, Van Gogh and Cezanne worth an estimated $163m are stolen from a Zurich art museum.



Monday 11 February:
Ebay removes commemorative items given to fans attending the Manchester derby from the site, saying the trade breached its “offensive materials” policy. This will no doubt have come as a surprise to United the club that pioneered selling everything in football that may or may not be nailed down.


Wednesday 27 February
Olympic Price Watch goes mental! Overspend on the new GP contract has been £1.7bn over three years but that is topped by Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel-winning economist, who estimates that the cost of the Iraq war has now reached $6 trillion.

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