Saturday 1 March
Lloyd Cowan, one of UK Athletics’ leading coaches, someone who counts Christine Ohuruogu among his charges, suggests that Dwain Chambers is the subject of what has become a witch hunt. Port Eliot House, a Grade I house with impressive gardens, opens to the public for the first time as part of the arrangements between Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and the Tenth Earl of ST Germans. The capercaillie, a rare and sensitive bird which lives in the Scottish Highlands, is at risk from the popularity of snow walking. The mox nuclear facility at Sellafield has produced almost no fuel in the six years since it was built at a cost of £470m, says the government in their latest submission to Olympic Price Watch.

Sunday 2 March
Victoria Pendleton strikes a blow for the profile of women’s sport by being photographed nude on her bike  for a Sunday supplement. Tracey Emin has spent around £4m on property in Spitalfields to renovate and preserve artists’ residences and workshops.

Monday 3 March
LOCOG, the 2012 organising committee, launches its guide to pre-Games training camps for overseas teams, listing around 600 potential training venues. The Royal Shakespeare Company suggests that children as young as four should be introduced to Shakespeare. “There isn’t a fear factor because they’ve never heard of him,” says Jacquie O’Hanlon, RSC head of education. It seems that fifty of the government’s PFI schemes are now held in offshore portfolios, saving the companies making million from public spending projects millions in taxation. Arts minister Margaret Hodge tells a political think tank conference that the Proms is not an event that represents diversity in the arts. The US journal Archives of Paediatric and Adolescent Medicine publishes a study that suggests that stopping children watching TV improves their health. A boost for Italian tourism as the body of Padre Pio, a popular saint buried forty years ago, is exhumed for imminent display. Seb Coe says there’s nothing to worry about as the IOC inspection team arrives in London.

Tuesday 4 March
Margaret Hodge might have been critical of the Proms for the lack of diversity among its audience but the PM has let it be known that he loves it: “He thinks the Proms are a good institution,” says a spokesman. The issue of why the Brits like to get so pissed re-emerges with a Home Office report on two years of the revised licensing regime. It seems fears of 24-hour drinking have not been realised but the overall level of crime and disorder has not fallen. Local authorities could be given powers to create alcohol-free zones in problem areas.

Wednesday 5 March
Plans for a large wind turbine at Glyndebourne opera house in Sussex are described as “the wrong scheme in the wrong place” by countryside protection groups. The latest proposal for the takeover of the Tote by the racing industry seems to have been a faller with the Treasury holding out for the £400m, as per the original valuation set two years ago; the current bid is £320m. Olympic Price Watch goes personal: Warren Buffett is now the richest man in the world with assets worth $62bn. The Royal National Institute for Deaf People find that 90% of young clubbers show signs of hearing damage after a night out; they are looking for a designer who can make ear plugs cool. The IOC completes its two-day inspection of progress on the 2012 venue and gives a glowing report and BT has signed up as a £50m sponsor. Forty percent of Germany’s soldiers are too fat, according to a German government report. Mayor Ken meets Christian Prudhomme and both agree that the Tour de France will be back in London soon, possibly in 2010.

Thursday 6 March
The city of Shanghai is applying for governmental permission to build a Disneyland resort. Plans first emerged in 2005 but were stalled by corruption charges among Chinese officials. Danny Cipriani, a member of the England rugby squad, is dropped for being spotted coming out of a bar near midnight. Management concedes that he may well not have had a drink but still qualifies it as “inappropriate behaviour”. Over in rugby league, Salford’s Richie Barnett is banned for two years after failing a drugs test in April.

Friday 7 March
The chairman of the Wetherspoons pub chain announces a drop in profits from last year’s £39m to this year’s £29m and appears to blame it on celebrities encouraging drunken behaviour. There are reports of a huge surge in participation in theatre nights held in pubs across the state of Minnesota following the realisation that the exemption from the state’s smoking ban for theatrical production didn’t necessarily apply only to plays with a proscenium arch; cue stage door signs and an outbreak of improvisation nights. After all the controversy, silver for Dwain Chambers at the world indoor championships.

Saturday 8 March
Peter Spence from the South Coast Design Forum tells the British Urban Regeneration Association symposium that seaside towns have to “think outside of the box instead of building a bigger funfair and a bigger place selling ice cream”. The FA Cup shows that there is life in the game yet, Manchester United and Chelsea teams dumped out against the odds. Cue the entirely predictable but no less disheartening vituperation from Sir Alex and Mr Queiroz.

Sunday 9 March
John Dunford, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, tells his Brighton conference that schools are replacing parents as the provider of moral guidance among working class families. England’s cricket and rugby teams vie for the most disappointing performance awards, losing to Scotland and New Zealand respectively. Wales win the Triple Crown and have their eyes on the Six Nations championship. The Conservative Party says that correspondence obtained under the Freedom of Information Act shows that DCMS officials are paying mere lip service to the concept of arms-length management of funding for the arts. The FA is thought to be considering cutting the price of the tickets for the FA Cup semi-finals in an effort to sell some more seats. Arsenal draw at Wigan. “It’s all the pitch’s fault,” says Mr Wenger.

Monday 10 March
The first Liverpool Fashion Week begins. Insert your own joke here. A great bustard, the world’s heaviest bird, has been spotted in South Gloucestershire, suggesting the programme to reintroduce the bird to the UK is working. A Belfast court overturns a libel decision against a restaurant reviewer who was sued by a restaurateur that had been given a less than glowing write-up. More than 3.8m Freeview digital receivers were sold in the UK in the last quarter of 2007, exceeding expectations. Haile Gebrselassie, holder of the marathon world record and noted asthma sufferer, announces that he will not be running the event in the Beijing Olympics owing to the air pollution. “It’s a threat to my health,” he says. Lady Neuberger, the government’s ‘volunteering czar’, says that many organisations are wasting time and money on pointless Criminal Records Bureau checks for its volunteers. “Checks should only be undertaken where a volunteer might spend time alone with young people or vulnerable adults,” she said. “Managers need to show some common sense.”

Tuesday 11 March
Cheltenham Festival kicks off to the sound of flying hooves and flowing Guinness. The Goldsmith review of citizenship published today includes suggestions for a national day for celebrating Britishness, citizenship lessons and an oath of allegiance for school pupils. A survey finds that the UK has the most expensive hotels in the world, with London the fifth most expensive city in which to find a room. French artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster will be the next to take over Tate Modern’s turbine hall. Her work will be unveiled in October. A study has found drowning to be among the leading cause of child mortality in Asia. While drowning accounts for around half of all deaths of children older than one year, it seems that many cases are not reported as victims are not taken to hospital. The Civil Aviation Authority gives BAA permission to raise landing charges at Heathrow. English Basketball reveal that Leigh Robinson, a coach with the Plymouth Raiders, has been suspended for racially abusing a player.

Wednesday 12 March
Having no sooner started, the Cheltenham Festival is brought to a temporary halt by high winds. Chancellor Darling’s first budget fails to deliver a much-lobbied dose of VAT relief on sports club subscriptions. Ricky Hatton will be fighting again in May and taking the show to the City of Manchester Stadium. Full of the romance of the cup, FA chairman Lord Triesman explains to a fans forum why the FA Cup semi finals will be held at the venue of the final: “It’s part of the business plan for Wembley.” The British Olympic Association chairman Lord Moynihan says his organisation will defend its regulations against any challenge from convicted drugs cheats. That means you, Mr Chambers. But not you, Mr Myerscough.

Thursday 13 March
Development corporation Urban Splash reveals plans for Birnbeck pier at Weston-super-Mare. The scheme includes a restored pier, a hotel and a residential block. Edinburgh City Council considers the sale of a significant part of the Meadowbank Stadium, the long-neglected former jewel of the city’s sporting crown.

Friday 14 March
Denman beat Kauto Star in the Gold Cup. Sheffield University finds that the children of parents who are members of a club tend to perform better at school. Jimmy Page is to sell Burne-Jones tapestry worth an estimated £1m as he’s run out of wall space; the Led Zepp axeman apparently has a fine collection of Pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Craft works. Inspired Gaming has put its pub gaming division up for sale, blaming smokers staying at home for difficult trading. The Ethiopian athletics federation says that they will decide whether Haile Gebrselassie will be running the marathon in Beijing, not him.

Saturday 15 March
Just when we thought it was safe to go back to North London it seems that Multiplex is to sue engineers Mott MacDonald for £253m. Wales continue on the path to superpower status by winning the Six Nations grand slam. Leander retains its Head of the River title on the Thames at Putney.

Sunday 16 March
The London Cycling Campaign is doing a study of how to teach kids to ride bikes. Throw away the stabilisers is the message. St Patrick’s Day celebrations spring up in cities around the world. With admirable selflessness Guinness is backing a campaign to make it a public holiday in the United States. Lewis Hamilton wins in Australia.

Monday 17 March
Cinema attendances in the UK reached 162 million last year, up by 3.7% on 2006 figures; it seems the wet summer helped. Foreign language films are also proving more popular. The new Olympic park will rival Hyde Park as London’s greatest open space, say the designers. Frank ‘El Ingles’ Evans says that he made a mistake in retiring from the bull-fighting arena three years ago; after a knee replacement and quadruple bypass surgery, the Salford 65-year-old says he’s considering a come-back. Professor Robin Alexander tells an education conference that children’s happiness has declined as a result of an adult commercial world which “rams celebrity down children’s throats”. Having been watching the telly on Saturday evenings, the government is to provide £5.5m to fund dance education. Olympic Price Watch on the road: seven road-building projects have clocked up an overspend of £1.1 bn between them. Olympic Price Watch on the sick: sick leave costs Britain £100m a year, says Dame Carol Black, national director for health and work. Sally Lindsay has nabbed the big gig in British film: the former Corrie barmaid will be the love interest in the next Wallace and Gromit adventure. Kirsty Lang, chair of judges for the Orange Broadband fiction prize despairs at the prevalence of ‘misery memoirs’ among female authors. A full audit of the Amateur Boxing Association by UK Sport starts bells ringing of the alarm variety. “Enough is enough,” says one UK Sport official.

Tuesday 18 March
British film-maker Anthony Minghella dies at the age of 54 following surgery. The Department for Children, Schools and Families announces a £218m scheme to provide one thousand children and young people at risk of offending with mentors. New software has revealed the areas of structural weakness within Michelangelo’s David. Chiba University near Tokyo is to send hundreds of vintage Disney artworks back to the USA following their discovery after fifty years in a cupboard. Japanese firms are to be fined for failing to control their employees’ weight; everyone over forty will be subjected to the callipers to combat soaring medical costs. Lord Triesmand and Brian Barwick launch the Football Association’s four-year strategy for the national game. The plan promises £200m for coaching, referee recruitment and investment in the grass-roots game.

Wednesday 19 March
Tanni Grey-Thompson presents her plan to tackle doping, asking athletes to ‘point the finger’. Top prices at the Royal Opera House are to rise to £210 a pop and the additional income will be used to reduce prices up stairs. The National Trust’s steam-powered passenger boat, Gondola, will be putting out 90% fewer emissions this year as a result of using local sawmill waste for fuel instead of Polish coal. Eddie O’Sullivan resigns as Ireland’s rugby coach. Luton Town FC plead guilty to seventeen charges of illegal payments to agents, say their administrators. Meanwhile Cardiff City avoid a winding up order after demands for immediate payment of £24m of loans are rejected by the high court. British 800m runner James McIlroy announces his retirement for financial reasons. “I just wouldn’t want to get further into debt,” he says.

Thursday 20 March
The UK’s largest planetarium opens to the public at the Intech Science Centre in Winchester. The BBC signs a £40m a year deal to show Formula One after ITV pulls out to spend more on football rights. London Zoo reopens its Victorian bird pavilion, renovated at a cost of £2.5m. Paul Schofield, one of Britain’s most revered actors, dies at the age of 86. Sales at Peter Jones, the Chelsea branch of John Lewis where the City of London spends its bonuses, are down 19% for the first quarter. Cruise operators Carnival blame fuel costs on a 17% drop in its first-quarter profits. The twenty teams announced by the Tour de France do not include the defending champion’s Astana team.

Friday 21 March
David Cameron cycles the wrong way up a one-way street, prompting outrage at the Daily Mirror. Sales of vegetable seeds to flower seeds are now running at 60:40, a reversal of previous trends, say seed suppliers; 330,000 people have allotments in the UK. The Home Office wants all new buildings to have counter-terrorism measures built in, much to the disgust of at least one of commissioners of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE). Starbucks in California is required to return $50m dollars in tips to its staff.

Saturday 22 March
A report suggests that switching freight from road to canal could cut road freight emissions by 12%. Investment in canal infrastructure could take 22% of road freight onto the water, the report says. Newcastle finally win a football match. Kev is delighted. Pinchas Zukerman plays the world’s expensive musical instrument in Moscow. The Israeli virtuoso played the $3.9m Guarneri de Gesti violin, owned by lawyer Maxim Viktorov and not played for over seventy years, for an invited160 guests.

Sunday 23 March
Former West Midlands top copper Lord Dear says that current police arrangements will make the London Olympics vulnerable. Everton manager David Moyes has won a case for defamation against the publishers of Wayne Rooney’s first autobiography. Montecristo, the island off the Tuscan coast that served as the setting for Alexandre Dumas’s tale of The Count of Monte Cristo, is to open to visitors for the first time in decades. The national park council have decided to allow up to 3,000 visits a year. The Societe d’exploitation de la Tour Eiffel announces that it is to build a bigger gallery on the top of the most famous building in Paris, thus changing the famous silhouette. The Premier League’s Sky-styled ‘Super Sunday’ brings no obvious outcome beyond much complaining and continuing allegations of foul play. Plus ca change… Marcus Trescothick announces his retirement from international cricket.

Monday 24 March
The National Union of Teachers conference calls for a return to the days when children had time to play instead of pass tests and ticking boxes. Researchers suggest that playing board games improves children’s maths abilities. Francis Bacon’s Tryptych 1976 will go on sale in New York in May, Sotheby’s announces. It is expected to go for £35m. Protesters get involved in the lighting of the Olympic flame in Athens, putting Liu Qi, president of the Beijing Olympic committee, off his stroke for a moment. No one in China will have noticed. Tiger Wood fails to win his eighth tournament on the bounce and blames a photographer. Tom Daley wins the European platform diving championship at the age of thirteen.

Tuesday 25 March
Standards for eco-towns will include 15mph speed limits and 50% of households staying car-free. Scotland Yard seizes two old masters by Francesco Guardi, worth £10m and exported illegally from Italy. Big Pit, the mining museum in Blaenavon, Wales opens a new £3m visitor centre. A tyre malfunction on the London Eye means 400 passengers have to stay up in the air for an hour. Ross Smith, owner of a micro-brewery in Perth, WA, announces plans to build a replica Stonehenge as a visitor attraction. He expects 200,000 people a year to come and see it.

Wednesday 26 March
The latest TV cheffery is to involve Heston “The Boffin” Blumenthal trying to save Little Chef. David Beckham gets his one hundredth cap at last. He can stop now. Nicholas Penny, in post as director of the National Gallery for a month, says he hopes to see a renewed interest in old masters. A report, ‘Read Up, Fed Up’, reveals teenagers prefer reading Heat magazine to Shakespeare. After all the furore over the exhibition of Russian masterpieces in London (See Worlds of Leisure passim), Tate Britain is to lend 110 works by JMW Turner to the Pushkin in Moscow. Bradley Wiggins starts off the track Worlds in Manchester with a gold in the men’s individual pursuit. Rob Hayles, multiple medallist and veteran star of the British Cycling track team, is stood down for the next two weeks after a routine blood test finds a haematocrit level above 50%. England’s cricket team secure a series win in New Zealand, having come back from one-nil down in the three-match series. The BBC secures an extension to its agreement with Wimbledon until 2014; digital and online techno fireworks are promised. UK Sport announce a £1m programme to test every British Olympic athlete before the Beijing Games.

Thursday 27 March
Strictly speaking, operational malfunction is not really Olympic Price Watch territory but having spent £4.3bn on it you would have thought that Terminal Five might work. The National Gallery concedes that, yes, its Cupid Complaining to Venus by Lucas Cranach had at one point been part of Hitler’s personal collection. Two files containing the personal details of the 437 BBC staff to be accredited for the Beijing Olympics have gone missing. Monsieur Sarkozy (M. Bruni?) and The Broon visit Arsene Wenger at the Emirates Stadium to take part in a FIFA summit looking at promoting primary school education in Africa. On the pitch with a ball in reach Messrs Brown and Wenger resist the temptation to show off some close control skills. “We will not be boycotting the Olympic Games,” says the PM. Covent Garden (the former flower market rather than the opera house) is to restrict the number of busking performances because of “noise clashes”. Animals have gone missing from Berlin Zoo and accusations are flying around regarding their possible use in Chinese medicine. Pontins is bought for £46m by a company headed by its former boss, Graham Parr.

Friday 28 March
German chancellor Anger Merkel announces she will not attend the Olympics in Beijing, the first world leader so to do. Supermarket maestro Sir Ken Morrison makes some changes to his £1bn stake in the family firm and saves the nation the trouble of sending him a tax bill for £100m; cue Olympic Price Watch. George Gillett, co-owner of Liverpool FC, says he has received numerous death threats over his plans to sell his shares to his fellow American investor, Tom Hicks. Indian opener Virender Sehway scores the fastest triple century in history in the Test match against South Africa. The Department for Children, Schools and Families admits that the sale of nineteen school playing fields were agreed last year; a further 53 are said to be at risk.

Saturday 29 March
Organisers of the London Marathon say they will not be following the American lead of banning runners from using music players and earphones during the race. Oxford beat Cambridge on the Thames while Great Britain beats everyone on the track; three golds today at the cycling world track championships in Manchester takes the total to nine.

Sunday 30 March
The Hans Otto theatre in Potsdam, Germany begins an eight-week run of stage adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. Police are laying plans for the smooth progress of the Olympic torch through the UK next weekend. The water vole is to receive legal protection; only its habitat has to date been so preserved. Victoria Pendleton is disappointed not to add another gold to British Cycling’s haul at the Worlds; silver in the keirin has to suffice. Dave Brailsford, British Cycling’s performance director, reveals that he did think of resigning when news of Rob Hayles’s positive test came through but only for half an hour. Meanwhile, LA Galaxy kicks off their season by taking a resounding 4-0 thrashing away to Colorado Rapids. Galaxy star Mr Beckham (for it is he) admits he was off the pace, citing the difficulties of travelling from international matches. Before heading for Beijing, Sir Craig Reedie, Britain’s most respected and influential IOC member, says that boycotts do not work. He also notes that there would be no accompanying business or political boycott if the athletes stayed at home.

Monday 31 March
Archaeologists get to work around Stonehenge for the first time in generations. Kevin Spacey, director of the Old Vic, has a go at the BBC’s influence on rival theatrical productions. The Olympic torch arrives by plane in Beijing; no problems with protests. While the Commons transport select committee condemned the public-private partnership contracts for the Tube company, Metronet, which collapsed last year, the Department for Transport says it was “predominantly a corporate failure”. Fabio Capello is being investigated in Italy for the alleged withholding of evidence in Italy. Uefa says that any trouble in Rome when Man Utd visit could result in a decision to move next season’s final.



the world of leisure
March 2008

Friday 28 March:
The Department for Children, Schools and Families admits that the sale of nineteen school playing fields were agreed last year; a further 53 are said to be at risk.


Wednesday 26 March:
The BBC secures an extension to its agreement with Wimbledon until 2014; digital and online techno fireworks are promised.


Monday 17 March:
British 800m runner James McIlroy announces his retirement for financial reasons. “I just wouldn’t want to get further into debt,” he says.


Wednesday 12 March:
The British Olympic Association chairman Lord Moynihan says his organisation will defend its regulations against any challenge from convicted drugs cheats. That means you, Mr Chambers. But not you, Mr Myerscough.


Friday 7 March:
There are reports of a huge surge in participation in theatre nights held in pubs across the state of Minnesota


Wednesday 5 March:
The IOC completes its two-day inspection of progress on the 2012 venue and gives a glowing report and BT has signed up as a £50m sponsor. Forty percent of Germany’s soldiers are too fat, according to a German government report.

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