Tag Archives: Olympic

Reflections on London 2012

English: Mo Farah after 5000 m final - World c...

Mo Farah (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

OK, I know that in the main this is a history blog, but I couldn’t let the momentous events of the past few weeks pass by without saying a few words about the performance of Team GB, and how it compares with the performance of the players of our supposed national sport.

 

The funny thing about the Olympics is that a plethora of minority sports captivate our imagination for two weeks every four years, and then that’s it for another Olympic cycle. We would almost be forgiven for thinking that cycling, athletics, swimming, sailing and rowing do not even take place outside of an Olympic year.

 

Yet they are very much taking place. Olympic cyclists regularly train for 12 hours a day, beginning at 7am. Mo Farah runs anywhere between 100 and 120 miles a week. Add into that things like special diets that most of us would find distinctly unappetising, altitude training at camps far from home, in many cases a dearth of facilities and funding, and you can see that the lot of an elite athlete is hardly a glamorous one.

 

Compare that to the average day of a professional footballer, people who are held up as national heroes and role models. Get up at about 9am, roll in training at something like 10am, sit and have breakfast with your mates, and then do a few tricks and flicks and play some six a side for a couple of hours. Spend the afternoon playing golf, looking at cars or buying the plastic missus some (more) new clothes.

 

And to think we wonder why England always fail in big international tournaments. It’s not hard to see why – by and large, football has lost the charm, the inspiration and the hunger of athletics. Players don’t work hard and then we wonder why they fail. We pay them exorbient amounts of money and don’t ask them to do much for it, and we then wonder why they end up misbehaving and losing sight of why they play the game in the first place. And to cap it all, isn’t it a bit sad that the greatest moment of England’s supposed best player of the last two decades was scoring a last-minute equaliser to scrape world cup qualification against a football backwater?

 

The success of Team GB makes me wish that I was 12 again. If only I could try some of these sports, who knows how things might have turned out? Yet all I can remember from PE at school is playing endless indoor football. Looking back, I could have made a half-decent distance runner, but who at 15 really wants to be a runner? The overwhelming peer pressure, and wider culture, places football on a pedestal. Mo Farah was obsessed with football, and dreamed about playing left-back for Arsenal. Thankfully his PE teacher saw his potential as a distance runner, and the rest is history.

 

I will always like football, or, rather, the memories of the sport before it became tainted by money and celebrity. Football still retains the ability to enthuse and move people more than any other sport, if only it could rediscover them. The problem is, all the time people keep watching on Sky TV and paying the extortionate ticket prices, nothing much will change. But I am pretty sure there are some characters in the FA- hell, even in FIFA- who have watched the past few weeks events and will have realised that football has to begin to raise its game and clean up its act sooner rather than later if it does not want to be left behind.

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under News

HMS Belfast airbrushed out of Olympic Posters

Preserved Royal Navy cruiser HMS Belfast in th...

HMS Belfast - airbrushed (Image via Wikipedia)

This is a pretty strange one – its transpired today that HMS Belfast, moored on the Thames near Tower Bridge, has been airbrushed out of an official poster for the London 2012 Olympics.

We’ve had the usual ‘it was a mistake, blah blah’ statements from un-named spokesperson. But lets look at the facts. At some point, someone somewhere, made a conscious and deliberate decision that it would be a good idea to remove a historic warship from a scene of London. This isn’t something that you do accidentally – as anyone with design experience knows, doctoring a landscape is not something that ‘just happens’. I could understand some spotty young designer maybe brushing it out, but for it to pass so many levels up until publication without being halted, is pretty alarming.

What we need to think about, wider than the fact that it happened, is the thought process that led to it being acceptable? HMS Belfast has been moored on the Thames for over 40 years now, and has been visited by millions of people. If it wasn’t for the role of HMS Belfast in the war, we would have had plenty more Olympics like those in Berlin in 1936 – ie, a farce. Or football teams having to give the Nazi salute, like the teams who played in the World Cup in Germany in 1938. It’s not just ‘a ship’, it represents all of the ships of the British Royal Navy that have fought in bloody conflicts over hundreds of years.

Is it that military history is not thought appropriate for the Olympics? Well, in that case you can also airbrush out the Tower of London. Oh, and the Tower Hill Merchant Navy Memorial. And can anyone remember the spectacle of the Chinese Army soldiers goose-stepping with the Olympic flag in Beijing in 2008? That was hardly subtle, yet somehow that was overlooked. Don’t expect to see Grenadier Guards at the 2012 opening ceremony, or the Red Arrows flying overhead (although after recent events that might not be possible in any case).

I do wonder if it is down to a modern, lefty kind of school of thought, that would like to try and airbrush wars and anything military out of history. No doubt with the sobriquet that we ‘need to look to the future’. Well, without those who secured our past, there wouldn’t be much of a future to look forward to. I guess its the problem with having elected and appointed leaders with no sense of history.

It’s yet another example of just how blind this country and its institutions can be about our naval heritage. And if we’re that blase about the past, is it any wonder that the Royal Navy is struggling for attention in the present?

12 Comments

Filed under Navy, News, Uncategorized