Monday 13 August 2012

A triumph of organisation; how did that happen?

What a thoroughly nice way to spend ~£10,000,000,000

One of the better legacies of London 2012 is the very obvious fact that the Great British Olympic Experience has been a stark contradiction of many of the features of British life that have charted our national decline in the past 50 years.
It's all over for another 4 years.

Firstly our lottery/celeb "get rich quick" ethos: with the exception of the opening and closing ceremonies, we barely saw or heard from a politician "on duty", and there was no easy political point scoring to be had from anything going on anyway. Once the medals started flowing, and the traffic stayed flowing, there was apparently no blame of any sort to apportion, and with no blame to hand out, most pygmy politicians are lost for a comment. Unless they happen to be French, of course.

Secondly, the games asserted that no one won anything by just getting lucky (other than the odd conniving aussie cyclist) or merely being famous; all the winners (including the famous ones) got there by relentless gruelling preparation. British success was founded on relentless selection, elitism, preparation and in most instances, sacrificial levels of family support. But for there to be winners, there must also be losers - the exact opposite of the dogmatic ideas of the past 50 years that have driven the disastrous British educational experiment. And so the race to try and spin attention away from that particularly inconvenient truth is well under way in the media of the social engineering classes. Does anyone dare say " Big Society", I wonder?

Darcey Bussell flies in on a rocket
powered phoenix; as you do...
GB won big in sitting-down events requiring huge preparation, complex technical support and costly facilities; a few of our ruffians beat-up a few of their ruffians; but it is again apparent that we need not bother in the mostly skill-free events that are selected from the global gene pool, unless we import the right genes.

The best show bit was when Freddie Mercury was briefly but very effectively resurrected - which reminded us what a lot of padding nonsense we had also been forced to watch - in much the same way that an indulgent feast of succulent rare fillet steak and chips is nutritionally engineered to seem somehow healthier with a couple of token veg, so the entertainment was socially engineered to be less purely an indulgence of Britain's rock and pop excellence, and more spiritually nutritious with a side portion of yoof cabbage rap and multicultural bangla broccoli.

Never forget that the opening and closing ceremonies were carrying the embers of the torch of the New Labour vision that steered the event design from 2005-2010 to embody a very New Labour vision of a random, confused, classless and mostly aimless multicultural Britain. Remember the Millennium Dome?

But you had better like this - or else be declared negative, beastly and reactionary. Possibly  even worse. People have already been arrested for not smiling sufficiently.

Saturday 11 August 2012

London 2012: the race to claim the credit

The heats for the final event - claiming the glory - are well under way.

After all those well documented and embarrassing problems with ticketing at every level of the process, we (note, not "they") can scarcely believe our (not "their") luck eh? Even the diabolical summer weather relented and cooperated by reverting to a very typical English August of mostly pleasant with occasional downpours; so conditions for the performers have been benign. And even the G4S cock-up has been turned into a completely random triumph by showcasing the British military giving a gold medal PR performance.

The most relieved man in London
So now the papers are bristling with pictures of the suave Seb Coe, effectively concealing the massive relief he must be feeling having spent 7 years (and a gazillion quid) setting himself (and GB itself) for the biggest high jump of British and International public life since the second world war.

Even if the closing ceremony turns out to be a full-on fiasco (it seems to have all the component parts)  he cleared the bar with ease - but also - it must be noted - with almost limitless finance when  the government was forced to accept that with the eyes of the world on the UK, we could not afford to cock it up.

Lord Coe must now be eternally grateful to Francois Hollande, the French president, who very kindly handed him the absolutely copper bottomed proof that this was indeed a game being played by TeamGB for the highest possible international stakes.
Francois Hollande, French president
posing a picture he might regret

Were he not already French, he would have earned the right to be an honorary Frenchman. But since he is,   President Hollande deserves the l├ęgion de d├ęshonneur for his typically waspish and gallic remarks about the British rolling out the carpet for French success - and implying the British would have to rely on the opportunity to associate/hide itself within the EU in order to mask British embarrassment after day one, with its absence of any GB medal.

Apart from the relentless GB "medalling", overall organisation has been immaculate and officials effective and almost invisible. There seem to have been almost no false starts (not surprising in view of draconian the new rules) and very few disputes thanks to clear cut and unambiguous appeals procedures.

The BBC curse has been almost 100% effective. All their poster performers with the exception of Jesccia Ennis have succumbed to the pressures. I do hope that the BBC - technically almost perfect, editorially as flawed as ever - is not allowed to assume too much of the credit for these games. The traditional BBC fixation with bigging up or mostly failed athletes and swimmers has been as embarrassing as ever, but fortunately, the rest of the world probably doesn't know it as they have wisely been using their own commentary teams.

David Rudisha earns his money
The BBC studio interview and roundup sessions with the  exuberant Gabby Logan have been on the money. It's always going to be easier to do a good job of reporting uplifting a parade of triumphs than a litany of depressing disasters.

There have been a couple of track world records for the tiresome BBC athletics commentators to get infeasibly excited about. David Rudisha's majestic 800m final was worth the price of admission, and helped deflect attention from the host nation's own modest performances. But then there was that  uncomfortable win in the women's 1500m by a Turkish athlete who had just served a 2 year ban for drug abuse. A handy reminder that there are always going to be some events where we might as well not bother competing until lifetime drug bans are enforced.

Most GB success (notable exception of track cycling) has emerged from events that the BBC has not "pre-heated". And can you imagine the horror at the BBC when a bloke wielding a shotgun could no longer be safely ignored?

At the time of wring, Tom Daley - who has looked like a haunted man right up to the point he qualified for the 30m platform diving final - might just save the BBC from a deeper enquiry about the obviously unhelpful pressure it has piled on its chosen ones, if he can pull off a win in one of the last events.
Cheer up - it's almost over!

Overall, with two days left, GB has enjoyed its best 2 weeks of mood uplift in its best year in a long time. The Royals played their parts impeccably throughout, although maybe Brenda herself might have been expected to put in an appearance (no need to parachute in, ma'am) at the equestrian events. There were mercifully few politicians on show, and when the Mayor did appear, he managed to raise a smile in his own inimical style of high-wire act.

Can we translate this mood of national unity and euphoria - based on ruthless selection, pure elitism, painful family sacrifices and the determined pursuit of excellence - into economic success? Sadly, a glance at the usual parades of self-serving pygmies in government and opposition in every corner of this nation, suggests the political challenges are going to require a complete rethink of who and how we train and select our so-called political leaders.

Sunday 5 August 2012

An Olympic lesson to learn

The gold medal for irony goes to David Cameron as he tries to exhort the UK's wheezing,  education - sorry, "social engineering" - system to provide better facilities for the gamut of Olympic sports. Surely to God he knows as well as anyone that tipping yet more money into the present system is tantamount to pouring it down an already well fed drain.

Ben Ainslie does it again
The denied reality is that the vast majority of the successes of the London Olympics will have been delivered by products of an educational system - and family support networks - that our witless politicians have done their best to strangle, starve and dissuade for the past 50 years.

Ben Ainslie is a product of a very traditional independent day/bording school  - Truro School - motto "To be, rather than to seem to be" the very type of school that was first in front Labour's ideology-inspired firing squad as the (very privately educated) Shirley Williams put party dogma before best interest. (And to this day, the scatty old bat who never did a real job of work in her massively privileged and most misguided evil-doing life, still defiantly declares that comprehensive education was her finest achievement!)

However, the real story for these Olympians is that they come from a family that is committed sufficiently to be willing to pay £3k5 a term (day) and not just ignore the state so-called "free" education, but to make the statement so stark that it dare not speak its name - that state education is hugely inferior. All Olympians - almost without fail - will credit family support with a large element of their success.

A brief moment on the hypocrisy of politicians, which continues largely unabated: the fact that virtually all members of the last labour government's cabinet sent their kids to private schools is well documented. Labour peer Lord Sugar may famously not have gone to public school - but his kids and grandchildren all went/ are going to fee-paying schools; and he's nobody's fool where wasting money is concerned.

When taken to task on the matter, those Labour acolytes  that are willing to coyly try and defend their decisions, tend to do so on the basis that their family's interests come first.

So then Dave, please do not blow this opportunity to strike back and make the connection between success and committed families; and then take that idea the extra mile and apply it to a root and branch reform of the education system, where a far deeper family engagement with their kids' futures is more important then yet more taxpayer money thrown at the task.