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Meanwhile, back at the Olympics… August 2, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, Culture, The Left.

…not sure what people made of the opening ceremony. I happened to be in the South of England watching it and close to where the cycling had led to massive road closures. I’d also been in London during last week for a couple of hours and seen some of the chaos that accompanied it, though to be honest it was broadly under control.

Anyhow, I kind of liked the mention of the NHS in the ceremony. But one Martin Durkin writing in the Observer was much less complimentary [apologies, you’ll have to scroll down]:

When it comes to blowing vast quantities of other people’s money, no one can beat the Statist left. So it was entirely appropriate to entrust the Olympic opening jamboree to the miserable northern socialist Danny Boyle.

And goes on to complain…

But then the stadium was flooded with light, and three giant flaming letters shouted out the answer … NHS.

It was at this point that I choked on my gin and tonic. What really sets Britain apart (besides our shocking nationalised health system) is the brilliant achievement of being the first proper capitalist nation, and everything that went with it: far greater prosperity for ordinary people, parliamentary democracy, toleration, a sense of fair play and decency and humour (which Rowan Atkinson represented very nicely).

But who is this Martin Durkin ‘documentary maker’? The name rang a bell… a bell rung on this site by smiffy back in 2007.

Ah… that Martin Durkin.


1. FergusD - August 2, 2012

I thought it all a bit weird and naff, but a suprising number friends thought it was great.

I am dislllusioned with the hype, expense and commercialism of the Olympics these days. But I do watch the canoe/kayal slalom (ah, my youth!). Pity about Eoin Rheinsich, but Hannah Craig is in the women’s Kayak final – fantastic! BUT she had to run a Belfast market stall to raise the money compete. Shame on Ireland!


Michael Carley - August 2, 2012

I see Aileen Morrison competes in Ulster-Scots:



2. FergusD - August 2, 2012

Hannah Craig came last in the final, but a great achievement to have got there at all. Ireland needs a proper canoe/kayak slalom course.


3. FergusD - August 2, 2012

How many of the RoI’s Olympic team come from NI? Would be interesting to know, and how many of those might not necessarily be expected to put on a green strip?


Jolly Red Giant - August 2, 2012

From the North
Paddy Barnes
Michael Conlon
Hannah Craig
James Espey
Martyn Irvine
Lisa Kearney
Matt McGovern
Sycerika McMahon
David McCann
Aileen Morrison
Gavin Noble
Melanie Nocher
Ryan Seaton

Kieran Behan was born in Britain
Dan Martin was born in Birmingham
Nicolas Roche was born in France
Alistair Cragg is South African
Andrezey Jezierski is Polish
Anna Merveldt is Canadian
Tori Pena is American
Sanita Puspure is Latvian

4 of ‘Team GB’ are from the North (3 rowers and a cyclist) and 1 (women’s basketball) is from Cork. About 85 of the British team were born outside Britain including the likes of Mo Farah who was born in Somalia.

Interesting aside – Rory McIlroy has said he wants to compete for Britain in the next Olympics. If golf was included this year he actually would not have been selected as two other British golfers were ranked higher then him at what would have been the cut off point.

By the way – the classification of the British team as ‘Team GB’ has provoked signficant controvesy in the North –


Mark P - August 2, 2012

Who is the Nordie cyclist on the GB team? Martyn Irvine is a Northern Irish cyclist on the Irish team. I had thought that generally these things went by sport.


PaddyM - August 2, 2012
FergusD - August 3, 2012

JRG – interesting. Given the way “nations” are increasingly mixed the whole nationalistic thing in sport seems even more crazy than it has always been. Sadly I doubt we could have an Olympics based on individuals as the resources sports require can only be supplied on a state basis.


Jim Monaghan - August 3, 2012

I am for sport for all, and I don’t mean watching it. these resources if used for school sport could increase health and maybe deal with obesity.


4. Jolly Red Giant - August 2, 2012

Wendy Houvenaghel from Magherafelt is competing for Britain in the Women’s Team Pursuit. She rides in the UCI track circuit.

Irvine is primarily a road racing cyclist on the UCI Continental circuit – he races for the same team as David McCann, RTS Racing. He is competing in the Men’s Omnium event in the Olympics.


5. Jolly Red Giant - August 3, 2012

In last 30 years in particular sport has become dominated by money – it is the sole focus of the IOC, most of the sports federations and all the leading athletes.

There is a difference between team sports and sports clubs and individual competition. Individuals can dominate particular sports for a limited period but eventually age catches up with competitors and they are replace by the new kid on the block. Team sports allow for ongoing and continuous domination by the better supported and wealthier clubs which makes them attractive to ownership by the ruling capitalist elites and multinational media conglomerates like Sky. This is demonstrated by the buying up of English soccer clubs by American conglomerates. The American conglomerates are buying these clubs as investments intended to generate profits. The Arab takeover of clubs appears to be based on a different pretext – namely trying to dominate by sheer wealth, throwing money at the clubs in an attempt to dominate in the same way they have attempted to dominate horse-racing with stables like Godolphin.

I was watching something on tv this morning and they spoke about a soccer player in the 1950s who dropped from the old English first division to play non-league football because he could earn more as a part-timer in non-league than the football league salary cap of £25 a week would allow. These days the likes of Wayne Rooney can earn more in a week than the entire paying budget of a Conference team like Ebbsfleet where full-time professional players can earn as little as £200 per week. In order to prevent the super-rich clubs dominating in sports like soccer salary caps are crucial, provided they also include a minimum wage for players.

Right-wing always go on about competition and how socialists oppose ‘competition’. This is crap. There is nothing wrong with competition providing the competition is about is about striving for improvement and advancement. Capitalist competition is all about destruction, about driving your competition into the ground and striving for a monopoly position. In sports today events are dominated by ‘sponsors’ and the media – all we have to do is look at the Olympics. Spectators arre prevented from bringing lunch packs and drinks into events in order to force them to buy McDonalds ar the products of other ‘sponsors’. People are not allowed to video or photo events because of ‘copyright’ etc. The IOC is dominated by financial considerations, corruption, political maneuvering etc and little to do with sport which is merely a vehicle to be used.

Referring to comment by Fergus about national jingoism, I think we are somewht more aware of it because of all the ‘Team GB’ hype based around the Olympics in London and the BBC’s coverage. I think it grates on us a bit more than it would on others. With the probable exception of some of the Americans I think most of the athletes have participated in a sporting spirit. Many of these athletes would know one another well from regular competition and many would actually train together.

I agree with Jim to a degree about the need to completely revise physical activity in school. I would approach it slighly differently. I believe there needs to be daily compulsory, non-competitive exercise for all school students. The majority of students do not like competitive sports and do not like participating in PE classes which tend to involve team sports because of class sizes. This is an example of the short-sightedness of capitalism where spending extra creating an environment where school students would engage in exercise on a daily basis would result in massive savings in health expenditure 30+ years later. The opposite is happening – a local school because of cutbacks have stopped using the nearby local leisure centre because it cannot afford to pay the rent of the gym. This has resulted in the school now using the school gym for PE classes which is about a third the size of the leisure centre further restricting what students and do and leading to more students opting not to participate in PE classes. At the same time the community run leisure centre is struggling financially losing income from local school and suffering cuts in local council grants.

Coupled with compulsory exercise there should be major expansion in school sports. Recent cutbacks have resulted in drastic cuts in competitive sports. Schools no longer receive substitution cover for teachers traveling with sports teams and in most schools competitive inter-schools sports are now dependent on teachers agreeing to voluntarily cover teachers absent for sports events. In most other cases schools are simply opting out of competitive sports leading to a drop in student participation in sports.

School sports are mainly focussed on team sports and an effort needs to be made to develop individual sports as well. There should be a greater use and planning of association coaches actively participating in schools. Students showing talent and promise should be invited to regular elite training sessions and competitions. Tutoring should be made available for students in elite camps.

Ireland has ample wealth to provide significant community owned and developed sports facilities. One of the most annoying aspects of the development of facilities in this country is the parochialism of certain sporting organisations who will happily use taxpayers money and community donations to to build and develop facilities and then restrict who can use them. Why can’t Croke Park and Landsdowne Road be shared by the GAA, the FAI and the IRFU. It would be a much better idea for GAA matches that attract a crowd of 30-40,000 to be played in Landsdowne Road than a half empty Croke Park. Similarly in Limerick – the GAA ground has a capacity of about 50,000, Thomond Park has 27,000. Th Markets Field could easily be renovated to accomodate an 8-10,000 capacity and sports rotated between all three depending on expected attendances.

Korea are no.1 in the world in archery. Every workplace has it own archery team. Workers are provided with paid time off of work for training and competition. Those who show elite talent are paid full-time to engage in an intensive long-term training programme. The objective is to develop a long-term strategy to ensure continued excellence in the sport. A similar approach was adopted in the former Eastern bloc countries until sport became a pawn in the cold war and the athletes were tanked up with drugs.

Sports can be infectious – it can raise people’s spirits (the prime example in this country was the impact of the Irish participaton in Euro 88). Active competitive sport can encourge increased participation in sport by wider sectors of the community and increased attendance at sporting activities. Sport is one of the most beneficial activities human beings can engage in across all spheres of society, social, cultural and physical.

Finally, local sports facilities and leisure facilities should be available to the local community free of charge. One of the biggest inhibitors to the use of leisure facilities by the general population is the cost. Similarly admission prices for sporting events prevents people for attending sports contests. Funding for sports and leisure facilites should come from central funds – from the health budget. Elite training facilities and programmes should be developed to assist elite athletes. Workplaces and colleges should facilitate full-time elite athletes. Certainly accept donations for the use of leisure facilities and for spectator admission but nobody should be prohibited from such activities because of lack of finance.

Of course none of this is possible under capitalism. It doesn’t fit in with the establishment’s agenda of creating a passive audience paying large sums of money to watch overpaid athletes perform for the benefit of advertisers and media moguls. While watching these sports, audiences are conditioned to consume vast quantities of unhealthy products. The general population is not incentivised by elite sports to engage in sporting activity but to simply spend money while increasingly becoming couch potatoes. The conglomerates couldn’t care less about obesity, their concern is profits and private health care will later cash in on the consequential health crisis that is increasingly becoming evident.


ejh - August 4, 2012

I was watching something on tv this morning and they spoke about a soccer player in the 1950s who dropped from the old English first division to play non-league football because he could earn more as a part-timer in non-league than the football league salary cap of £25 a week would allow.

I was trying to work out who this was. You’re not thinking of John Atyeo?


Jolly Red Giant - August 4, 2012

I was actually watching Heir Hunters on BBC and they were trying to find relatives of a former semi-pro footballer from the 1950s named Trevor Haydon. His father Jimmy Haydon played professionally for Bristol Rovers. Trevor played for Bath City and someone who knew Trevor talked about how Bath City recruited several players from the old English League Division One during the 1950s and paid them £30 a week to play part-time when the salary cap in the Football League was £25.

The salary cap was abolished in 1961 and Johnny Haynes signed a contract with Fulham worth £100 a week.


Michael Carley - August 6, 2012

Bath City is a fine club. Not only is Ken Loach the chairman, putting on the odd benefit when it’s time to buy a striker, but when Gloucester were flooded out a few years ago, Bath gave them the use of their ground for what should have been a home game, and gave them the gate money.


Bartley - August 6, 2012

In terms of mass participation, encouraged and subsided by the state, it would be hard to beat the Bay 10k organized this morning by DLR county council. A nominal entry fee and a pair of runners is all that was needed to partipate, and thousands of people of all ages, abilities and no doubt class backgrounds, did just that.

So I don’t think complusion is the answer, people have to choose to be motivated to set a personal goal like running a 10k and then follow through with the work to make that happen. The experience of compulsory PE at school wouldn’t make that motivation any more likely – indeed for many, it would have the opposite effect (as we see with compulsory Irish).

And by the way, a shout out to the public servants in DLR coco for their sterling work in organizing a flawless event. Seriously, no sarcasm, credit where it’s due.


FergusD - August 6, 2012

Lots to think about there JRG. Indeed teh BBC commentators are getting my goat:
-that stupoid Big Ben barometer thing where they raise a stickly label each time GB get a gold! They ask bemused Mercans to do it as well!!

-the rather dismissive may they treat GB atheletes who dissappoint them, even if they get a silver! As one GB sprinter who failed to get to the finals said – it was a brilliant achievement to get as far as he did. This medal table thing is getting really obsessive. When the C2 canoe slalom crews were in the studio, Sottt and Baillie (gold) were sitting down in the lights and Hounslow and Florence (silver, but both missed individual medals) were standing behind them in the gloom and hardly had a chance to speak
– at the sailing the crowd started to sing “Rule Britannia” when the GB sailor won. Anslie (?)’s opponent was always described as “the Danish sailor” – he doesn’t have a name?
-a BBC commnetator was talking to a couple of rowers who were probably going to retire from competition soon, but referred to them almost as old crocks!
-the hyperbole “the nation salutes you” Oh, SHUT UP!

As JRG says I don;t think the atheletes temselves are at all jingoistic in the main. They know each other well over many years probably and seem to be genuinely friends, shaking hands etc – really good to see. It’s the bloody stupid TV commentators!

Lots to think about in terms of sport, politics, society, the Olympics etc.

Rant off.


6. Branno's ultra-left t-shirt - August 4, 2012

The above deserves a thread of its own


CMK - August 4, 2012



WorldbyStorm - August 4, 2012

On holiday at moment so unable to repost until early next week but if JRG is okay with it would be glad to.


Jolly Red Giant - August 4, 2012

No problem – but I would suggest there are two seperate issues – 1. How to encourge young people to get exercise and the role of PE in schools, and 2. the role of sports within society and how sports should be organised within society


doctorfive - August 4, 2012

Ruairi Quinn’s most recent statement is here



Jolly Red Giant - August 4, 2012

Usual waffle to be blunt.


7. EWI - August 5, 2012

Durkin is representative of and plugged into the Anglo arm of the US wingnut apparatus, which actually did experience exploding heads that lies about how the UK public allegedly hates the NHS were exposed on primetime US television.

Incidentally, one of the major outlets for the ‘product’ of the Living Marxism crowd seems to be through a Spiked contributor called Andrew Orlowski, who nowadays seems to be chief editor at tech site The Register. There was a nasty little anonymous piece (done entirely in Orlowski’s style) on the opening ceremony:


On a related note, I don’t think a coincidence that certain ex-WP people who travelled a similar trajectory to Harris have also ended up in the Observer. What is the story with that paper, at least nominally a sister paper to the Guardian?


Dr. X - January 29, 2013

You probably won’t see it, but the basic story was that it was the English-language paper with the world’s best English-language coverage of African stories.

Because of this, it was bought by real-life Bond villain Tiny Rowland, who had extensive economic interests in Africa, and didn’t want any investigative journalists looking over his shoulder. He stopped the Obs doing proper coverage of Mugabe’s purges in Matabeleland in the mid-80s for example, because of his strong economic relationship with “Comrade” Bob.

I’d say the decline of the Observer dates from then.


Jim Monaghan - May 11, 2013

When was Conor Cruise O’Brien in charge. Didn’t he sack Mary Holland for being soft on Northern Nationalists. I vaguely recall that the issue was being taken in by Mary Nellis. Here is her obit. http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2004/jun/09/guardianobituaries.northernireland


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