Daily Archives: August 2, 2012

Top flight football teams have, increasingly, become international. Similarly, for the Olympic football, are the spectators, who are giving the terraces a League of Nations atmosphere.

Brazil’s game against New Zealand at St James’ Park in Newcastle yesterday even drew a group of visitors from Mongolia, a distance of nearly 6,000 miles, to cheer on Brazil, who won three-nil. Read more >>

Bradley Wiggins celebrates winning the gold medal on August 1 (CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/GettyImages)

While Britain wallows in the wonder of Bradley Wiggins, a hat-tip (or even a doff of the helmet) should be conferred on Peter Keen, the man who a decade ago set about to revive the fortunes of British cycling.

Mr Keen created Britain’s high performance cycling programme around Manchester’s velodrome, before passing on the baton to British Cycling’s performance director Dave Brailsford.

Wiggins came under his wing in the late 90s, a very different creature to the other budding 17 and 18 year-olds in his charge, Mr Keen recalls.

“He was completely immersed in cycling. It is all he wanted to read about and study, whereas many of his contemporaries wouldn’t have had that level of fascination and focus,” Mr Keen says.

The Wiggins riding style has barely changed over the years: “He was almost too aware of how he would look and flow on the bike.” Read more >>

Team GB’s Olympic gold medallists have been honoured with stamps featuring photos of their winning performances, less than 24 hours after their victories, writes Darren Wee.

Royal Mail has issued two first class stamps in honour of cyclist Bradley Wiggins and the British women’s rowing pair, all of whom won gold yesterday.

Helen Glover and Heather Stanning won Britain’s first gold medal of the games in the women’s pairs event at the rowing regatta, setting an Olympic record in the heats. The pair are the first British women to win a rowing gold and the first all-female sports team to appear on a British stamp. Read more >>

In terms of making friends and influencing people, it would be hard to match the feat of David McNeill, the Australian 5,000m runner, and Matthew Mahon, a board member for Athletics Australia, who this morning rescued the beloved dog of the UK’s top civil servant in the ministry responsible for the London 2012 games.

While Jonathan Stephens was hard at work in London in his role as permanent secretary at the Department of Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport, his wife Penny was walking their frisky golden retriever Mia by the banks of a river near their home in Tonbridge, Kent.

The dog chased a ball into the water, a tributary of the Medway, but could not get out because the bank was too deep and steep.

“All I was able to do was to keep her head up out of the water, but that was not a long term solution,” Mrs Stephens told the FT. Read more >>

James Blitz

Vladimir Putin takes part in a judo training session in December 2009 (ALEXEY DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images)

Vladimir Putin’s visit to London on Thursday is probably the most remarkable diplomatic moment of this Olympic fortnight. Mr Putin is not coming to the UK on an official visit – he’s here in a private capacity to watch Olympics judo. But this is the first time he has been in London for a bilateral visit since 2003, when he was still viewed positively by some in the west and was accorded a state visit by Tony Blair’s government. An awful lot has changed since then and hence it is a moment to watch.

Ever since the 2006 murder in London of Alexander Litvinenko, the former KGB agent, relations between London and Moscow have been very frosty. Britain’s security services have long taken the view that the murder was carried out at the behest of the Russian state, and the brutality of the killing – by means of polonium poisoning – has never been completely eradicated from British minds. As a result, there has been only one visit by a British prime minister to Russia in the six years since then (by David Cameron in 2011). All other meetings with Russian leaders have been at international summits.

 Read more >>

Everyone likes an underdog. The British, however, love them. It’s much more acceptable to cheer an unlikely winner than a likely one. How fitting then that Britain should host the Olympics — a competition where the entry mechanics ensure that underdogs will turn up by design.

We’ve already been treated to a number of spirited and inspiring performances. These are delicately chosen adjectives, for the winning attributes were admittedly not strength, speed, or precision.

In this, the XXX Olympiad, the crowds kept cheering all the way up to the 8 minute and 39 second mark in the men’s single sculls second repechage. For a full minute and 20 seconds of that, everyone’s hearts and minds were the sole property of a rower from Niger … until he also managed to cross the finishing line, that is.

On the same day, swimmer Jennet Saryyeva of Turkmenistan enjoyed a full minute and 18 seconds alone in the limelight at the end of her 400m freestyle heat.

Both are clearly impressive athletes, and both are clearly not up to Olympic standard. They will have known that when they signed up. Given this, how and why did they enter? Read more >>