Australian Tom Slingsby, a sailor first inspired by Britain’s Ben Ainslie, struck gold on Weymouth’s Nothe course on Monday in a race that saw the island of Cyprus win its first ever Olympic medal, a silver in the same Laser class.
Slingsby, 27, from New South Wales, who has said he is retiring after these games, could have been a professional tennis player but took up Laser single-handed dinghy sailing aged 15 after being inspired by Ainslie’s duelling with Brazilian Robert Scheidt.
And it was these aggressive match-racing skills that saw him through to a gold medal today in strong winds gusting to more than 22 knots. The pair separated from the fleet after a pre-race battle of nerves that became a one-on-one tussle at the back of the fleet, on the opposite side of the course, with Slingsby eventually stretching a gap from his opponent.
Slingsby had gone into Monday’s medal race as the gold favourite after consolidating his place at the top of the leaderboard by winning both races on Saturday.
The four-time world champion was able to put to rest his disappointing result at the 2008 Beijing games. Read more >>
Following a spate of expulsions from London 2012 in recent days, we thought it might be helpful to give you a little cut-out-and-keep guide to staying IN the Olympics. Stick to these rules†, and when you finally achieve your lifelong ambition to compete in the world’s biggest sports competition, we think you’ll stand a good chance of at least making it through your event.
- Avoid hash brownies. This seems relatively simple: don’t eat foodstuffs laced with illegal drugs. Unfortunately, it appears you can never be *quite* sure with homebaked goods, as Nick Delpopolo, the US judoko expelled on Monday, found out to his cost. “My positive test was caused by my inadvertent consumption of food that I did not realize had been baked with marijuana”, he said. If you feel you are also at risk of inadvertently consuming food baked with marijuana, our advice would be two-pronged: firstly, consider avoiding brownies altogether for the year before the games. They are, after all, one of the cake-foods most beloved of hash fiends. Don’t despair: there are lots of other tasty, harder-to-make cake products that are less likely to be spiked, such as the bakewell tart, or the classic battenberg. Our second piece of advice is to avoid altogether any baked goods whose provenance you are unclear about, particularly if they have been made by a member of your peer group with a history of drug use, and are being handed out at, say, a party. If you’re really worried, stick to store-bought treats with the wrapping intact.
- Don’t be racist. It’s just plain wrong. Jokes with racist overtones – such as that made by the Greek athlete Paraskevi Papachristou - are a surefire way of getting yourself thrown out of the games. Ditto for offensive remarks directed at another country; Swiss footballer Michel Morganella was rightly expelled when he posted insulting comments about South Koreans.
Read more >>
A private jet, and a limo… Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images
Ahead of the Olympics, the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority was expecting upwards of 10,000 flights by general aviation aircraft – that is, anything from hang gliders to transatlantic private jets – during the busy games period.
The authorities prepared by asking ACL, the country’s co-ordinator of airport take-off and landing slots, to take management of 40 air fields in the south-east of England (some critics argued this was going overboard). And they demanded that people entering the games’ restricted airspace on private aircraft receive security clearance before take-off.
But the numbers so far suggest any influx of Olympic private flyers is merely making up for others avoiding London. ACL reports that 7,400 of the general aviation slots have been booked for the period between July 21st and August 15th – just a few hundred more movements than in a normal year.
“It’s looking busy but manageable,” says a spokesman for the CAA.
Darren Grover, chief operating officer at London City Airport, has seen the trend on the ground. The airport lies just four miles from the Olympic park and within a few javelin throws of the ExCel Centre, where, Mr Grover points out, Team GB has won many of its medals. (ExCel hosts boxing, judo, wrestling, fencing, taekwondo, weightlifting and table tennis.) Read more >>
How far should we go to develop top athletes? Is it worth so much that a special “Olympic class” of people should be cultivated from a young age?
It seems that this has already happened in many competing nations. It reminds us of the strategy employed by District 2 in the The Hunger Games.
For those not familiar with this particular work of fiction, it tells the story of an entirely more violent set of games that involve a fight to the death by a bunch of teenagers (some even younger).
From each of 12 districts in the nation of Panem two kids are selected to do battle in a sci-fi version of a gladiatorial ring until only one remains and is proclaimed the winner by virtue of still being alive.
The “tributes”, as the teens are so-called, are mostly selected randomly. However, we are told that District 2 has “career tributes” who are entered into special academies at a young age. They then get to the ripe old age of 18 — at which point they are expected to volunteer themselves for the Hunger Games. Districts 1 and 4 have also been known to engage in this strategy, and all three districts that do this are wealthier than the other 9 districts.
This strategy, of having a specialist warrior class, makes tributes from these districts particularly successful at the games. (It also means that the rest of the kids in those districts don’t have to risk being selected by random draw.)
Our own distinctly real Olympic Games is gracefully free of such gratuitous violence. Instead, our Games represent to us sporting achievement in the context of universal ideals. Nations are brought together by them in celebration of values we share. Read more >>
Exactly one year on from the London riots, the UK is embracing two multicultural heroes: the Somali-born Mo Farah who won the men’s 10,000 metres on Saturday, and Jessica Ennis, queen of the heptathlon whose father is a painter and decorator originally from Jamaica. Already Farah and Ennis are being called role models. In a perfect world, their gold medals would change views about black and mixed race Britons. Unfortunately, that probably won’t happen.
On the face of it, Farah seems the perfect figure to challenge racist stereotypes about black British youths, and to offer those youths someone to emulate. In origin, he resembles many of the young black men from poor backgrounds who were disproportionately represented among the rioters. Farah – who came to Britain aged eight, was raised in tough Feltham, got into fights at school, and once jumped naked from a bridge into the river Thames after a night out – might have been one of them had life turned out differently. Instead he discovered discipline and running.
Sadly, his success and Ennis’s will probably serve only to confirm racist views of black people. The black person as athlete (or musician) is itself a longstanding racial stereotype. The Nazis dismissed the triumphs of the black American Jesse Owens at the Berlin Games of 1936 by saying he had animalistic physical gifts. Countless black athletes have succeeded since Owens. Their triumphs do not change stereotypes. Read more >>
The stands at Olympic events are dotted with small children. Their parents have usually kitted them out in expensive replica kits. It is clearly all meant to be a great family day out, a treasured memory and so on. But, usually, it does not work out like that.
The problem is that the average five year-old has limited patience with watching the heats for the women’s shot put – even if the tickets were fiendishly expensive and hard to get hold of. Young children are also bad at dissembling. I was in the Olympic Stadium on Saturday morning, as Jessica Ennis closed in on gold in the heptathalon. The adults in the crowd were going crazy, as she prepared for the long-jump. But the child behind me, made it clear that he was much more interested in eating a Kit-Kat. As the morning wore on, his hapless parents were ground down by their toddler’s repeated question – “Is that one Usain Bolt?” After a couple of hours, Bolt actually did appear to run his heat. But the kid had long since interest and was now campaigning to go for a wee. Read more >>
Reporters are issued with a backstage pass to the world. They peek behind the scenery and the facades of art, politics, war or sport. They see the players in these various pageants without greasepaint and often lit in unflattering ways. Much of the mystery that woos the world on the other side of the limelight has its magic stripped away when the smoke and mirrors are in the reporter’s line of sight.
It is not surprising that cynicism is a common by-product of the access-all-areas world journalists inhabit.
It is a cumulative process, too: sufficient exposure can make even the extraordinary seem routine. Sports reporters more than most experience a cycle of events: football seasons; World Cups; Olympics – all with dates inked on calendars far in advance. After a while, even genuine expressions of delight at a sporting performance can seem forced; cynical curmudgeonliness is the path of least resistance. The venality that surrounds the Olympic movement makes this especially easy.
So let this not be considered a small thing: last night in London’s Olympic Stadium I saw a man I have known for 20 years, a hardened sports hack, a doyen of his trade, a man renowned for his “gloryschmertz”, an observer fiercely proud of his aloof neutrality in the most partisan of atmospheres, this man I saw leap to his feet and clench his fists and roar Mo Farah down the back straight to win the 10,000m. And my friend is not even British. Read more >>
Bernie Ecclestone breezed into the Olympic Park on Saturday afternoon. Given that Jacques Rogge, International Olympic Committee, had shown up at last month’s British grand prix, it would have seemed unreasonable for the Formula One impresario not to return the compliment.
Accompanied by his Brazilian fiancé Fabiana, Mr Ecclestone made for the media centre, so it didn’t take long for a swarm of reporters and cameramen to surround him with questions about what he thought of the whole Olympic circus. Read more >>
There is something of a kerfuffle among certain media commentators about the use of music to entertain spectators in the Olympic stadium at the athletics events.
Music has been a pretty constant feature of these games – from Danny Boyle’s history tour of Britpop in the opening ceremony to the sound systems in use in the Olympic Park and in venues.
The issue is that the stadium DJs are busily pumping out musical rhythms during races, not just in between them. This is dividing opinion between the purists who believe the sporting action is being devalued and others whose argument is: what’s wrong with helping staid old athletics reach a wider audience? Read more >>
Australia's James Magnussen on July 31 (CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/GettyImages)
In the land Down Under, silver has become the new gold.
At home, Australia’s two-speed economy is based around finding valuable metals such as gold. Unfortunately for Australia’s Olympians, that search has hit a dud-seam in London.
For a country that has become accustomed to winning a paddling pool of Olympic swimming gold medals, the past week has prompted usually overconfident Australian sports fans (such as myself) to scratch their heads in disbelief at their athletes’ absence atop the podium.
Australia, with its relatively small population of 21m, has traditionally punched well above its weight in recent Olympic Games. The current medals table of one gold and eight silvers tells another tale.
To make matters even worse, the unthinkable has just occurred: New Zealand – our traditional rival to the east – has drawn clear of Australia in the medal count, thanks to two golds in the rowing. For those of us from “the West Island”, as some Kiwis describe that rather substantial land mass across the Tasman Strait, the shame is almost unbearable.
With the exception of a single gold in the women’s 100 metre freestyle relay, Australia’s swimmers – like the country’s mining-led economy – have been decidedly two-speed: slow, or a touch slower than the winner. Read more >>
A fleet of rather old-fashioned cleaners are keeping London Bridge station in tip-top shape over the Olympic period. We spoke with one on Friday morning.
Is this your first London Olympics or were you here in ’48? Read more >>
David Cameron at the track cycling on day 6 of the Olympic Games ( Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
First it was a quiet retreat, as the booming transport announcements from Boris Johnson advising Londoners not to “get caught out” by the pressure of Olympic traffic were turned off.
Now ministers are in full U-turn mode on warnings of transport overload, with David Cameron entreating visitors to return to the capital amid fears that organisers’ previous scare stories of packed tubes and jammed mainline stations have left theatres, restaurants and shops empty.
Speaking to Sky News last night, the prime minister said he was confident that fears of transport chaos had been “defeated” and that it was time for people to return to the city.
“People said also that London wouldn’t cope, the traffic would grind to a halt, the capital city wouldn’t manage, that hasn’t been the case,” Mr Cameron said. “Clearly there is a challenge now though to say to Londoners, to the British public … London’s working well, it’s open for business, come back into the capital, come and shop, come and eat in London’s restaurants and let’s make sure that all of London’s economy benefits from this.” Read more >>
What would you do about a table like this if you were the International Olympic Committee?
The table shows the complete domination of track cycling by one nation — Great Britain. The results are from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and Britain’s 12 medals in this one sport were a touch over a quarter of the nation’s total medal count for the entire Games that year.
Also, what stands out in this list of track cycling events? Again from the Beijing Olympics:
• Individual Pursuit Men
• Sprint Individual Men
• Keirin Men
• Team Pursuit Men
• Madison Men
• Points Race Men
• Olympic Sprint Men
• Individual Pursuit Women
• Points Race Women
• Sprint Women
Notice how there are fewer events for women? Pourquoi?
Thanks to a number of changes, neither the domination by British cyclists nor the lack of parity in men’s versus women’s events will feature in these games. Rue Britannia. Read more >>
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 >>