Politics

A story reaches me from the excellent Swedish journalist Mattias Göransson, editor of Filter magazine, about his feisty compatriot Pia Sundhage.

On Thursday Sundhage coached the US women’s soccer team to gold against Japan at a packed Wembley stadium. What’s interesting is what comes next.

After the US team won gold at the last Olympics, in Beijing in 2008, Sundhage refused to join her players in meeting President George Bush in the White House. At the time, the Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet reminded its readers of what Sundhage had said when she got the US job in 2007: “It’s a bit special for an old communist like me to go to the US.” 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

Helen Warrell

David Cameron at the track cycling on day 6 of the Olympic Games ( Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

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

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.

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Ye Shiwen after the podium ceremony of the women's 200m individual medley final on July 31. (ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/GettyImages)

Say what you wish about Ye Shiwen, but the Chinese swimmer whose exploits have dominated talk in the early days of the games gave a remarkably polished performance at her press conference on Tuesday night.

A packed room listened intently on headphones to the translation of her answers to repeated questions about her thoughts and reaction to the storm of controversy about whether or not she is “clean”.

The press conference lasted about 20 minutes, and although a US swimmer shared the stage with her, pretty much all the questions were directed at the Chinese girl.

Ye is 16 years old, but came across as a veteran rather than a novice. No coaches, no minders, came between her and the media. That may not sound out of the ordinary, but four years ago at the Beijing Olympics they hovered around the press conferences to shield and protect the Chinese athletes, particularly the younger ones, from awkward probing by the media. Read more

Hannah Kuchler

The start of the opening ceremony on July 27 (ANTONIN THUILLIER/AFP/GettyImages)

The writer of the Olympic opening ceremony has criticised David Cameron for defending Dow Chemical, one of the sponsors of the games, and called on the government to help make the Olympics a space for resolving conflict.

Frank Cottrell Boyce, who worked with director Danny Boyle in creating last Friday’s spectacle, said the project was wrought with moral difficulty. He also criticised another corporate sponsor – Visa – for their Olympic park ”proud to only accept visa” ads - and G4S, the outsourcing company which failed to supply enough security guards for the games. Read more

Rupert Murdoch at the Sun Valley conference on July 13. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Rupert Murdoch will be making an appearance at the Olympic Games this week, when he attends an evening of swimming finals as the guest of Boris Johnson, the mayor of London.

It will be Mr Murdoch’s first appearance in the public eye since he gave evidence to the Leveson inqury into press standards last May. A person familiar with his movements said that he would be visiting the aquatics centre in Stratford, east London, the main base for the Games, with his wife Wendi Deng.

The person said that Mr Johnson had invited Mr Murdoch because he was “the single biggest investor in British sport in recent years”, a reference to the billions of pounds that British Sky Broadcasting pours into buying the rights of Premier League football, cricket, rugby and other sports.

BSkyB is also the sponsor of the team which was responsible for the first ever British winner of the Tour de France, Bradley Wiggins, earlier this month. Read more

David Cameron (CL) and Francois Hollande (CR) at the women's preliminaries Group B handball match France vs Spain on July 30, 2012 (JAVIER SORIANO/AFP/GettyImages)

Perhaps it was David Cameron’s Olympic dream to watch France vs Spain in the women’s handballRead more

General Electric chief executive, Jeff Immelt, is in town for the games, which GE sponsors, and happy to talk about most Olympian matters, except one: Mitt Romney, writes Pilita Clark.

“I’m not going to touch that one,” said Mr Immelt, when invited to comment on the storm of controversy stirred when the Republican presidential contender said Olympic-eve stories of immigration officer strikes and private security personnel shortages were “disconcerting”. The comments had prompted Boris Johnson, London mayor, to encourage a crowd of thousands in Hyde Park to roar their disapproval at Mr Romney for appearing to suggest the capital was not ready to host the games. Read more

At the Rome Games of 1960, the British runner Peter Radford won bronze in the 100m sprint. Radford, now 72, was one of the former British medallists honoured in London’s opening ceremony on Friday night.

Yet while banks of seats have remained empty at many Olympic events on the first weekend of competition, he will not be attending a single event at London 2012. The organisers have not given him a ticket. All he received for participating in the opening ceremony was a free one-day Oystercard to use public transport: while most of the sponsors arrived at the stadium in corporate buses, he came and went on London Underground.

Radford, a former chairman of UK Athletics and now professor of sport at Brunel University, says none of the other British medallists he has spoken to had been given free tickets to the games. “It’s a general policy, as far as I can see,” he says.

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