Western Justice

In 2002 a 15 year old boy was sentenced to 40 years in prison for killing a soldier of an occupying army.

Today Omar Khadr has been repatriated to his native Canada to serve the remainder of his sentence which as been reduced to 8 years because of his guilty plea.  Since 2002 he has been locked away in Guantanamo for killing a US soldier in Afghanistan.  I think Guantanamo is evil at the best of times, but to inflict it on a 15 year old boy blows my mind.

In Britain this week we have been in uproar about a 30 year old teacher who eloped with a 15 year old pupil.  She has been manipulated to elope by an older man who took advantage.  Omar Khadr was manipulated to kill by a repressive regime who took advantage.  Did his age count for nothing in American justice?

I am becoming increasingly uncomfortable with what the West stands for once you dismantle the outer layers presented by governments and the media.  It just seems like there is a web of corruption and greed out there glossed over with fake fights for justice and democracy.

This summer Great Britain proved it was great at putting on an Olympics, great at performing in sport at the highest level and great at pulling together to have a good time.  These things are important but we should be wary of believing we’re better than everybody else and that our view of the world is purer than those from other nations.  I appreciate that Britain didn’t sentence a 15 year old boy to 40 years in prison but we are complicit in America’s ‘war on terror’ and therefore need to be aware what actions we are allied with.

Be proud of the good things in our nation, but don’t for a moment think we’re better than everyone else.

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Life outside the Olympics

The wife and the daughter are having a little boogie on Just Dance which prevents me from watching the Paralympics.  Was at a loose end for a few moments having had the European Champs, Olympics, start of the football season and now the Paralympics to keep me occupied all summer.  So I went on a bit of a browse round some of the links from my blog and quickly remember a whole stimulating world of innovation, learning and observation that I had forgotten about.

The sport has been pretty inspiring this year but it all takes place in a big bubble that doesn’t transfer too easily into the real world.  After a week down in London at the start of August I returned to life in the West Midlands and realised there are whole bunch of people who don’t give a monkeys about Sheffield’s finest heptathlete or a sideburned hero from Wigan.  They have much more pressing matters to think about like trying to scrounge a few cigarettes, wondering whether to get another abortion or whether they’d be sleeping on a bench, sofa or bed that night.

So, sports junkies, there is another world out there.  Don’t forget to engage your brain with it or pay attention to those who might need a bit deeper support than ‘our greatest team’.

True Medal Count?

A few times during the Olympics our ever enthusiastic BBC TV and radio presenters commented that we were on top of the medals table when you consider the number of medals we won in proportion to the size of the country.  I noticed Hungary were doing well, and that New Zealand had a handful of medals, and I knew that their populations were significantly smaller than that from which Team GB sourced its talent from.  I couldn’t help myself, the statistics obsessed nerd within got the better of me and I did some number crunching and worked out how many golds and how many medals overall other countries would have won proportionally if they had the same population as the UK.

Number of Golds Won

1.   USA  –  46
2.   China  –  38
3.   GB  –  29
4.   Russia  –  24

Number of Golds Won Proportionally

1.   Grenada  –  593
2.   Bahamas  –  176
3.   Jamaica  –  92
11. GB  –  29
25. Russia  –  10
28. USA  –  9
48. China  –  2

Total Medals Won

1.   USA  –  104
2.   China  –  87
3.   Russia  –  84
4.   GB  –  65

Total Medals Won Proportionally 

1.   Grenada  –  593
2.   Jamaica  –  276
3.   Trinidad & Tobago  –  189
10. Montenegro  –  100
23. GB  –  65
33. Russia  –  37
49. USA  –  21
74. China  –  4

So, a lot of countries in reality did even better than the wonderful Team GB.  That’s not a bad thing, just nice to know that there must be a lot of very satisfied sports fans out there from other nations!  If you want to know how other countries fared let me know and I’ll happily divulge more numbers.

However, there were six countries with bigger populations than the UK who didn’t manage a single medal between them. They are Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Philippines, Vietnam and Congo and together they have double the population of the United States.  I think this is sobering and should remind us that for a vast percentage of the world’s population there are not the resources to put into enjoying the Olympics.  As the celebrations die down we need to remember that there are things in this world that should take a higher priority than sport.

The long road to team success

Rumour abounds that certain Olympic sports are going to get their funding cut.

Every match lost.  Will it be handball?  Low medal tally.  Will it be swimming?  No one made a final.  What about the sprinters?  Successful rowers are interviewed and say if a sport doesn’t achieve then it can’t expect to keep the funding.

GB handball pushed aside by mighty Angola

I would like to put in a mini pitch to keep the support for the Olympic team sports that we performed ‘poorly’ in – handball, water polo, volleyball and basketball.    They are all incredibly complex sports that you cannot learn in four years.  For a team to become Olympic champions in one of these sports you will need a couple of squad members with well over a decade of top international experience and the rest of the team need to have learnt the sport from childhood.  You don’t get that with 4 years funding, we’re going to have to invest in these sports from the top to the bottom for decades.  We need to recognise now that it will take a lot of money because it would be an absolute waste of money to refund only for another four years and then cut it.

On the other hand you could put a bit of money into scientific somatotype spotting and pluck out some physiological freaks who could make potential world class rowers.  Stick them in a boat for 4 years and get them to practice pulling and you’ve got yourself an Olympic champion.  But let’s not pull the funding on the team sports just because they didn’t ‘succeed’ this time round.  They really had an impossible task just to win one match.

Will there be a legacy for GB water polo and their dressing gowns?

Rowing, sitting on horses and sailing are very elitist sports.  The team sports are so much more accessible and with a fraction of the money squirted in at grassroots level you could get yourself a hoard of wonderful community and school based handball and volleyball clubs.  Obviously, even if we succeed it wouldn’t have much effect on the medal table.  A generation of investment in water polo might give us one bronze medal every 12 years, if we’re lucky, compared to multiple ways to swim, ride, run, row and sail to Olympic glory.  But, believe it or not, it’s not all about the medal table.

What sports would you cut, or re-fund?  And why?

A real Olympic legend

I think Usain Bolt is over-hyped.

I am sure there are exceptions, but my opinion is that sprinters have to train the least out of probably all Olympians and so I feel the excitement surrounding the 100m is unjustified.  The 100m seems to be about who is the most talented, but for me sport is about working hard to achieve your potential and Bolt clearly hasn’t achieved his potential yet.

My hero from yesterday was Irish marathon runner Caitriona Jennings.  We were stood in the rain yesterday watching the marathon and it was clear early on that the Irish athlete was very uncomfortable.  With a PB of 2 hours 36 minutes Jennings ended up finishing with a time of 3 hours 22 minutes.  From about 10 miles on she looked to be in agony.  She demonstrated guts, determination, humility and the ultimate Olympic spirit to cross the line 17 minutes after her nearest rival.  I don’t know the story behind why she struggled so much but to see her keep going was inspiring.

I really hope that Bolt-mania doesn’t hog the airwaves in coming days and we get the chance to continue to be motivated and pushed on to reach our own potentials by the ‘smaller’ but no less deserving Olympic stories.

The Olympics, can’t wait

Radio 5 Live have managed to totally demoralise me and then inspire me regarding the Olympics this week.

Yesterday morning whilst trapped on the M6 I was treated to the most dour, depressing and anal discussion about whether the Olympics is a waste of money and whether it will leave a worthy legacy. I do care but not enough to be going on about it day after day after day. Come on, the media and the politicians are ruining the Olympics for us with all this wrangling and these doomsday prophecies about a lack of legacy.

People think the Olympics is a waste of money. So what? I think the defence budget is a waste of money but I’m in the minority so I don’t demand to get my way.

The Olympics is about excitement, human achievement, healthy national pride and being inspired. And this is what 5 Live did for me tonight. I caught 45 minutes of a fantastic program about great moments in Olympic history. I heard discussion about Bob Beamon, Michael Johnson and the black power salute. All really inspiring and grippingly interesting. I’ll try and catch the rest on the web.

Dear 5 Live, please, as the Olympics get closer let’s give less platform to the politicians and pessimists and let’s hear more about the great stories of the past and look forward to those of this summer.

Dad

I’m really gutted that Dad hasn’t been selected to be part of the Olympic Torch Relay next year.  I think the organisers have really missed a trick here.  If it comes to ranking people of this nation who are most appropriate and deserving to carry the torch surely Dad should have come somewhere near the top – he has that perfect mix of being a former Olympian and having devoted his life to helping, supporting and encouraging children and young people.

Does a day go by without Dad taking a coaching session, or teaching the kids from church, or running a community group, or spending ALL his spare time planning these things and reading up how to do them better?  No!  And that doesn’t even include the day job.

I think it would have been fitting for Dad to carry the torch but it wasn’t to be so I just thought I’d indulge myself and honour him on my blog instead.

A Very Proud Son.