Last night, before going to sleep, I switched on the radio commentary for the India England cricket match now in progress in Kolkata, so that, in the event that I did the opposite of dozing off (dozing on?) I would keep up with England’s currrently very satisfactory progress in that game. With luck, tonight and tomorrow night, England will bowl out India cheaply in their second innings and England will go 2-1 up in the four game series. Find out if that happens by looking, e.g., here.
So far so sporty. But this morning, waking up at tea time, so to speak, I found myself listening, not to England’s batsmen batting and India’s bowlers bowling, but to this broadcast (that link switches it on straight away which you might not like – maybe going here would be more convenient – details down a bit on the left) done by the BBC’s long-time cricket commentator Jonathan Agnew. This broadcast was about a charitable enterprise in Kolkata which rescues street children, gives them somewhere unscary and unprecarious and unchanging to live, and which then educates them.
This broadcast lasts a mere fifteen minutes, otherwise it would have gone on longer than the tea interval. The enterprise it reports on is called Future Hope.
Learning about Future Hope is the sort of process that causes people with opinions about how the world should be organised to say: “and this just goes to show how right I have always been about …”. To me, what comes through is how morally uncorrupted these children were when first rescued, it having been precisely their moral excellence that got the attention of the man, a chap called Tim Grandage, who started Future Hope, in order to rescue some of these children from their terrible physical deprivations and torments. The children who have grown up in the care of Future Hope sound, in this broadcast anyway, like the very definition of the “deserving poor”.
This being a Test Match Special broadcast, you would expect cricket to figure in the story, and it does, although for a long time rugger seems to have been a bigger deal than cricket for Future Hope. Is Grandage a rugger enthusiast, I wonder? Indeed he is. Ever since it started, Future Hope has used sport to physically improve, to socialise and to excite its charges, and generally to give them positive and amusing things to think, and thereby helping to take their minds off past miseries. But India being India, Future Hope also wants to develop its cricket. The England Cricket Team have got involved, and they recently spent a day at Future Hope, as the broadcast describes. England’s formidable new captain, Alastair Cook, opened their new cricket coaching operation for them. Good for him.
This is the first time I have ever heard about Future Hope, and I have no idea if it really is as good a thing as Jonathan Agnew and the Future Hope people he talked to made it sound. These days, you can’t help but be slightly concerned about such a phenomenon. But it did sound like a very good thing indeed. And I want to believe that if there were any doubts about its excellence, the England cricket team would not have gone anywhere near it.
So to summarise the case for the prosecution: Chelsea’s allegation was not credible; it was not supported by credible evidence; the sole piece of evidence provided was directly contradicted by numerous other credible sources; no attempt was made to resolve the issues informally; the allegations were briefed to the press before they were formally submitted to the FA; one allegation briefed to the press was withdrawn before even being submitted to the FA; the referee who was the subjected of the complaint had allegedly been insulted, abused and threatened by the complainant before the charge was submitted to the FA; he had been the subject of allegations by the club that he had been responsible for them losing the match and that club has a recent record of making unfounded allegations against match officials. Mark Clattenburg had his entire livelihood – indeed his liberty – put at risk. Chelsea on the other hand will suffer no points deduction or fine or any other sanction. In fact, they are not even prepared to part with so much as any apology. The law, Chelsea football club and English football are an ass.
- Dan Hodges. (This in the Daily Telegraph so some non-UK residents might not be able to read the whole piece.) Essentially, what happened was that after a match between Chelsea and Manchester Utd, Chelsea players alleged – on the basis of what appears to be weak hearsay evidence – that the ref had used racist abuse. At the very start, I find it astonishing that hearsay evidence could be even considered grounds for a complaint. (As hardline defender of free speech I regard “hate-speech” laws as a joke anyway.)
Here is the thing.
15 years works fine for the politicians. In 15 years time, they will have either been voted out of office, or they will be Robert Menzies, Franklin D Roosevelt or Otto von Bismarck. Either way, it will not matter.
Consider, though, the situation of the regular, young ambitious bureaucrat. The London 2012 Olympics came along. It was a short term assignment, but if you were 22 in 2008 that did not matter that much as you had few long term commitments. So, you decided to do stuff for the London 2012 Olympics.
If you were really smart, or really avaricious (or both), you figured out that there is a permanent, extremely well paid career (with virtually no accountability) running the Summer Olympics (wherever it is that they are held) for the next several decades, and went for that. If you were not quite so smart (or if you had delusions of patriotism) you decided on a British public service career instead. The time at which you may be reaching the peak of your career (department head, or possibly the place a little below that where you do the actual work) will be in about 15 to 20 years. This is the moment at which you will not want the facts about the sheer level of waste and excess that went on at the London 2012 Olympics to become clear.
So, my guess. In 15 years, it is still going to be very hard to find out what the 2012 Olympics cost, and who exactly spent the money, and what it was spent on.
(Try finding out what the Sydney 2000 Olympics actually cost. As the years have gone by, the reluctance of the people involved to give out actual information has got stronger rather than weaker).
I’m glad people are getting so much pleasure out of the Paralympics and I don’t wish to knock either the competitors or disabled people generally. But there’s a bubble of sanctimoniousness surrounding the event and its media coverage which definitely needed popping – and I salute Frankie Boyle for being fearless enough to do it. Brave outspoken souls like him are our final bulwark against the kind of cant and sanctimoniousness and sentimentality which first began to rot our national character in those grisly days after the death of Diana.
- James Delingpole
I seem to recall someone (one of our commenters here?) saying that George Soros is the nearest thing in reality to a James Bond villain.
So I guess we now know which football team we here do not now support.
Well played Everton.
I’m at least a week late with this picture (illness blah blah), but it remains one of my favourite Olympics images, snapped by one of my favourite bloggers, Mick Hartley:
Suddenly I heard myself asking: Yes, why couldn’t those damn rioters have waited until the Olympics? Not really, but I did think it. (What I really think is that rioters shouldn’t. And before anyone says, it’s different if all you do is call yourselves a Riot and play noisy tunes.)
But to take my question seriously, I suppose rioters can tell when they’ll be allowed to run riot for a little while, and when they absolutely will not. Had they tried anything seriously wicked during the Olympics, they would have been crushed without mercy, the crushing egged on by the very people who, during and after the actual riots, were most sympathetic towards the rioters.
Interestingly, a little two-part BBC2 TV show about the riots was billed in the Radio Times to be shown just before the Olympics. But then it was postponed.
I am now recovering from an illness. While ill, the only thing I could manage to pay much attention to, other than the various pains in my head, was the Kevin Pietersen Affair, the contemplation of which, to an England cricket fan like me, is a not dissimilar experience to that of being ill.
Today at Lord’s, the sacred home of cricket, England are embarking on the third and final game in their five day test cricket series against South Africa, but without Kevin Pietersen. Pietersen scored a brilliant century in the previous game. But no, he is not injured. He has been dropped.
Pietersen sent out disloyal tweets about the England captain and coach, for which transgression he did apologise, but too late. You can read the details, in the unlikely event that you want to, in media reports like this one, where phrases like “underlying issues on trust and respect” appear.
Where my interest in all this (I could write about it for ever) and the interest of Samizdata readers (who would presumably prefer me to keep a lid on it) may overlap, or so I hope, is in the big picture background to all this. Which is, in a word: India.
From time to time, usually, as now, from a writer trying to use such circumstances as a metaphor, you read about planetary objects being subjected by much heavier objects in their vicinity to gravitational forces so severe that different parts of the smaller planetary object start to be pulled in different directions, perhaps so severely that the smaller object threatens to fly into pieces. This is what is now happening to cricket in England, under the influence of that much larger cricketing object, cricket in India. Cricket is now like a solar system, and the quite big planet that is England cricket is being yanked about by the gravitational forces being exerted upon it by the Sun. And that Sun is: India.
The background to the argument between Kevin Pietersen and the E(ngland and Wales) C(ricket) B(oard), the people who run the Engand cricket team, is that Kevin Pietersen desires to be both an England international cricketer, and also to maximise his income (and also enjoyment and ego-massage) from cricket by all other available means, while nevertheless contriving somehow not to drop dead from physical and mental exhaustion. In particular, Pietersen yearns to be both an England cricketer and a fully paid up (very well paid up indeed) player in the Indian Premier League, the Indian twenty overs tournament that takes place in April and May of each year.
The ECB treats the IPL as just another foreign cricket league, concerning which they need to care very little. It’s a nuisance to their arrangements, but no more. They do not – or such seems their attitude – need to contrive any “window” to allow England cricketers to neglect their early season England cricket in order to cash in from a meaningless foreign slogfest, and then allow them time off from England games, or preparations for England games, so that they can avoid becoming completely exhausted. They pay England players well, and that should be quite enough, is their attitude.
But for any cricketer good enough or lucky enough to get a contract to be part of it, the IPL can be the difference between an anxious transition, when the time comes, from professional sport to the rigours of real life, and being financially secure for life, especially if he does well in it and gets asked back several times. During the limited time when Pietersen was able to play in this year’s IPL (he had to leave before the tournament ended), he did very well, scoring another brilliant century, for the
Deccan Chargers Delhi Daredevils.
The over-arching fact about cricket now is that the IPL is not just another tournament in a faraway country. It is the first great assertion in the cricket world – the cricket world – of the massive economic power of Indian cricket fandom. As I never tire of saying in my various cricket blog postings, there are more cricket fans in India than there are people in Europe. I remember when the millions of India were famous only for starving. Now, these same millions are striding towards twenty first century affluence. And they are taking cricket with them.
If India really, really wants to watch you play twenty twenty cricket for a month and a half, at a time when cricket in England is only getting started in weather that is often vile (despite anything the Met Office may have told cricket people about such months getting warmer), then if you are a cricketer, you really, really want to say yes. → Continue reading: Kevin Pietersen and the rise of India
Now that the likes of yours truly are back from holiday to a post-Olympic London, I have been reading about the number of people who noted how quiet London (outside the Games areas) has been. Tranquil streets, empty restaurants, that sort of thing. It appears that the authorities, such as Transport For London, did a “good” job, in a way, in putting the fear of God into the domestic populace. Janet Daley writes:
“What I had not anticipated was that the spectacularly effective campaign of advance warnings and threats to London’s travelling public would cause so much of its working population to abandon the capital. Thus the evacuation of traditionally depressive, harassed, exhausted Londoners made way for the arrival of a lot of rather sweet, smiley people who turned the city into a very jolly and, momentarily, carefree place.”
I am very pleased the event has gone off well. Not least because there were not (unless it has been kept secret) any major security problems at the Games. Lots of sportsmen and women had a grand old time, the capital looked pretty good to outsiders, etc.
The last two weeks does certainly prove that if certain organisations want to convince Londoners that they should get out, they will. Holding the Games in August also helped. And the terrible summer weather leading up to the Games also encouraged a lot of us to hit the airports and railway stations. I may have missed some of the buzz of Olympic London, but the lovely countryside and weather in Southwestern France more than compensated for it.
There is, of course, the matter of the cost of all this. To borrow from Frederic Bastiat, the French economics and legal writer, we can all see the benefits of shiny new stadiums, swimming pools and cycle tracks. That is seen. What is not seen are the things and services that will not be supplied or made due to the taxes and other charges imposed to make the Olympics happen. There are no photos of entrepreneurs whose business plans might be stillborn from such costs, for example. I doubt whether Lord Coe or other Olympic grandees gave much thought to the opportunity costs of such events, or cared. And the insights of Bastiat apply to other “eye-catching” projects: space flights, high speed rail, big aircraft carriers, etc.
Anyway, I am not going to rain on the parade of what appears to have been a successful event. But being the Adam Smith libertarian that I am, it would be remiss not to remind fans of big sporting jamborees that these things have a cost, and the costs will be borne by those quite different, sometimes, from the beneficiaries.
The state funded Great Britain team has (by perception) done extremely well at the London 2012 Olympics. As a consequence (?) there are calls amongst politicians and sports bureaucrats to make competitive sport compulsory for children.
The state funded Australia team has (by perception) done extremely badly at the London 2012 Olympics. As a consequence (?) there are calls amongst politicians and sports bureaucrats to make competitive sport compulsory for children.
I have a standing personal rule that whenever someone proposes compulsory activities for children that are implied to be wholesome – particularly if they involve going outdoors and running around in some way – I should immediately compare them to the Hitler Youth, on the basis that the comparison is always fair. So consider it compared.
This is 1912 I am referring to (of course), when Britain had ended up behind the United States and Sweden, and not more recent times. A certain Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (who you may have heard of) is particuarly upset:
All who have our reputation as athletes at heart owe a debt of gratitude to you Correspondent at the Stockholm Games for his very clear and outspoken comments on the situation. We can now see the causes of past failure.
But he has a solution:
1. The first is the formation of a British Empire Team…
Like the Australians know anything about winning at the Olympics. Ha!
Actually, Sir Arthur is kinda sorta touching on, what is, in 1912, for Britain, a worrisome issue. Britain’s lead is slipping. France, Germany and the US are all catching up. Meanwhile, the colonies, especially Canada and Australia, are becoming less dependent on the Mother Country. Britain wants to retain some influence without getting into the same mess it got into with the Americans. Hence ideas are being floated for a combined tariff wall, a combined defence staff and (in this case) a combined Olympics team. They won’t work, of course, but Britain does, at least, manage to avoid a war of colonial repression. And the colonies manage to show up on time for the world wars.
The Times, Tuesday, Jul 30, 1912; pg. 6
Aside from doing grumpy postings like this one about them here, I am pretty much ignoring the Olympics. But today, while waiting for a BBC Radio 3 piano recital, I heard the BBC Radio 3 version of the news. And one of the big stories was that Lord Moynihan (he is some kind of British Olympic big cheese) was defending a gold medal winning Chinese swimmer against accusations of having been drugged. The margin of her victory in a swimming race was, according to a defeated American coach (so said Radio 3), “troubling”.
And there you have what is surely the fundamental problem of the Olympics.
I loath the Olympics for all sorts of reasons. The invading army of officious and corrupt imperialists telling me and my fellow Londoners how to run our own city, the costs that will be spread over lifetimes (including to those who have even less interest in the games than I do), the cock-ups caused by corruption, and by it being organised by a different bunch of organisers each time, the shameless statist propaganda in the opening ceremony (the entirety of which I have recording (sensing political rucki) but I have yet to watch the damn things and probably never will), etc. etc. etc.
But this drugs accusation, whether in this particular case true or baseless, gets to the heart of the problem with the Olympics.
I, and millions of others, just do not trust Olympic athletic victories any more. The wider the margin of them, the more we all distrust them.
After all, science and technology have progressed at a dizzying rate in recent decades, in all other areas where it has profited anybody to make such progress. Why not in athlete doping, in ways that doping detection cannot detect?
In Formula 1 car racing, everyone who pays attention knows that being and having the best driver is only half of the battle, if that. F1 is a struggle between engineers and designers, not just drivers. If your engineers fall behind, having the two best drivers on the planet driving your loser cars won’t win you the championship. Which is fine, because all of this is right out there in the open. No secret is made of any of this. One of the purposes of Formula 1 is to enable car makers to boast about their enthusiasm and excellence at technology, and maybe F1 even encourages regular car-making technology to get better.
In athletics, however, the collision between the idea of individuals racing, or throwing or jumping or whatever it is, and individuals being treated more like racing cars by teams of medical experts, is not nearly so happy. In fact it pretty much destroys the entire purpose of the exercise. I mean, what the hell is the point of winning a gold medal, or for that matter winning a bronze or coming seventh, if every second person you subsequently meet (even if too polite to say so to your face) reckons you probably cheated?
The problem is that whereas last year’s F1 cars are just scrap metal, or perhaps revered but still inanimate museum pieces, Olympic athletes have to spend several more decades actually living inside the bodies that were once mucked about with by Olympic doctors, so you probably can’t just allow the doctors to let rip, with any kind of biotechnology they can devise. Remember all those miserable ex-Soviet swimmers and gymnasts. But if you don’t allow this, or if you allow some biotechnology but not other kinds, you have to find some convincing way of policing it all. As of now, they are nowhere near to doing that convincingly.
And one thing’s for sure. None of these problems are going in any way to diminish, in the decades to come.
At present, my sport of choice, cricket, has no such doping problems, or if so they keep them very firmly under wraps. Not long ago, as I wrote about here, South Africa beat England at cricket. England didn’t just lose, they were humiliated, at home, in what everyone expected to be a very closely fought game. Yet nobody in cricket believes that this extraordinary South African triumph was caused by anything more complicated than the South African team playing much, much better than the England team did. Nobody called this result “troubling”, in the way that American coach meant it. Nobody is now suggesting that the South African team had been using illegal substances. They just batted far better and bowled far better, because … well, because they just did.
Cricket certainly has its cheating problems, but they are to do with people cheating by not trying hard enough, not by off-the-field medical wizards trying too hard.