Now, allow me to tell you why England came a cropper
Our World Cup thrashing can be traced to the ban on competitive school sports, says Boris Johnson.
Twenty million England football fans unpeeled themselves from the sofa and picked up the shattered remnants of the beer bottle they hurled at the wall in the 66th minute – when Mueller scored Germany’s third goal. With a heavy heart and a distended liver we all went on to the patio or the garden or whatever open space was available and stared with despairing eyes at the beautiful blue sky of one of the most perfect summer afternoons this country has ever seen. And together, like coyotes, we whimpered a single pathetic question in the general direction of the Almighty. Why?
Continue reading Competitive Games →
Skiing is about being comfortable with your snowboard bindings and feeling the wind in your hair and the sun on your face as you personally describe the contours of snow-covered mountains at extraordinary speed. It is the closest many of us come to flight
“Eh?” I said. I couldn’t believe it. The bus was winding up from Moutiers towards our ski resort, and one of the wives was giving me a sensational piece of news. It concerned the skiwear of two old friends. If she had told me they were going to be wearing padded bras and cami‑knickers, I could not have been more astonished.
I mean, I have known these people for decades. We have been skiing together for years, and I can testify that they are, in general, as brave as the next man. When the light is fading and the last lift is about to close, they are the kind of chaps who come to the edge of some vertical mogul‑field and shout “Man or mouse!” before hurling themselves into the icy void. When you are going up in a lift and you look beneath to see a couple of lunatics negotiating the virgin snow of some precipitous couloir, that’s them.
Continue reading Skiing with Helmets? →
Mayor welcomes Olympic winning Mayor of Rio to London
Olympic winning city Rio received some top tips on staging the Games from London’s Mayor Boris Johnson, during a visit to City Hall by Mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes.
Boris Johnson congratulated Mayor Paes on Rio’s historic victory in winning the race to host the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games and offered to share London’s experiences so far on the road to 2012. Mayor Paes was keen to discuss potential collaborations and developing strong ties as Rio de Janeiro begins the work on hosting the Games.
Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said:
“It’s great to experience the excitement of a city that is at the beginning of the journey that London and the UK set out on four years ago. I can assure the Mayor and his team that it will often be nerve racking, but it is a fantastic experience full of opportunities for the host city and its people. Today gave us the chance, as Mayors of two great world cities, to commit to building a strong and mutually beneficial relationship, which goes beyond the shared interests of the London and Rio Games.”
Following their meeting, Mayor Paes and his team participated in an Olympic workshop hosted by City Hall’s Olympics Team and led by the Mayor’s Olympics Advisor, Neale Coleman. The Rio delegation used the opportunity to discuss with the Mayor of London’s staff how they managed the next stages of planning after winning the Olympic bid in 2005.
See the City Hall website for more info
Calling all conservatives! Attention please, all you reactionaries and nostalgia-merchants, and anyone who thinks the past knocks spots off the present. This is the season of exam results, when the papers are full of happy backlit pictures of girls in summer dresses receiving the news of their Stakhanovite performances at A-level and GCSE.
This is the week when dyspeptic Right-wing columnists and politicians traditionally denounce these scenes as a sham, when lovely hard-working teenagers run crying from the room because some miserable old git has told them that an A-grade these days isn’t worth a pitcher of warm spit.
The question before us is whether or not humans are capable of stunning improvements in individual and collective performance.
When Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile in 1954, he was thought to be a prodigy. Now, more than a thousand men have pulled off the same feat.
If our physical faculties are capable of such rapid improvement, surely the same applies to our brains. Faster, higher, stronger. Why not cleverer?
Continue reading Exam Grade Inflation →
See an illustrative video clip here
Boris Johnson has spoken of the value of the classics in understanding modern politics. For example, in the popular press, as well as in the classics, the same theme is played out again and again: political leaders who let power go to their heads and then pay the price. There are many other parallels, but Greek history is also full of inspirational stories. Over the next few weeks, we will be posting some incidents from Greek history that still have lessons for us today.
THE FIRST MARATHON RUNNER
In 490 BC, Athens was under attack by the Persians, led by King Darius. The world’s first democracy was under threat of extinction. The vastly outnumbered Athenians desperately needed the help of Sparta’s military base to help fend off the attack. With danger imminent, the Athenian generals sent Phidippides, a professional runner, on a two-day 140 mile run over mountainous terrain to Sparta to ask for help.
Phidippides’s brave effort was in vain – the Spartans would not come until the Moon was full, due to their religious laws. Phidippides had to run back to Athens with the terrible news that the Athenians would have to fight alone.
The small Athenian army, vastly outnumbered, with Phidippides, marched to the Plains of Marathon. They launched an amazing surprise offensive thrust, and by the end of the day, 6,400 Persians lay dead on the field while only 192 Athenian soldiers had been killed. The surviving Persians fled, hoping to launch an attack by sea, and Phidippides had to run another 26 miles to carry news of the victory to Athens and warn them of the impending naval threat. He had already fought all day in the battle.
Phidippides pushing himself to the limits of human endurance, reached Athens, delivered his message and died of exhaustion. Sparta came to the aid of Athens and the Persian threat was overthrown. Centuries later, the modern Olympic Games introduced a “marathon” race in memory of the brave Athenian runner who gave his life to deliver his message.
What on earth has come over our aimless, feckless, hopeless youth?
Shurely shome mishtake, I keep saying to myself. They must have the wrong country. Continue reading British medals at Beijing Olympics … and 2012? →
It was round about halfway through the second set and things were hotting up on Centre Court when I noticed the mobile starting to flash silently in my breast pocket. Furtively I fished it out. There was no choice. You have to be on call. Even in the throes of the greatest tennis match ever played, you have to be ready to respond to events.
I saw that someone had sent me a text. Was it news of a burst main on the Marylebone Road? Had the police made some breakthrough?
It was my old mucker Steve Norris, and here was the message he had the effrontery to send me. “Shouldn’t you be attending to civic duties,” texted Nozza, “rather than swanning around in the Royal Box at Wimbledon?” Continue reading Centre Court, Wimbledon →
We have a seat on the UN Security Council and troops in conflicts around the world; and yet this year we didn’t even qualify for the European Championships
Continue reading England’s national underperformance →