Let The Games Begin

And they’re off. The opening ceremony to the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics is now underway:

Malfunction. Malfunction.
Malfunction. Malfunction.


Hopefully not an ominous portent of things to come at the most expensive Olympic Games in history.


The Winter Olympics Begin

As the countdown to the opening ceremony for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi nears its conclusion, Google marks the commencement of the Games:


A timely reminder of the Olympic values, at a time when the host country conspicuously fails to practice them when it comes to respecting and upholding the rights of its own citizens.

I was never in favour of the Olympics being awarded to Russia, especially at a time when that country’s tentative moves toward real democracy were being so rapidly undone and an authoritarian one-party government consolidated its power. Indeed, today’s Russia exhibits almost all of the characteristics that you would not want to see in a country hosting a major international event – corruption on a massive scale, dangerous levels of internal unrest, displacement of local people, oppression of minorities, lack of a free press, suppression of political dissent and the strangulation of democracy in every way.

But in mitigation, it should be remembered that in some very pertinent aspects, we are not so much more “advanced” or enlightened than the Russian state. Andrew Sullivan makes the excellent point that many people from the United Kingdom and United States who are so aghast at Russia’s controversial laws prohibiting “homosexual propaganda” overlook the fact that until quite recently, things were not so different back home:

At the same time, it seems to me we need to be careful not to misread the specific cultural context here. There’s a worrying tendency for some gay activists to assume that because a foreign country is not identical to the US on the question of gay rights, it’s an outrage that must be immediately confronted and changed. But America, only a decade ago, was not identical to the US today. Many states still have in their very constitutions the relegation of gay people to second class status. The last president of the US, George W Bush, wanted to enshrine the inferiority of gay couples in the federal constitution. It’s been only a few years since gays were able to serve openly in the US military. To turn around and then be shocked and appalled that homophobia is still very much alive and well in the Russian rural heartland is more than a little obtuse.

A fair point well made. Indeed, there are a number of British and American pundits and politicians, strident in their opposition to equal rights for gay people, who openly admire and praise the actions of the Russian government. And so I should reiterate that my antipathy is toward the authoritarian, corrupt President Putin and the culture that he has helped to create, and not toward the Russian people themselves.

I will watch the Sochi Olympics with interest, as I always do, and I hope that they are a wonderful sporting success, free from any of the feared violence or disruption. But you must excuse me for not joining in the celebration of the despot Vladimir Putin’s moment of triumph – the man does not deserve a victory lap on the world stage.

Socialism And American Sports

We all know that Redistribution Is Bad. That is, except when it comes to the National Football League and it’s allocation of television revenues and draft picks.


Republicans vs Democrats, freedom-lovers vs evil socialists, explained to us by Bill Maher through the prism of American sports.

Sexism, Alive And Well in Georgia

One ball more than Patrick Stuart - CEO of Strong Rock Christian Academy - possesses.
One ball more than Patrick Stuart – CEO of Strong Rock Christian Academy – possesses.


Some depressing but thoroughly unsurprising news from the land of segregated school proms, this time concerning sports and religion today, centering on a private Christian school in Atlanta where apparently the teachers and administrative staff are every bit as immature as some of the students.

ThinkProgress reports that a twelve year old girl was kicked off her school’s football team for a reason so jaw-droppingly moronic that it took me several minutes to come to terms with the knowledge that something of this nature could take place in the twenty-first century:

A private school outside Atlanta recently informed 12-year-old Madison Baxter that she would not be welcome at tryouts for the 7th-grade football team, even though she started on the sixth-grade team and has been playing football since second grade. The reason she won’t be allowed on the field? Because her male teammates are beginning to have “impure thoughts” about her, Strong Rock Christian Academy school administrator Patrick Stuart told Baxter’s mother.

“In the meeting with the CEO of the school [Patrick Stuart], I was told that the reasons behind it were one, that the boys were going to start lusting after her and have impure thoughts about her and that the locker-room talk was not appropriate for a female to hear even though she had a separate locker room from the boys,” Baxter’s mother, Cassy Blythe, told Atlanta’s WXIA-TV.

So the school’s reaction to finding out that the boys on the team were lusting after the one girl (which is pretty much what twelve year old boys do), was not to tackle the problem with any sense of proportionality, or direct their action at the people doing the “lusting” (which goes mysteriously undefined throughout the article and the school’s statements), but rather to penalise the innocent girl and remove her from the team.

The article caustically concludes:

There are more than 1,500 girls playing football at American high schools, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations, and that number has increased more than 17 percent in just four years. It’s not just a boys’ sport anymore. And more than that, playing football with a girl could have been a valuable experience for Baxter’s teammates about how to appropriately interact with women and girls, about how a person’s sex doesn’t make her inherently inferior athletically or in any other way, and about how having “impure thoughts” doesn’t mean you have license to act on them. They won’t get that lesson, though, because the adults in charge of Strong Rock Christian Academy’s athletics program apparently have yet to learn it themselves.

Absolutely. This poor girl is being denied the opportunity to continue to represent her school on the football team because the “adults” supposedly in charge of the Strong Rock Christian Academy (with a name like that, you can already be quite sure that they harbour and teach some fairly wacky views) are too prudish or squeamish to sit down with the boys on the team and have a serious – and yes, mildly uncomfortable and awkward – discussion about acceptable behaviour toward people of the opposite sex. If, given this gold-plated opportunity to impart some useful information to the boys on the team, the adults choose to duck the challenge, how much does this diminish the chances of those boys to grow and develop healthy attitudes to their female peers?

My shock at reading this story, not in 1953 but 2013, was tempered, however, when I realised that the unfortunate events took place in the great state of Georgia. Georgia is, of course, famous for being the last state in the union to have a school district that continues to hold racially segregated proms.

Way to go.

Bravo, Bradley!

Three cheers for British cyclist and four-time Olympic Gold medallist Bradley Wiggins, who celebrated his follow-on victory from the Tour de France by knocking back a few drinks at a rooftop bar somewhere in the City of London, according to The Telegraph.

They report:

The four time Olympic Gold medallist and Tour De France winner told millions of viewers after his latest win in the time trial that he was going to have a rare night off from his punishing training regime and “get drunk” to celebrate.

And just hours later – shortly after midnight – he was pictured on a rooftop bar overlooking St Paul’s cathedral in central London achieving his goal.

The 32-year-old posted two pictures of himself on Twitter with friends declaring to the world he was “getting wasted at at (sic) StPauls.”

His spelling and grammar suggested he was well on the way.

Mission accomplished, in every sense of the word! And what well-deserved drinks they were, after Wiggins provided Team GB with their second gold medal of the 2012 Olympics.

Here’s hoping that we add significantly to that tally over the next few days.