Stazjia’s Commentary

Posts Tagged ‘british

Lewis Hamilton at brands.
Originally uploaded by Patrick Mayon

Lewis Hamilton, the Formula One racing driver, is immensely popular here in Britain. Even people who have no interest at all in F1 have heard of him and want him to continue to be successful. Yesterday he delighted his many fans by finally winning the Formula One Championship.

It was a close run thing. He needed to finish in the top five yesterday in the last race of the season – Interlagos, Brazil. Conditions were difficult with periods of heavy rain. Hamilton was driving carefully, he just couldn’t afford to make any mistakes. Coming into the final lap he was sixth. At this point Brazilian Felipe Massa had finished first and looked a sure thing to win the championship. In fact, he and his team started celebrating but their triumph was short lived as Hamilton overtook Timo Glock. Hamilton won the Championship by only one point but one point was all he needed.

Paula Radcliffe NYC Marathon 2007
Originally uploaded by Loren Kahle

Paula Radcliffemeanwhile, was back to winning ways in the New York City Marathon after her disappointment in this year’s Olympics. She’s always been a firm favourite with the British public and won Sports Personality of the Year in 2002. This was the year she moved up from running 5000 and 10,000 metres to the maraton. Her first was the London Marathon where she finished just outside the world record time. Six months later, in October 2002, she ran the Chicago Marathon and broke the World Record by one and a half minutes. She was awarded an honour by the Queen, the MBE (Member of the British Empire – OK, we don’t have an empire anymore but it still sounds good!) followed by Sports Personality of the Year.

Her marathon running career has been very successful except when it comes to the Olympics – maybe the event she would most like to win. In spite of these disappointments, she has bounced back and yesterday she won the New York City Marathon. She led the race from the start and finished 1 minute and 47 seconds ahead of Russian Ludmila Petrova.

British £50 notes

British £50 notes

It seems that Prime Minister, Gordon Brown may have had the answer for the rest of the world with his plan for government to buy shares in failing banks in the interests of stopping a slide into recession by propping up the economy and restoring faith in world markets.

Here in the UK, however, banks are saying that the conditions the government is imposing in return for help are too onerous. The British Government will buy preferential shares that have to be repaid before shareholders can receive a dividend. Lloyds TSB are trying to negotiate better terms.

Just when everybody was hoping things wouldn’t get worse, they got worse. Figures released by the UK’s Office of National Statistics yesterday (15 Oct, 2008) shows the biggest rise in job losses since 1991. These figures only account to August this year and unemployment is likely to go even higher this and succeeding months. In fact, David Blanchflower of the Bank of England told The Guardian newspaper that unemployment figures could top 2 million by Christmas.

Well, the financial crisis goes from strength to strength. There are rumours that more British banks are in trouble and might follow Northern Rock and Bradford and Bingley. Let’s hope that the rumours aren’t true.

With just the two that have already hit the rocks, there have been job losses and more companies are in trouble and making staff redundancies. As people spend less, companies are cutting production and more people will suffer redundancy or shorter working hours.

Last night on TV, an expert said that even if there is a rescue plan for the banks, it will take weeks or possibly months for it to have a real effect and much longer to restore confidence to the point where banks will resume lending to each other. Even that might not be on the same scale as before so there will be less liquidity in the system.

None of this sounds like there will be an end to the crisis any time soon.

Acrobatic artists perform on the memory tower in the National Stadium during the Closing Ceremony for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 24, 2008 in Beijing, China.

Acrobatic artists perform on the memory tower in the National Stadium during the Closing Ceremony for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games on August 24, 2008 in Beijing, China.

I always feel sad when the Olympics are over. I’ve loved pretty much all of it except football and boxing but you can’t like every sport. Of course it’s great that Team GB exceeded all expectation for winning medals and came fourth in the medal table. They won 19 golds 13 silvers, and 15 bronzes giving a total of 47 medals in all. Now the focus shifts to improving on that total in the 2012 London Olympics.

Commentators are saying that the GB athletes arriving home today have no idea how wildly excited most people are about their achievements. They say it won’t really hit the athletes until they see the reactions to them. They are having a news conference at Heathrow then going home. There will be a celebration of their victories in October. I think the fact it’s being held in October indicates that the authorities didn’t expect anything like this number of medals and weren’t prepared for a large scale celebration.

Photo taken on Aug. 24, 2008 shows the eight-minute performance prepared by London, host city of the next Summer Olympic Games in 2012, at the National Stadium (Bird's Nest) in Beijing.

Photo taken on Aug. 24, 2008 shows the eight-minute performance prepared by London, host city of the next Summer Olympic Games in 2012, at the National Stadium (Bird's Nest) in Beijing.

It’s nice for it to be a happy surprise rather than another dismal disappointment although with a few notable exceptions, athletics wasn’t good for us. Is that because we are producing fewer outstanding athletes or that our training and coaching systems for athletics aren’t as good as they are for cycling, swimming, sailing and rowing? I can’t believe that we can produce outstanding performers in these sports but not in track and field. I am sure that there is going to be an inquest into why track and field athletes, by and large, failed to perform to the high standards set in other Olympic sports by British competitors.

Apparently, in swimming and cycling the selection process is ruthless. If an athlete isn’t improving, they are removed from the financed training program and their place given to someone who can improve and benefit from the program. This brings up another point – much as most people admire Paula Radcliffe for her guts and her outstanding achievements – why was she allowed to compete when she obviously hadn’t recovered from her stress fracture? She admitted she hadn’t been able to do the necessary training. Would any less famous athlete have been allowed into Team GB in those circumstances? I don’t think so and nor should they be. Her place could have been filled by another marathon runner who might have had no more chance of a medal but she could have gained valuable experience for the 2012 games.

…and I’ll show you a loser.

This seems to be the British, or maybe just the English, disease. We have it drummed into us when we are young that if we win we shouldn’t gloat but be gracious and generous to those we’ve beaten. If we lose, we shouldn’t throw a tantrum and try to punch the winner. It’s called being a good sport. It’s a high praise, or it used to be, here in England. “Oh he’s such a good sport,” people would say admiringly. What other nation would be so happy with Eddie the Eagle, the English ski-jumper who was hopeless, to put it mildly. We cheered if he managed to land standing up, we didn’t actually expect him to jump a decent, let alone winning, distance.

Tim Henman is another example. He never won Wimbledon, yet we still have ‘Henman Hill’ there. Why? Shouldn’t it be Federer Heights or Sampras Ledge or McEnroe Mount? After all, those people have all won at Wimbledon. Every year there was great speculation in newspapers and on TV about if this was the year Henman could win. Huh! It never was and we all knew it.

He was a nice guy and nice guys finish last! Well, not invariably but quite often. Winners have to have some steel in them and a burning desire to win, not just play the game well and be a good sport.

When the BBC interview some of the British Olympics team, often they ask “Do you think you can get a medal?” Some reply, “Just getting here is an achievement, getting a medal would be a bonus.” I want to scream at the TV, “No it wouldn’t. The idea of going to the Olympics is to win.” OK, not everybody can win but the ones who do win, are often the ones who say something along the lines of “I’m going to give it my best shot and all my training for the last few months has been aimed at getting a medal.” That’s pretty much what Nicole Cooke said before she won the gold medal for the Women’s Road Race for Britain yesterday.


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