Category Archives: Olympics

Swimming against the tide

Most of learning to swim is confidence in the water.

I struggled to learn to swim without that confidence: once I had it – the surety that I could – I went from struggling with a buoyancy ring to underwater somersaults in what, looking back, feels like months, not years.

A group of scientific researchers in Australia have shown that participation in swimming lessons is benefiting the over all health and well-being of children. Early results of a study at Griffith University in Queensland has revealed that children who learn how to swim at a young age have physical, social, intellectual and language development advantages compared to the non-swimmers. Professor Jorgensen said this study was the largest of its kind in 30 years and stated: “We’ve only just done the first year of the study but already the indicators are suggesting that the children who have been in longer periods of time in early swimming do appear to be hitting those intellectual milestones, those physical milestones, earlier than children who aren’t doing swimming”. – Blue Wave Swim School

Leith Victoria is a nice swimming pool: I like it and I swim there regularly. But it’s a pool designed for people who already can swim. Two lanes are standard for people who want to swim regular lengths without interruption from adults and children splashing about, and so a child who can’t swim yet is confined to a quarter of the pool at most during regular public swimming hours. That’s normal for most pools.

Leith Waterworld was a treasure: a pool designed for all children, for disabled adults, for family use. Closing it down means fewer children will be swimming regularly, learning to have confidence in the water, discovering they love to swim. It’s ironic that this should be Edinburgh’s Olympic & Paralympic memorial: closing a pool that fostered the love of swimming.
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Filed under Children, Disability, of Edinburgh, Olympics, Scottish Politics

The IOC owns Boris and Google is on their side

“International Olympic Committee has reviewed your dispute and reinstated its copyright claim on your video, “Boris dancing to the Spice Girls”. – LatentExistence

It’s a remarkable best of times, worst of times situation in terms of information and media. On one level you have this unbelievable democratization of platforms that’s happened. Thought experiment: Say I’m a tenured professor at Princeton in 1980. I’m in humanities, so I’m not yet on email. And I want to tell 500 people about something. It’s a massive logistical problem, even for someone with a lot of social capital. You put up a sign in the faculty break room? You knock on doors? You flyer cars? Every teenager in Harlem now has that reach. Instantaneously. – Chris Hayes

The founders of the Internet and the World Wide Web created a platform that potentially, anyone can use. Quite deliberately, I don’t use GooglePlus. I do use Gmail (who doesn’t?) but if WordPress is ever bought by Google I will switch to some other blogging platform extremely fast.
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Filed under Blog Housekeeping, In The Media, Internet, Olympics

And to think we worried that the Olympics would create a police state

Mark Worsfold, 54, a former soldier and martial arts instructor, was arrested on 28 July for a breach of the peace shortly before the cyclists arrived in Redhouse Park, Leatherhead, where he had sat down on a wall to watch the race. Officers from Surrey police restrained and handcuffed him and took him to Reigate police station, saying his behaviour had “caused concern”.

What did he do?

“The man was positioned close to a small group of protesters and based on his manner, his state of dress and his proximity to the course, officers made an arrest to prevent a possible breach of the peace,” Surrey police said in a statement.

Worsfold, whose experience was first reported by Private Eye, claims police questioned him about his demeanour and why he had not been seen to be visibly enjoying the event. Worsfold, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2010, suffers from muscle rigidity that affects his face. He was released after two hours without charge or caution.

Yeah, that’s right.

He was arrested because he wasn’t visibly enjoying himself.
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Filed under Justice, Olympics

Stamps and gold pillar boxes

Royal Mail offered to do a commemorative stamp for every TeamGB gold medallist, and to paint a pillar box in their home town gold.

So far – there are five days of the Olympics left to run – TeamGB has 22 gold medals. According to BBC Sport:

Great Britain have also bettered their overall Beijing medal haul of 47 following high jumper Robbie Grabarz’s bronze – Team GB’s 48th of the Games. They also look certain to add to that tally in the coming days – UK Sport had set a target of a minimum 48 medals at London 2012.

That is gold, silver, and bronze medals (as of today, TeamGB had already won that many) – not a target for gold medals alone.

Royal Mail will paint a red pillar box gold in every Paralympic gold medallist’s home town. But it will not issue a next day stamp in honour of every Paralympian.
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Filed under Disability, Olympics

Imagine this

From the Skydancing blog: Little Girls Do Not Cause Men to Rape Them:

I have news for James McKinley. Little girls do not cause men to rape them. I don’t care what articles of clothing those little girls are wearing or how much make-up they have on their faces. They are not responsible for the actions of rapists. These young men weren’t “drawn in.” They made their own choices to commit a horrible crime. I frankly don’t give a shit that they “have to live with this for the rest of their lives.” What exactly does McKinley imagine it will be like for an 11-year-old who was raped by 20-plus men? Does McKinley even have the ability to imagine what that will be like? Or does he simply think of the victim as some kind of throwaway? A girl who deserved to be punished for her “dressing older than her age” and talking to teenage boys on a playground?

A little girl enters an empty lift. As the door starts to close, a few seconds later, a man runs down the corridor towards the lift, re-opens the doors, and enters the lift. They’re alone in the lift together.

Girl takes standard safety precaution of standing in front of the control panel, close to the door. She glances over her shoulder at the man standing behind her and to her left, just once. The lift’s security camera can hardly see the man – he’s standing in the corner where he’s out of its direct view. The girl shifts her head, moves her hands, but never looks around again.

About 30 seconds later, the lift reaches her floor and the door opens.

The man makes his move: he hits the button to close the door and grabs for the girl, blocking her exit with his arm.
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Filed under Olympics, Scottish Culture, Women

“Amusing side-effects of today’s results”

After Aidan “Nazi stag party” Burley had to sit through “the most leftie opening ceremony I have ever seen”, he tweeted:

This evening at the Olympics stadium the three British gold medallists were a picture of the British multiculturalism that Aidan Burley and the Daily Mail had decried. Published on the Mail Online only a few hours after the Opening Ceremony came to an end, Rick Dewsbury wrote:

“This was supposed to be a representation of modern life in England but it is likely to be a challenge for the organisers to find an educated white middle-aged mother and black father living together with a happy family in such a set-up.
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Filed under Disability, In The Media, LGBT Equality, Olympics, Racism, Riots, Women

Death on the roads

I love Fleet Street Fox, I really do, but her blogpost making fun of cyclists and complaining that if you’re squished by a bus you should have been wearing a helmet wasn’t her finest hour.

Jon Snow of Channel 4 has done a five-minute film partly with a helmet-cam of what it’s like cycling in London. He admits near the start that he runs red lights to get ahead of the traffic because the secret to survival is making sure you’re seen.
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Filed under Olympics, Public Transport, Travel

Sporty kids aren’t bullied

Between twelve and sixteen I was a junior member of the British Sub-Aqua Club. We met at Portobello swimming pool – back when there was a salt-water pool. For years, every Monday night, I spent a couple of hours learning how to swim underwater with a snorkel and mask and fins. I played underwater hockey. We did a week up on Skye where we learned how to dive off a boat, and wear wetsuits, and knife discipline.

All divers carry knives, because you may get tangled in seaweed or a net: knife discipline was the senior instructor informing us, in a tone that made clear he meant what he said, that we were each being issued with a knife, that this knife was to stay in its sheath, that if any of us ever EVER took the knife out of its sheath without a good reason or above water AT ALL or were seen messing about with it, that was IT, the kid who did it was never going back in the water again. A dozen teenage boys and two girls listened with awed attention and you better believe that we never did. (That I still remember that lecture thirty years later – he was memorable.)

I loved it, and I was good at it. Women have a slight genetic edge over men in learning how to dive and to swim in cold water, but I mention this just for the sake of smugness: most of it is training. I loved being able to use my fins to zip through the water like a fish. I loved being able to see underwater. Snorkelling was great. I had huge confidence in the water and would have liked to learn how to use an aqualung. It was an entirely new experience for me when the other kids started demanding to be on my team when we played underwater hockey, because my team usually won.
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Filed under Childhood, Education, Jane Austen, Olympics, Other stuff on the Internet I like, Women

Those empty seats

Who’s paying?

We are.

Olympic Village London 2012
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Filed under Olympics, Tax Avoidance

The Nine Flagbearers

I would not want to imply that I think silliness is a necessary part of going right-wing. But you cannot read the serenely egotistical incoherence of Rush Limbaugh without wondering:

“Of all the things that you want to honour. I mean, the people of Great Britain don’t even like the National Health Service! And then it hit me, and then it hit me. It was actually done on behalf of President Kardashian. They did it for Obama. Nobody will convince me otherwise.”

(Limbaugh, by the way, has long been described as “the Number One voice for conservatism in the US“, God help them.)

Then shortly afterwards I read Douglas Murray in the Spectator. He was quite anxious to point out that not liking the opening ceremony didn’t make him a Nazi. He had perfectly logical reasons for not liking to see the Director of Liberty honoured as a flagbearer:

Among the people honoured with the task of carrying the Olympic flag was the left-wing campaigner Shami Chakrabarti. The stadium voiceover announced that this was because of her ‘integrity.’ The conservative philosopher Roger Scruton is some years Chakrabarti’s senior and I would say rather demonstrably her superior in achievement and ‘integrity’. Yet I do not believe Professor Scruton was asked to be one of the Olympic flag-bearers. Nor was Ayaan Hirsi Ali invited to be honoured for her integrity. Or Margaret Thatcher. Why not? To ask the question is to answer it: all are recognised, like Chakrabarti, to be highly political figures.

Shami Chakrabarti said of her involvement with the Olympics, which Liberty has criticised:

When the emails and texts came in from friends across the political spectrum over the weekend, one in particular noticed the poignant contrast between the Beijing and London approach. In China, human rights campaigners get locked up; in Britain, even the most irritating gets to carry the Olympic flag.

The Olympic Flag has always previously been carried by Olympic athletes only. The nine flagbearers were from the US, Ethiopia, Argentine and Israel, Liberia, South Korea, Brazil, and three from Britain.
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Filed under Equality, Human Rights, Olympics