Lance Armstrong’s charity work

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Students of WW2 will probably be aware of an infamous Japanese experimental section of the Japanese Army called Unit 731, who conducted hideous, live, anaesthetic –free experiments of almost unimaginable cruelty on thousands of prisoners across occupied China. I’ve been reading about it today and to be honest the details and sheer sadism of the perpetrators was sickening.

Interestingly though a great many of those responsible, especially the ones at the top of the tree, largely got away scot-free when Japan surrendered. Why? Because they were seen by some powerful people as having something valuable to contribute to the post-war world. The Americans in particular had uses for a great deal of the knowledge and expertise built up by Unit 731 for their own biological weapons programmes.

Other experiments were undertaken under the most wantonly savage of conditions that did produce tangible medical benefits that were of some benefit to humanity-for example into treatment for frostbite. Naturally, that in no way justifies what happened.

I don’t know why but the whole moral dilemma that this throws up, i.e. what does one do with the benefits accrued from acts of evil, got me thinking about Lance Armstrong.

While of course, what the disgraced cyclist has done is in no way comparable  to the depraved behaviour of Unit 731, there is an aspect of Armstrong’s fall from grace we can reflect on in intellectually somewhat similar terms.

There has been a great deal of hand-wringing over the fate of Armstrong’s cancer charity work in recent days, and many have been opining that all the philanthropic work he has supposedly done will be forgotten and the causes he attached himself to irreparably damaged. We’re told that Armstrong did a lot of good with his Livestrong Foundation, we are told, regardless of his sociopathic behaviour as a professional athlete.

The narrative has always been that Armstrong was/is a hero to people fighting cancer. His determination to overcome the disease and come back stronger was an inspiration to fellow-sufferers in their own fight against the disease. And maybe he was/is. Check out the ludicrous comments that appeared under this recent blog on the Livestrong site.

Apparently his crimes (and we are literally talking about criminality here) do not in any way detract from his cancer work.  This narrative of cancer survivor-turned-best cyclist in the world was always based on a lie and the world now knows this. His confession on the Oprah Winfrey sofa was pretty unambiguous (and has left the legion of Armstrong defenders online, with the ludicrous and self-deluded argument that ‘he had never failed a test’, looking like twats).

There are a couple of reasons why I don’t think we can really separate out Lance Armstrong the cheat and Lance Armstrong the anti-cancer warrior.

Firstly, this appears to be the last argument that the Armstrong-brigade now has. For years we have had to endure the vilifying and slandering of his opponents on and off the bike as embittered, disturbed or avaricious, the reliance on the aforementioned fiction that he had never failed a test despite being tested hundreds of times, the constant referring back to his borderline-insane training regimen that supposedly gave him the crucial advantage over his rivals (most of whom were also doping, it should be noted, not that that really matters) that supposedly proved that everything he accomplished on the bike was humanly possible, the revolutionary approach to cycling we are told he brought to the sport (i.e. pedalling faster on a smaller ring is more efficient than pulling a massive gear as hard as one can, something he used to devastating effect in time trials), and in the final instance Armstrong’s passionate, and now clearly shameless, denials of wrongdoing.

Now we all know that everything just listed is rubbish, there is literally nothing else to say other than “actually he’s a good bloke, who cares that he cheated, look at what he did for charity”. It’s a mark of desperation.

Secondly, I think we need to start to re-think Armstrong’s motivations when it comes to his charity work. A picture has been painted of a chillingly cynical man in the last few months, one who would stop at nothing to win and build the Lance Armstrong brand. Happy-clappy, celebrity-endorsed feelgood charity work is the perfect cover and he could always cite the potential damage bad publicity would do to Livestrong to silence potential critics and whistleblowers, just like Jimmy Savile used his charity work to act with impunity in his personal life.

Indeed, a great example of him using his charity work to try to conceal the real motivations was when Armstrong returned to cycling in 2009 he cited as his main reason his desire to increase the profile of his charity work, when it was transparently a massive ego trip to try and win the Tour again.

Put simply, his charity work is simply a shield he has used and I think will continue to use entirely cynically. He doesn’t really care about cancer and if he does it is only in so far as it being a part of a backstory he can exploit for his own ends.

And on the basis of what we’ve seen of his character in the last few years, I would be fascinated to hear anyone try and take issue with that assertion.

It is also the height of delusion to think that the future of cancer support and research really depends on a man who has done little else other than pedal furiously for many years.

My love for Bradley Wiggins grows and grows

It’s fair to say that the reputation of cycling has taken a fair few knocks in recent weeks. The revelations that have ruined former golden boy Lance Armstrong have proven immensely satisfying for your faithful correspondent, who always despised him, but I’m aware that it could lead to the perception that the sport is utterly corrupted.

Chief amongst Armstrong’s great many weaknesses is his colossal and all-consuming ego, which clearly contributed to his ill-advised return to the sport a few years ago. He simply couldn’t help himself and his real motivation, not his stated one of raising awareness of his charity work, was embarrassingly transparent. Fortunately his conceit blew up in his face.

Ego drove Armstrong (and many others) to dope and then blithely pretend that he was clean. Ego motivated the bullying of his critics and rivals. One man’s ego created the edifice that has finally crashed down on him.  

So it was hugely refreshing to see that Bradley Wiggins suggest that he little desire to defend his Tour de France title next year. I for one welcome the decision as a heartening display of humility and admission that even the best athletes are fallible:

“I haven’t got that much of an ego………It was always about winning one Tour de France for me and I’m proud of the way that I did it. Cycling’s a team sport and I wouldn’t have won last year if it hadn’t been for the help of my team-mates, so if I can play a part in one of them winning next year that would be great.

“If everything goes to plan and I get the nod to do the Giro, that’s what is going to happen. I’m a great historian of the sport and I’d like to win a pink jersey to go with the yellow one.”

Can you imagine Armstrong ever saying like this?

I have no great affection for Cadel Evans, but it was rather distressing watching him implode at this year’s race trying to defend his Tour title. It was sad watching a great athlete fall apart before your very eyes. I fear Wiggins, 33 next time round, could be in for a similar beating.

In a post-doping age we need to accept that it simply isn’t realistic for athletes to keep winning the Tour year after year and winning multiple grand tours in the same season without resorting to cheating, and that we need to encourage people to accept and acknowledge that. Wiggins is being exceptionally mature and it is hugely refreshing that he has decided to use his remaining time in the sport to try something else and also help his team-mates attempt to replicate his success. He accepts that he has had his moment and other people should be allowed their chance.  

Bradley, I salute you. As well as being the coolest athlete in the world you are also one of the most likeable.

The Mambo runs very slowly around the streets of Birmingham

 

I beat all these….

 

When this blog was in its infancy this time last year I wrote, to universal acclaim, about my experiences at the Birmingham Half Marathon, now called the Great Birmingham Run as it is sponsored by Bupa. I had a fairly disillusioning race to be honest. The Mambo is used to sporting excellence. I was not excellent that day, and was in fact beaten comfortably by a man in costume. Not very pleasing, all in all.

This year the Mambo returned to the fray, and Sunday’s fun and games provided me with the added bonus of having an excuse not to go the anti-cuts demo in London the day before. It’s a bloody long way on the coach; I have to sort out a massive cold lunch; to be honest I’ve yet to go to a peaceful demo that has ever actually changed anything; and I’ve only ever gone to them in recent years out of sense of guilt as much as anything else…… at this point I know the word ‘dilettante’ is the one on your mind. To which I reply: what of it?

I had promised myself that this time things would be very different. And although I was significantly faster than last years abject failure, and reliably informed that no one dressed like a big banana beat me, I am still hugely disappointed with my time.

Anyway, I would like to make a couple of observations about the day of Mambo mediocrity.

Firstly, kudos to the people along the route who put up anti-Bupa posters in their windows along the route. They heartened me greatly and provided a wonderful antidote to what are normally days when corporations and sponsors are uncritically celebrated and one is by necessity forced into taking on the role of a walking advertising hoarding. Righteous, especially in these times when the NHS as we know it is in danger or being broken up. Endurance sports in particular are either deeply apolitical or often very individualistic, right-wing pursuits, and I enjoyed seeing that discourse questioned, however fleetingly.

Secondly, just a word for the moron spectator who I exchanged pleasantries with in Edgbaston at about the eleven mile mark. Breathing cigarette smoke out onto the course is the height of stupidity and bad form. I meant every word of what I said and I only regret not squeezing more expletives into my pithy, satirical putdown. If you are there next year and we cross paths again expect an even more withering slice of rhetoric.        

Thirdly, I will be back. Of that dear reader, be in no doubt whatsoever.

Thoughts on Lance Armstrong’s dénouement

As a young man I fell in love with cycling watching the Tour de France, in particular the epic mountain stages. Watching the supermen attack, attack, attack, every day in the Alps and the Pyrenees was one of the most thrilling sights in sport. The riders involved were absolute beasts. They were doing things that scarcely seemed possible, even to a naïve stripling like junior Mambo.

But I, like millions of others, suspended our disbelief as we wanted (and in some cases needed) to believe it was real and that these guys had got where they had just by training hard and being the best.

So while I am loving watching the narcissistic bully Lance Armstrong’s reputation being blown to bits, I have to acknowledge that we all as cycling fans are partially complicit in what he (and many others, lest we forget) did over those years. We never really questioned the absurd performances these guys were producing day after day, or if we did we usually internalised our disquiet. We never reflected on that wild look in their eyes and unnaturally bulging muscles.

We just wanted to be entertained and the entertainers did what they thought they had to do. Most of them weren’t and aren’t multi-millionaires like Armstrong. It was a just a living. A means to an end. Cycling’s direction of travel over the years has been the consequence of it ultimately just being a job for the people involved, blended with a toxic mixture of expediency, money and over-competitiveness.

If I’m totally honest what Armstrong did was nothing worse than many others at the time. Behind the success stories of most competitive riders during that period there is a trail of injections, supplements and transfusions. He deserves to be stripped of his titles but so do many others.

It was the bullying and intimidation of Armstrong that crossed the line in my mind. The way he dealt with his critics and the lives he has ruined pursuing them over the years. The journalists who wouldn’t let the matter drop who were the subject of spiteful, destructive vendettas. The critics in the Peloton who were driven out of the sport they loved when their only crime was the desire to ride cleanly (and who in their right mind would want to pump themselves full of all that shit anyway?). The self-righteous condemnation of other ‘cheats’ by Armstrong when they had only made the mistake of being caught, and when anyone other than self-deluding egomaniac would have just kept their mouth shut and thanked God it wasn’t them who had tested positive this time.

But in order to do all that and silence so many people Armstrong needed the willing complicity of many, many people. People who turned a blind eye or joined in when Armstrong was playing at being Al Capone.

Some of those have done the right thing by testifying against him, finally. It should have been sooner though.

Others need to ask themselves a few awkward questions. If professional cycling is to get its soul back its now time for full and frank disclosure. The idea of a truth and reconciliation committee that has been doing the rounds seems like an eminently sensible idea.

Why the carping of Oscar Pistorius might actually represent progress

One of the more notable, and sadly less savoury aspects of the Paralympics has been the row over the length of Alan Oliveira’s blades in the T44 200m final, something that Paralympic poster boy Oscar Pistorius thinks gave his rival an unfair advantage. In one respect it’s quite sad as the row has deflected attention from the achievements of Oliveira and in particular British athlete Jonnie Peacock, whose win in the T43/T44 100m was pretty bloody spectacular.

My reading of the story is that although Oliveira’s blades were significantly longer than Pistorius’s, they broke no rules and therefore he has no case to answer. Maybe it was unfair advantage, maybe it wasn’t. But he didn’t win illegally (although disparities in blade length surely do make a difference to speed, especially over distances like 200m and 400m) so I worry that the complaints of Pistorius are simply sour grapes. He has chosen his blade length, partly so he can compete with the able-bodied athletes as he was clearly bored at winning so easily in the equivalent events for the disabled. That won’t be a problem now though, seemingly……..

Impressive though Pistorius and his achievements are, he just isn’t used to losing against other disabled athletes. Clearly the defeat came as a big shock to him.

His response to being beaten was the depressingly standard reaction of an athlete who isn’t used to and doesn’t like losing. You can call it unsporting maybe, although he would argue that it was the level of focus and determination required to be a winner. I’d err towards unsporting. I don’t like a bad loser and I don’t like a bad loser throwing around accusations of foul play with not a lot to base it on (and before you say the words Ye Shiwen to me, just bear in mind that it was a totally different set of circumstances.)

I think the episode points up something positive however. This was an international news story. That is to say the Paralympics are a big deal and when there is a controversy during the games it is being reported and analysed in exactly the same way that any normal sporting controversy would be. Pistorius reacted the same way that any sore loser did in any sport, be it Arsene Wenger, Michael Schumacher, Christiano Ronaldo or me after I bombed at the Great Birmingham Run last year (although next time, boys and girls, I am throwing down).

This is being treated with the same level of seriousness as a similar type of dispute at the Olympics would be. The stakes are equally high. These guys are competing at the highest level and what they do is of international significance, in exactly the same way as the performances of Usain Bolt, Mo Farah or Bradley Wiggins.

Would this story have been reported this way ten or fifteen years ago or generated anything like this amount of coverage? No. There’s no doubt that this Paralympic games has had the biggest profile of any disabled sports event, ever.

That is equality, I think, and it is most welcome. Surely everyone in the Paralympic movement or those who want their achievements to be celebrated and not condescended to should be welcoming these developments, in a perverse kind of way. When the Paralympics is afflicted with same levels of bitterness, egotism and professionalism that the Olympics are, and incidents of bad sportsmanship or alleged cheating are major global news stories then I would argue that we are making progress to a time when the disabled are treated the same as those of us with all our limbs but a lot less determination.

Daniel Hannan gets it right…sort of……

I’m sure our burgeoning and loyal band of followers will be aware that here at the Mambo we don’t get on particularly well with Daniel Hannan. And the feeling is mutual.

But his latest piece contains a grain of truth (normally his articles are unrelenting, paranoid, swivel-eyed dross). You won’t be surprised to hear that when I offer my conditional endorsement though I’m not referring to the guff he writes about “a bureaucratic machine”, something that sounds rather like something you’d hear from a 9/11 conspiracy theorist.

But where Hannan is right, probably wholly inadvertently, is to point out that personnel changes won’t fundamentally alter the direction of this government. The ideological direction of travel is already fixed regardless of who provides the public face of individual policies.

For example, one can guarantee that Rupert Murdoch’s man on the inside Jeremy Hunt won’t be rowing back on the government’s commitment to dismantle the NHS.  He may sell the idea a little better than the gormless and hapless Andrew Lansley, but nothing substantive will change (and therein lies the danger, as a smoother salesman may appease some of the opposition).

Expenses fiddler and arch Orange Booker David Laws had a crucial unofficial advisory role anyway. His return to government (not rehabilitation) is merely making that role official. The government’s education policy won’t change significantly either way as a consequence.

None of this represents “a lurch to the right”, as some are claiming. Firstly, it’s difficult to imagine how much further to the right a Conservative government could go, and secondly the policy agenda is set by Number 10 and Number 11. That won’t be changing and the men with the power in the Conservative Party (for now anyway) are quite clear about that. The identities of the salesmen aren’t the problem, it’s what they are selling.

In any case, considering the mess this government is making of things, Cameron is merely rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

Which brings me on (sort of) to another point. The booing of Gideon.

Now I loved it. It’s good to see the smirking half-wit get a taste of what all right-thinking people think of him and his policies. It’s also great to see so many people observe something that we have known here at the Mambo and have been arguing for some time, that the man is a fool, and the view, widely-held not so long ago, that he was some kind of strategic genius is palpably ludicrous.

The booers were absolutely right to boo and point up the farce of a Chancellor personally responsible for savage cuts in state support for the disabled being a guest of honour the Paralympics. It will be interesting to know whether he was already aware of the depth of his unpopularity (I rather suspect that he did, he may be thick but I’m sure even he isn’t that lacking in self-awareness)

It was also nice to see Gordon Brown get a much better reception, especially when one considers the way that the right-wing press tried (and failed) previously to exploit Brown’s disability (his weak eye-sight) to discredit him.

And to argue that it wasn’t the time for “politics” is absurd. Any time is the right time for politics. Especially now.

But it is noteworthy that David Cameron didn’t get quite such a hostile reception. Or Boris Johnson. Even though both are cut from the same welfare-slashing cloth.

Osborne has become the object of hatred, even though his agenda is the agenda of the entire coalition government. They are all in it together, if you’ll excuse the pun, and should be getting exactly the same response.

In some respects it’s quite similar to the situation with Nick Clegg. He has been an excellent shield for the puppet-masters, the Tories, as he has been the recipient of much of the fury and scrutiny that would they would otherwise have had to endure. It’s a mistake to be personalising it too much.

Osborne may appear to be the lovechild of Blackadder and Cain, but he shouldn’t be singled out. All the Tories deserve the same treatment and hostility.

The Lance Armstrong myth finally punctured, and not before time

“And as many others, including USADA’s own arbitrators, have found, there is nothing even remotely fair about its process. USADA has broken the law, turned its back on its own rules, and stiff-armed those who have tried to persuade USADA to honour its obligations. At every turn, USADA has played the role of a bully, threatening everyone in its way and challenging the good faith of anyone who questions its motives or its methods, all at US taxpayers’ expense……

……USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles. I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours. We all raced together. For three weeks over the same roads, the same mountains, and against all the weather and elements that we had to confront. There were no shortcuts, there was no special treatment. The same courses, the same rules. The toughest event in the world where the strongest man wins. Nobody can ever change that. Especially not Travis Tygart.”

It says something about the colossal, borderline-delusional egomania of Lance Armstrong that even when admitting defeat in his evidently fruitless attempts to prove his innocence he still lacks the good grace to acknowledge that he has been caught out. In the face of a now-overwhelming case that he cheated he still cannot bring himself to confess.

He has given up because he knows he can’t win and is trying to salvage what remains of his reputation. To pretend otherwise, as he is doing, is ludicrous.

One is reminded of the rather sad case of Richard Virenque, who similarly refused to acknowledge he had been systematically doping and pumping himself full of anything he could get his hands on. He became an international laughing stock by blithely attempting to maintain his innocence despite irrefutable proof of what he had been up to. He looked and looks like a right dickhead.

Admittedly the case against Armstrong isn’t as absurdly open and shut in the way it was with Virenque but there is surely little doubt of his culpability.

In the first instance it is simply unimaginable that he could have defeated a peloton that for the most part were doing similar things. The performance advantage of doping and the cocktail of drugs and hormones that so many riders were on was simply too great for a man to overcome with just hard work and a good night’s sleep.

But of course there is rather more to it than that. USADA has assembled a case based on science and countless sworn-under-oath testimonies that Armstrong knew he had no chance of getting the better of. A man previously willing to aggressively fight any and every suggestion of wrongdoing or allegation against him has rather rapidly lost that ferociously combative streak. I wonder why.

The real question posed right now is: how was he able to get away with it for so long? There have been accusations of Armstrong conniving with the UCI, who would have been naturally desperate to protect the reputation of the sport’s most marketable asset.

Armstrong was able to point to the hundreds of clean tests as proof that he was ‘clean’. His former team-mate Tyler Hamilton suggests that wasn’t actually the case. In order to pull that off there must have assistance of some pretty powerful people in the sport, people whose job it was to police cycling. In those circumstances it probably isn’t surprising that Armstrong has gotten away with it for so long. Too many people would go down with him and a man like Armstrong would be sure to make sure that they did.

The tragedy is of course that even with performance-enhancing drugs Armstrong’s achievements were phenomenal. His training regimes were almost suicidally gruelling. He beat a roster of cyclists many, if not most of whom were demonstrably using the same enhancement methods that Armstrong was. Just look at Youtube clips from the mid to late 90s of all the top cyclists and compare them to the way pros ride now, especially in the mountains. The difference is phenomenal. They just can’t ride like that anymore. Armstrong was but one of many.

I’ve commented on this blog previously that I’m not one to be to be too judgmental about drug cheaters in sport. It isn’t the morally black and white question that some commentators pose it as. Many cyclists would have felt they had no choice but to ‘cheat’ as their livelihoods depended on it. It’s easy to be self-righteous when cycling is only a hobby. When it’s your job you naturally end up taking a more instrumental view.

But with Lance Armstrong it was very different. He created an image that made him millions and millions of dollars that was built on a complete lie. His career was founded on his ‘cleanness’, it was the delusion of the American Dream made flesh. He self-righteously pontificated on how his Tour wins were solely down to hard work at every available opportunity rather than just keeping his mouth shut like most of the other riders in the peloton did at the time. He viciously bullied and intimidated anyone who questioned the validity of his achievements. Filippo Simeoni, Christophe Bassons and Greg LeMond can all testify to that and they can all claim vindication from this decision. Their bravery contributed to getting us to this point.

The public persona was always a million miles away from reality with Armstrong. He was and is a spiteful, arrogant, conceited charlatan and even if he hadn’t been a lying doper he would still have been a tosser. I could never forgive him for his treatment of Marco Pantani, a rider that Armstrong was not fit to lick the boots of. His cancer was no excuse for being such an unpleasant human being.

His past has finally caught up with him and anyone with an interest in the integrity of the sport should be celebrating this moment. His ‘wins’ deserve to be obliterated from the historical record.

Wanker Of The Week: Rob Beasley

Time was when Wanker Of The Week used to be a fairly regular feature at the Mambo, and we only discontinued it as we got bored of writing an epic, occasionally libellous and invariably 2000+ word character assassination every week to a deadline. However occasionally we are so overcome with fury that we decide to dust the old trophy down. This week is one of those weeks. 

The Bandwagon Jumper.

I’m sure you know the type. Tossers aren’t they.

They are everywhere you look in public and your personal life. They only express an opinion when it is safe to do so. They lick their finger, stick it up in the air, see which way the wind is blowing and rush headlong in that direction, even if it is the polar opposite of the one they were heading in just a few weeks previously. They are opportunists. Utter cowards. Invariably they are also shameless hypocrites, as well as being wankers.

In the realm of sports and in particular football writing their numbers are legion. A consensus appears, and desperate not to stand out from the crowd or displease their paymasters or their network of contacts in the game a journalist writes a piece perfectly in tune with it.

A team loses a game and they are the worst group of players ever. One good performance from someone and they are the next Lionel Messi or Franz Beckenbauer. One bad tackle and a player is worse than Osama Bin Laden. One act of sportsmanship and they are Jesus Christ incarnate.

A media narrative will develop regardless of its distance from the truth and many football writers merely repeat it with (occasionally) bigger words, whether they are of the tabloid or broadsheet variety.

The authors think it makes them look smart, cool, maybe even right-on. But for those of us who know better it just exposes them as the disgusting charlatans that they are.

Step forward Rob Beasley. A man who is to credible sports journalism what Simple Simon is to Mensa.

Beasley has written a short column for his employers, the Sun (who else…..) that has to rank as one of the cheapest, most diabolically cynical pieces of bandwagon-jumping that I have seen in a while (it’s also appallingly badly written and I’m bemused that a professional journalist is willing to put his name to such dross).

He then followed it up with a performance on Talksport that even by his loathsome standards of embarrassingly misplaced self-righteousness ranked as a tour de force of soul-destroying stupidity, child-like myopia and ended with him threatening the presenters who had quite rightly called him out on his hypocrisy. In the space of five minutes the nation’s newly and self-appointed moral guardian turned into the poor man’s Danny Dyer. The irony was lost on no one, with the exception of the man himself of course.

Beasley’s facile argument can be summed up as follows: the Olympics was a shining beacon of light and has shamed football, with its swearing, cheating and general immorality. He uses the bad-tempered Charity Shield match at the weekend to demonstrate his argument, such as it is.

I’m sure Beasley thinks he is riding the crest of a zeitgeisty wave by suddenly coming out and denouncing the game, in toto, that he has built his career on. In fact all he is doing is highlighting what a contemptible shyster he is.

(And the Mary Whitehouse shtick is nauseating. Swearing at football matches is part of the fun and last time I checked women and children enjoy it too. This isn’t the nineteenth century. So fuck you Beasley.)

Anyway, do the wonderful and supposedly family-friendly Olympics operate on a vastly superior moral plane to big bad football?

Well no, actually.

Cycling has spent most of its modern history riddled with drugs and doping and there is no reason to believe that it is suddenly squeaky clean. Ditto athletics and swimming.

Were the badminton players throwing matches really so much better morally than diving footballers?

Did the Algerian 1500m runner, Taoufik Makhloufi, who threw his 800m heat so he could concentrate all his efforts on the 1500m do so in pursuit of the Olympic ideal?

And the water polo players spend most of their games fighting each other.

Those are just a few examples. And they don’t highlight the moral depravity of Olympic sport. What they highlight is that the people competing are there to win.

You know, like football. That’s how all professional sports work. Of course there is space for morality and decency, but there are thousands of examples one could cite in football of that. To pick out one, essentially pre-season, game, as Beasley did, containing two teams who clearly don’t like each other very much to make such a sweeping point is a calculated act of cynicism from a journalist for whom the word ‘cynicism’ is indeed the mot juste.

See, that’s the thing about Beasley. He really is the last person to be making this argument. This is a guy who has built his journalistic career oiling up to some of the sleaziest, dodgiest and most amoral people in the football world. To wit: Jose Mourinho, John Terry and the entire Chelsea hierarchy.

A trawl through the archive of Beasley’s brown-nosing articles over the years reveals that he sees himself as Chelsea’s de facto media representative. His contacts at the club appear to be a significant factor in his national profile (it certainly isn’t his writing). It will not surprise you to know that Chelsea are ‘his’ team, he tweets about them obsessively and is immensely proud of their recent successes.

Which have all been achieved on the back of hundreds of millions of pounds being spent by a Russian gangster plutocrat who essentially stole his immense wealth from the Russian people. If Beasley is so worried about the moral decay of football then wouldn’t this be an issue for him to rail against? Shouldn’t he in fact be ashamed at what has been accomplished with money that the club by rights shouldn’t have?

Wouldn’t the actions of John Terry over the years be something to rail against?

What about Jose Mourinho, apparently Beasley’s bezzie mate?

Aren’t there a 101 things about Chelsea Football Club for a journalist to get angry about?

Apparently not.

It is astounding that an employee of the unspeakably evil News International feels able to lecture anyone about morality in any sphere of life. It is even more extraordinary when it comes from the pen of Rob Beasley, who even by NI standards is an utter gobshite.

A Mambo re-think?

Over at Shiraz Socialist a piece has recently appeared reflecting on the possibility that the Olympics might not be so bad after all. I have to confess to have had similar thoughts myself now it’s all over.

Several weeks ago I really didn’t expect to be at all sad when the Olympics finished. In fact I was dreading what I assumed would be a festival of petty nationalism, political opportunism, rampant commercialism and fealty to an IOC that is no less than an ongoing international gravy train. That, combined with a collection of sports that for the most part bore me to tears (and many of which are the sole preserve of the wealthy) meant that I was extremely unenthusiastic.

And to a degree, I haven’t been disappointed in that regard.

The games have been obscenely expensive in a time of supposed eye-watering austerity in the UK (and provided yet another example of why the doctrine of apparently unavoidable cuts is such a dishonest one) and I’m sure the much-vaunted legacy will never actually materialise. It is absurd that corporations were front and centre, especially when they were contributing only a tiny proportion of the finance required to host such a huge event. The fact that the state picked up the tab and did most of the spadework gave the lie to yet another tenet of Tory ideology…….

The BBC’s gung-ho and shamelessly biased coverage really wound me up at times (if I’d have been a successful non-British athlete I would have been seriously pissed off) and their breathless, gushing enthusiasm for the games, as if they were some epoch-defining event in British history, at times bordered on propaganda. I could have done without being constantly told just how brilliant it was.

The ‘feelgood factor’ will be short-lived (especially when the weather turns) and it is ludicrous to think that two weeks of Union Jacks, Judo and Water-polo are going to change Britain for the better, especially when we recall the national and global economic climate that isn’t going to go away however vigorously we wave our flags.

And of course, we can only guess at how many of those participating had been using illegal methods to enhance their performance.

But I’m still a bit sad that the games are over. Some of it has been fun to watch.  I’m so happy that athletes like Mo Farah and Bradley Wiggins won gold in their respective disciplines. The women’s football was very exciting (leaving aside the absolutely dreadful disappointment of the manner of Great Britain’s women’s capitulation in the quarter-finals) and there were some great games (many of them involving Canada). Indeed, seeing women athletes excel, and occasionally using the platform their success provided them to discuss the sexism they had had to overcome was one of the features of games that was most heartening.

The Jamaican sprinters certainly added some fun to proceedings and Usain Bolt’s easy-going and at times quite thoughtful manner (whatever one thinks of his tax affairs) was another highlight. Even the most hardened of white supremacists would surely pause and reflect on their ideology after seeing the sheer, effortless brilliance that Bolt, Blake et al brought to the party.

It has been fun and the image of Britain we have seen has been a healthy one, a thorough kick in the teeth for the right, be it the subtly subversive opening ceremony or the success of athletes like Farah and Jessica Ennis. The monarchy and the establishment haven’t really been able to dominate things like they did with the Jubilee, for example.

All in all, I’m not ashamed to admit that it was slightly more entertaining and life-affirming than I had expected. It would be a stretch to say that the positives out-weighed the negatives but there were enough plus-points to at least give me something to write about!

Now, having got that little confession off of my chest, I am left wondering if I’m an easily fooled dupe of capitalist ideology………

Usain mentions Birmingham………

I’m sure there is a prevailing view in many sections of the London media and commentariat that we are a bunch of provincial yokels up here in the Midlands. It’s a view we ferociously reject here at Representing the Mambo, naturally, our roster of star writers entirely consisting of articulate, charming and sophisticated Brummies, but Christ alive, it is extremely difficult sometimes.

I’m referring here to the local reaction (and it was only here that it caused such a big stir and warranted so much analysis…..) to Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake thanking Birmingham (on two separate occasions now but I’m referring to the one last week) for hosting their pre-race Olympic camp. It was obviously a nice gesture, especially for the people of Birmingham who have welcomed him to our city with such enthusiasm, from my own point of view it was naturally good to hear somewhere other than London mentioned, and Bolt was displaying a sensitivity and thoughtfulness one doesn’t normally come to expect from international celebrities, but from the way that the local media here in Birmingham have responded one would think that the second coming of Jesus Christ had been witnessed in Lee Bank (although I did see a naked guy with a beard there once…actually…… on second thoughts I won’t finish that particular tale…..)

On Friday night it was the headline story on the local news bulletins, especially the BBC’s. Breathless newsreaders gushed at enormous length about the huge significance of Bolt’s essentially throwaway comments and discussed in all seriousness how it could be exploited to help Birmingham’s economy and international profile.

There is a pervasive sense in the local coverage that we all are, and should be eternally grateful that an international superstar is mentioning us in the big city of London. And on the TV! The box that lights up that loads of people have! So millions and millions of people heard our name and know who we are! Double brilliant with knobs on! Fancy us being mentioned by the sophisticates in London Town! They’ve noticed us and acknowledged our existence! Coo! Lucky us!

Whenever anyone from Birmingham visits somewhere else in the world, or, and I’m so excited I can barely even type these words, London, we’ll be internationally recognised as being from that place that Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake mentioned after they won their medals! It’ll now be dead easy to get laid if you say you’re from Birmingham! You know, Usain’s Birmingham!

Our industrial heritage, cultural history and all the other achievements that have made a positive difference to the world are clearly small fry compared to a guy who can run fast for a few seconds mentioning us on national TV a couple of times cos he stayed here for a few days!   

Why should we be so thrilled that we have been thrown such an insignificant bone? And why on earth are we so thrilled? Does anyone really think it will have any lasting resonance and effect?

As I suggested at the top of the piece, it all seems very provincial and we’re better than that. Bolt et al should be thanked for their kind words but we don’t need to act like schoolchildren who’ve eaten too many Skittles over a remark that was a pleasant but largely insignificant gesture that will soon be forgotten by everyone outside of Birmingham.

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