10:30am Saturday 16th June 2012
By Tony Kelly
SOMETIMES living in Britain can be as grating as it is Great. After last week bemoaning – in a record review though – how a re-release from 25 years earlier had coincided with the diamond jubilee and its reinforcing of an even stronger golden grip the monarchy has on our shores, a depressing déjà vu has settled over the Olympics.
Unlike many critics I believe the Olympics Games of 2012 in London – and beyond – will be beneficial to the country and not merely to a certain scrubbed-up east end patch of the capital.
But while imbued with the five-ringed spirit, there’s no doubt that the run-in has tested even my zeal besides providing more ammunition for detractors of this summer’s sporting spectacular.
First take the Olympic torch procession.
On paper, and in principle, it is a thoroughly worthy notion, though the Beeb’s inch-by-inch, yard-by-yard, mile-by-smiling-mile coverage of each leg around the country is only slightly less tedious than watching the test card, or Jeremy Clarkson, or Jeremy Hunt, for more than a few minutes.
In practice though, along its tortuous route, the entire roadshow has been hijacked and then infected by the tainted fingers, thumbs and grip of corporate sponsorship which has resulted in nothing more than a tawdry display of blatant tugging of forelocks and scraping of knees to financial backers.
The original idea was for nominated community worthies to be accorded the honour of lifting the torch.
Among those have been former Olympians and they are as equally deserving as those who have served their villages, towns and cities up and down the breadth of the British Isles.
But seldom a day has gone by on the long and winding road than other personalities and slebs – minor in status though major in their own minds maybe – have got their mitts on the tarnished torch.
And stories have surfaced that deserving carriers have been jettisoned in favour of executives and other high-ranking, well-paid employees of the blue-chip companies sponsoring the Games.
I mean there was even that Black Eyed Peas singer, will.i.am – stupid name, overrated singer – who ran a leg of the procession.
Apparently he, or his group, or whatever specious reason, is connected to Coca-Cola, without whom it seems no significant sports event can take place.
Then this week on our very own North Yorkshire doorstep, Nicola Wilson – one of the leading equestrian competitors all season – was scissors-snipped from the GB London 2012 eventing team while Zara Phillips, daughter of the Princess Royal, herself an Olympic medallist, was included.
Now Phillips is a horsewoman of fine pedigree being a former world champion. But when Wilson was seen as a shoo-in, let’s say it has not harmed the Games’ profile to have a Royal competing in London.
Finally, we have our own Richard Buck.
The City of York Athletics Club one-lap ace excelled again with another impressive time in a minor meet in Moscow.
Then, the 25-year-old embarked on an 1,800-mile journey and a prospective 20-hour day, returning instantly to Loughborough and a shift at the branch of supermarket giant Tesco where he works to make ends meet after losing his Lottery funding. Some things just don’t change.
SADDEST news of the week was the death at 60 of Teofilio Stephenson, the Cuban heavyweight boxer who declined untold riches to stay an amateur in his native land.
Stephenson, whose gloves are pictured, above, at his memorial service, won Olympic gold three times from 1972 to 1980.
Offers flooded in to go pro, but he preferred to stay in the Cuban country he loved.
A truly great, genuine and golden champion.
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