Archive for the ‘Sport’ Category

Shock death: jockey Caitlin Forrest.

 

Regular readers of Wellthisiswhatithink will be very familiar with our love of thoroughbred racing.

But there have been stark reminders this week that it is anything but a sport without risks.

The racing industry in Australia is reeling from news of the death of a second jockey in one of its most important weeks after Caitlin Forrest died from injuries sustained in a horrific four-horse fall at Murray Bridge on Wednesday.

The 19-year-old South Australian apprentice crashed to the turf and was hit by the pack of horses behind her when riding in the race before the Murray Bridge Gold Cup.

Forrest was semi-conscious and responsive when airlifted to hospital, but her condition deteriorated and she died from her injuries overnight.

Horrific four horse fall.

Horrific four horse fall.

Adrian Patterson (El Prado Gold), Justin Potter (Ethbaal) and Libby Hopwood (Barigan Boy) were all flung to the turf as well when Forrest’s mount Collo Voce stumbled on the turn. Collo Voce was put down, but the other three horses regained their footing after the fall.

Forrest’s death came just a day after Queensland jockey Carly-Mae Pye died from injuries she sustained when a horse she was riding in a Rockhampton jump out on Monday broke both its front legs.

Race clubs across the country flew flags at half mast and jockeys wore black armbands on Wednesday in the wake of Pye’s death.

Tributes are flowing on social media for Forrest, who was considered a top prospect in the saddle after notching up 44 wins last season.

Caitlin and her partner, fellow jockey Scott Westover - the other tragic fact, of course, is the young age of so many of those killed in sport.

Caitlin and her partner, fellow jockey Scott Westover – the other tragic fact, of course, is the young age of so many of those killed in sport.

“She was there when I was starting my stable, she worked closely together with myself and Kelly and she was really part of our family,” said trainer Sam Kavanagh, who took in Forrest while she was learning her craft.

“She comes from a racing family, her dad Darren rode worked for dad and myself and her mum Yvonne broke in horses for us. We watched her grow up and my heart goes out to them and her partner Scott [Westover].

“I can still remember giving her her first ride in a trial and a race, she was always happy and had a great sense of humour. She had a great attitude and a great love for all animals.

“She was a very good young jockey and had it all in front of her, so it is just very tough to think she is gone.”

Forrest’s death has sparked calls for a complete review of Australian racing, which has lost four female jockeys in 14 months. Simone Montgomerie died after falling on Darwin Cup day in August last year while mother-of-two Desiree Gill died after tumbling from a mount on the Sunshine Coast in November.

At the Wellthisiswhatithink desk we strongly doubt that racing of any kind can ever be made totally risk free. We have recently seen a near death on the Formula 1 circuit, a death on the Nascar circuit, last year a death in international cycling, and various very sad accidents in the ski-ing world. And it’s not just racing: for racing, read football of all kinds – read rugby, Aussie Rules especially – ice hockey, and more.

But we cannot, surely, do more than to make these sports “as safe as possible”? It would be an immeasurably poorer world were people stopped for pursuing the sports they love because there is an element of danger in them. Caitlin’s death – the death of any sportsperson – is a bitter tragedy, but it should also be said that a tiny percentage of sportspeople die in pursuit of their dreams.

Professional jockeys put their lives on the line more than most, though, and today we salute them all for their skills and for the mesmerising excitement they bring to millions. They deserve every cent they make.

Our deepest sympathy to all who grieve.

Sydney Morning Herald and others

There is a persistent belief that the Sport of Kings is only open to those with very deep pockets. Oil sheiks. Bankers. Mafioso. Captains of Industry. And, er … Kings. Well nowadays that’s simply not true.

 

Khutulun belts home at Sandown. Photo courtesy Sarah Ebbett at Victoriy Media.

Khutulun belts home at Sandown. Photo courtesy of Sarah Ebbett at Victory Media.

 

With the growth of syndication – where ownership of a horse is split up between a bunch of like-minded owners – the tinker, the tailor, the soldier and the sailor is getting into it more and more. Not to mention, ahem, the occasional writer.

As an old Uncle of ours once remarked, “Nice to have an interest, boyo. Don’t need to own the whole thing – that’s a big black hole that you throw fivers into. Buy a nose and hopes it gets it in front now and then.”

Wise advice. So about 18 months back, La Famille Wellthisiswhatithink invested in just 5% of a pretty filly called Khutulun. Our five per cent cost us just a thousand bucks, plus a promise to pay about another $1000 a year. That’s it. Virtually all the horse’s costs would be covered by that investment for a whole year. And we could bale out if money suddenly became an issue. And although a couple of grand isn’t nothing, well, it’s also not a lot to turn a lifelong dream of owning a “nag” into a reality. Not when a top restaurant can be $2-300 a couple for dinner nowadays. We’d rather have sausages at home and feed the horse.

Khutulun. Well, she wasn’t called anything at that point, actually, she was just a big, ornery filly with a large arse and a bad attitude. Both things endeared her to us. The large arse because coupled with a big set of lungs they make up the best combination any racehorse can have. Of course, we were guessing on her lungs, but there were “stayers” all down the Dam side of her pedigree, so we hoped we’d picked well. And we loved her ornery attitude, which everyone associated with her was quick to mention. Some people worry about such things, but horses take time to mature, and with a filly, especially – who will race in fillies races and mare’s races, to be sure, but will also have to take on the bigger, stronger even ornier boys sometimes – a little bit of “attitood” never goes amiss. She had plenty of vim and vigour about her – plenty of “you know who I am? – so we took a plunge.

She was born at the wrong time of the year to do much in Springtime, so her first “preparation” was in autumn last year. Everyone was full of doubts. She didn’t like her work, loved lying down, was a bit flighty, and didn’t seem to learn. One thing was noticeable, though. She ate everything offered to her like a trencherman on steroids, (she still does), and she never seemed puffed after a run. Some wanted to bail out of her. We hung in, convinced we had chosen well, even when those who are paid to know these things had their doubts.

A warrior nature. That made sense.

A warrior nature. That made sense.

Why Khutulun? The world’s most mis-pronounced name for a horse – think “Kutlin”, Kutulin” “Kootoolin” – it’s actually Koo-Too-Lun, if anyone cares – was a desperate final attempt to find something, anything, that combined it’s Sire’s name (Soldier’s Tale) with it’s Dam (Great Tradition). Perhaps fifty names were knocked back as already in use.

Eventually Khutulun – a warrior princess from Mongolia, daughter of Kublai Khan, famous horsewoman – got up.

Cue press releases hopelessly trying to persuade race callers to pronounce her name correctly. The owners didn’t care: it was just one more “us against the world” feature of the whole exercise. We knew how to say her name, that’s all that mattered.

And as soon as Miss Ornery of Caulfield hit a racetrack – in cheerful, charming, rural Kyneton – she proceeded to cause a shock. Because she romped home to win it. All over the park, a little bit to the left, then heading right, belting on down the straight when the race was already well won, apprentice jockey clinging to her back for all he was worth. And she pulled up looking ready to go round again. Cue raised eyebrows all round.

 

"I got this."

“I got this.”

 

A series of races at Sandown and Caulfield city tracks followed.

For many racehorse owners, just getting to a city track is as good as having a winner. That wasn’t what Khutulun was about, though.

She never ran worse than fourth, grabbed a third, a fighting second to the horse that later won the Queensland Derby, (after having been baulked 200 metres out, too), and bagged another win. She quickly amassed $100,000 in prize money, and she still didn’t run like a racehorse. She just shook her head up and down and side to side and ran. And ran and ran and ran. Clearly didn’t like the idea of any other horse getting to the line in front of her – ornery, see?

Her season ended with a creditable performance beaten maybe three lengths in the Queensland Oaks when she started from the widest possible barrier and threw a shoe off halfway round. She was cheered on by a bunch of owners who had flown in from all round the country. A horse that cost us just $1,000 each, running in a Group One race in the sunshine in Brisbane. A horse no one thought would ever do anything, from a Sire that was recently retired because nothing ever won from it.

Dream come true? You betcha.

And along the way, something rather lovely happened: the 20 owners became friends, and turning up at the races became like one big party each time. A more disparate bunch you couldn’t imagine – a Council worker, handful of tradies, a writer, couple of public servants, a pair of real estate experts. More than a few tubes of amber throat-charmer lubricated the delightful swapping of life stories, everyone enthusing ever more delightedly about “our girl”.

Luke Oliver ... quietly spoken, a shy, ready smile, and a headful of bloody clever.

Luke Oliver … quietly spoken, a shy, ready smile, and a headful of bloody clever.

We got to know the trainer, Luke Oliver, and his racing manager Steve Leonie.

A nicer pair of blokes you could not imagine.

Not only were they and their team turning our no-hoper into something resembling a champion, but they never showed a moment’s ennui while answering our endless (and usually ignorant) questions without giggling at us even once.

Luke’s the quiet pragmatic type. Steve Leonie cares so much about each of the horses they train he frequently can’t stand to watch the actual race, heading for a quiet spot in the cafe for a fortifying coffee. Or to the bar for a fortifying something stronger. They both have passion in bucketloads.

Steve kindly arranges lessons in racecourse ettiquette. Because that’s the other great joy of being an owner, of course. On arrival at the track there’s free parking and the man at the gate in the blazer who waves you through with a cheery “Good luck, Sir … Madam.” Then they immediately usher you into your own private area for a free drink, or at the posh courses, a free lunch. Well, not so much free. You have to buy a horse to get in. But you see what we mean.You don’t have to be royalty, you just feel like it.

And wonder of all wonders, you get entry to the mounting yard before and after the race, where you stand around frowning intelligently as the trainer first tells the jockey what he wants him to do, using all sorts of riding jargon that means the best part of bugger all to those of us standing around nodding for all we’re worth, but that’s OK because what we’re really doing is impressing the pants off our friends who are left back in the stands, because this is the the most “we made it” moment of all moments imaginable.

And ten minutes later we’re there again, smiling and taking photos with the jockey and a sweaty successful horse, trying to shake the jockey’s hand only to be told – again with exquisite politeness – that this is, of course, against the rules, and whooping and a-hollering, and generally behaving like six year olds on an extra dose of Ritalin. And all around us stand solemn rich people whose hugely expensive horseflesh we have just made to look like it was rooted to the spot, all mildly discomforted by the council workers and tradies and public servants and retail experts and writers who miraculously now find themselves calculating their share of another winners cheque. And sod them, too, suffer in yer jocks, buddy, because we’re The Khutulun Crew, and that’s all ya need to know.

And then there was the team from the syndicator, Grand Syndicates, Sam Lyons and Peter and Karen Morley. An email or voicemail every week kept us up to speed with every gulp, fart, hiccup and snort the horse gave out, helping us all to feel genuinely part of the loop, even tangentially involved in the training decisions and where to race her. When we got to Queensland the Grand Syndicates crew even threw a few bob over the bar and we all drank free for the afternoon. And some of us drank a little too much. Ah well, what happens in Vegas, etc.

Peter Morley of Grand Syndicates. "Have I got an 'orse for you, my son? Have I ever!"

Peter Morley of Grand Syndicates. “Have I got an ‘orse for you, my son? Have I ever!”

They didn’t have to do that. Nicely done, right there. And once again, they were always endlessly patient with the inevitable barrage of questions from the over-excited owners.

And so now we’re here in October 2014. Now the blossom is on the trees, and the wind has switched from the West to the North, the grey skies have flown away and it’s all “on again, for man and boy”, as they say over here in Oz. And for daughters, and wives, and friends.

After winter standing around eating her paddock down to bare earth, Khutulun’s “preparation” number two is underway, Spring is here in all it’s glory and The Khut (we’re in Australia, of course she has to have a nickname) is back in the lists.

So in the watery Spring sunshine, Khutulun goes to Sandown last Saturday, just for a little jump out, you understand? Looking like a right trollop, with half her winter coat still on her.

“We’ll let her run on her merits, sure, but she’s still fat and happy from her winter spell, so don’t expect too much.” “Keep your money in your pocket.” “Look, always hopeful, but really, it’s quite a tough race and she’s not fit yet.” Everyone nods sagely. “She’ll be better for the run.”

Fair enough, then, we’ll have a quiet beer or three and just enjoy the sunshine.

No one told the horse, of course. Five hundred metres out, and plumb last except for one other nag, she looked up, and just set off. Jockey Ben Melham, feeling the fire in her belly, smartly eased her out into clear air and told her to go. And as surely as day follows night, and one by one, she picked off the entire field like they were from some other species of lesser beings. As she went past the post, one could swear she was winking. “Oh ye of little faith. Don’t you know who I am?”

Bang. A winner. Again. Ornery. Always put your money on ornery.

To find out more about going racing with nice people and without breaking the budget, head to:

grandsyndicates.com.au

lukeoliverracing.com.au

You don’t have to be rich, just rich of heart. Go on, you know you want to. See you at the track. Next stop, Cranbourne Cup Day next Sunday. Total winnings now up to nearly $170,000 and counting. We’re buying the beers …

You’ve heard of glass-bottomed boats. Now make way for the glass-bottomed kayak!

 

 

Seattle-based company Clear Blue Hawaii is marketing a new transparent kayak called the Molokini. It’s made from the same polycarbonate material used in bulletproof glass and fighter jet canopies. It looks so good, we reckon it’s a fashion accessory as much as a great way to explore.

 

The company markets the two-seater kayak as an ideal way to view marine life (the company says in ideal situations, you can see up to 75 feet down). If you’re lucky, you might even see a dolphin or two or a turtle swimming below you.

 

 

Plus it has the added benefit of making you look like you’re floating on top of the water.

The boat sells for just under US$2,700. For what we think would be the experience of a lifetime, we reckon that’s cheap. Might be time to break open the piggybank before the Great Barrier Reef is destroyed by a combination of sunlight, acidification, and waste dumping. We just hope the hole in the top is big enough for us to get in it, or a little judicious dieting might be required!

 

We'd like Holland to go all the way in this World Cup. Just, you know. Because.

We’d like Holland to go all the way in this World Cup. Just, you know. Because.

OK, Dear Reader, I have decided on the job I want in my next life.

Don't think we can bring ourselves to support Argentina for any reason. Then again ...

Don’t think we can bring ourselves to support Argentina for any reason. Then again …

It’s to be the guy who sits in a football stadium with a pair of binoculars as a “spotter” for the cameramen for those inevitable cutaway shots of beautiful scantily-dressed 18-25 year old women who are cheerfully sitting there looking stunning while they holler and hoot for the country, all festooned in team colours with their faces painted with flags and a big grin on their face. See, someone has that job. It’s not the Director, because he’s too busy looking at the overall coverage of the game, including those oh-so-vital flashes of “colour” – that’s what it’s called in the trade. You know the ones: the crying eight year old boy watching his life get ruined forever as his heroes ignominiously crash out of the tournament, the great tub of lard with no shirt, worker’s shorts and a sombrero clutching a vuvezela and a bottle of what looks suspiciously like what you’re not allowed to take into the ground, and, of course, the wannabee supermodels who have taken a day off their relentless rise to glamour stardom to bounce up and down looking all jiggly and happy while their boyfriends explain the offside rule to them. And it’s not the cameramen finding them either. Coz they’re pointing their cameras where they’re told to. Nope, there’s actually someone whose job it is just to scan the crowd and find the young ladies (80-90% of the job, I reckon), and just occasionally a crying kid or a nearly-naked middle-aged man so we’re not all bailed up for just being a bunch of dirty old pervs. We could do that. Giz a job, Mister.

Apparently this young lady from Korea is an instant sensation in Asia. And she thought she was just going to the footy.

Apparently this young lady from Korea is an instant sensation in Asia. And she thought she was just going to the footy.

Hey: it’s dirty work, but someone’s got to do it. Here’s an example of the process. http://www.sooziq.com/11964/world-cup-cameraman-impossibly-finds-the-pretty-girl-in-the-crowd/. Why anyone would think we’d want to look at her instead of some gigantic black guy in a Nigerian shirt I can’t imagine.

A young lady from Denmark. We tried all the puns we could think of about horns but couldn't come up with any that would be publishable on a nice blog. You do the math.

A young lady from Switzerland. Oh, those crazy, whacky Swiss. We tried all the puns we could think of about horns but couldn’t come up with any that would be publishable on a nice blog. You do the math.

 

We are reminded that some years ago a very funny video circulated via email of a couple having awkward sex waaaay up at the top of a stand at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, thereby fulfilling two of Australia’s obsessions – sex and sport – in one convenient time-efficient hit. Should you need to, you can see it here:

http://www.ebaumsworld.com/video/watch/80740298/. Oh go on, you may as well see it if you haven’t already.

Colombia are doing expectedly well at this World Cup and garnering a lot of interest. Can't imagine why.

Colombia are doing expectedly well at this World Cup and garnering a lot of interest. Can’y imagine why.

It’s quite tame and rather funny, though probably still not safe for work – but that will depend on your work, I guess. What you can’t hear on this webpage, which you could on the version of the clip that circulated by email, is the amused banter between the Director and the cameraman. “They are, you know.” “Nah, they couldn’t be.” “They bloody are.” So funny to think that they’re probably now married with kids – either to each other or someone else – and in relatively senior professional jobs, we bet. Ah, the careless joys of yoof.

Australia have been, er, holding their end up. So to speak.

Australia have been working hard, er, holding their end up. So to speak.

Anyhow, the young ladies of the World Cup are altogether tamer, but so much nicer for it, too. Bright young lasses all of them,
to be sure. Bringing a little light relief to the fevered tensions of the game, and all quite innocently. And that, M’lud, explains why we were in the crowd with our binoculars trained on the young lady from Columbia in Row ZZ 17 and we conclude the case for the defence. Talent spotting in crowds has a long and honourable (ahem) history, of course.

*mops brow* Pammie does her first TV commerical. Photo: Tumblr

*mops brow* Pammie does her first TV commerical.
Photo: Tumblr

Belgium’s most famous teen is not the first to shoot to global stardom after being spotted in the crowd.

In 1989 a certain Pamela Anderson, then a fitness instructor, attended a local football game in Canada.Footage of the blonde on screen was well received and her success with Playboy ensued.

The rest, as they say, is popular cultural history.

And more recently supermodel Kate Upton found fame after a friend uploaded a video of Upton dancing in the stands at an LA Clippers game.

Meanwhile, here is further evidence, should it be needed, of why England, compared to the rest of the world, are really just a bunch of losers.

Right.

Right.

 

Well no, that ain’t true. On reflection, that was the successful ten-fingers and ten-toes birth of the Fruit of One’s Loins. But last Saturday was similarly exciting, and for many of the same reasons.

To have your own horse – a horse you own, or at least, a horse of which you own the left nostril and right fore-hoof – win a race at a major city track is simply thunderously, life-changingly, breath-holdingly thrilling. Especially when accompanied by Mrs Wellthisiswhatithink and said Fruit O’Loins, neither of whom could historically be considered huge horse racing fans, but who are now swept up in the emotion of it all just like everyone else.

She’s been nursed along to this point. Some owners have dropped out along the way, impatient with her somewhat slow progress. The rest of us have hung in there, grimly muttering “She’s a big girl, needs time to mature.” As the starter heads to his position, the anticipation is almost unbearable. Will she load in the gate properly? (She has a habit of not doing so.) She does. An ironic cheer goes up from the “connections”, much to the amusement of the hardy souls braving the autumnal rain at Sandown. Will she get a jump? Can she make it from the outside barrier far enough in to be successful? She does. A huge start, settles nicely in second although it took a huge effort to get there from the outside barrier. Has she really got the lungs to win a 1600 metre race with a couple of other smart looking gee-gees in it after spending all that energy at the start? The trainer looks pensive, but excited. The trainer’s manager can’t even bear to watch. The jockey was confident heading out, but then again, he only looks about 12, so what would he know?

 

'At's my girl.

‘At’s our girl.

 

For the record, she hit the lead about 400 out and held on, showing real guts, and winning by a head. If you would like to watch the roughly 1 minute 40″ of heart-thumping action just click the link below.

http://www.racingnetwork.com.au/khutulun-takes-step-right-direction/tabid/83/newsid/19234/default.aspx

It takes a while to sink in. She actually won. A serious race, paying serious money, too. We have a racehorse on our hands, after all the wondering and worrying and hard work by the stables. And she simply seems to love running, to boot. She just seems to know what is meant for her, and gets on with it.

From here, fame beckons, and not just in the wildest imaginings of her over-excited owners. Texts turn up from “people who should know”. “Wow, what an effort.” “Blimey, mate, she looks really, really good.” The connections stand around, pinching themselves in half-disbelief. Probably one too many whiskies after in the bar, too, but who’s counting? Not today.

Khutulun – pronounced “Koo-too-lun” – which the commentator seems unable to master – was a warrior princess. Daughter of Kublai Kahn. A famous wrestler, horsewoman, and archer. Basically, one tough little lady with a heart of steel.

How very appropriate.

I feel like a kid who’s had ten red drinks and a bar and a half a bar of chocolate at a birthday party. I expect to come down by about this time next week. In the meantime, bear with me, Dear Reader. Normal service will be resumed when we find ourselves able to think about anything else but the feeling as she swept past the post …

You should try it. Really, you should.

One of the most famous commentators in the history of TV has died.

20131222-110029.jpg

For two generations David Coleman was witty, urbane, good natured, and polite. He was one of the first BBC presenters in any field to be truly relaxed in front of the camera, giving him a unique appeal and setting a tone for broadcasting worldwide. He was also an integral part of my childhood, and as is too often the case nowadays, his passing is a pressing reminder that none of us is getting any younger.

He was most famous for his frequent verbal gaffes, which made as much perfect sense as they did perfect nonsense. The satirical magazine Private Eye christened them “Colemanballs” – a term he is said to have enjoyed – and the column runs to this day.

Enjoy remembering some of the best:

“That’s the fastest time ever run – but it’s not as fast as the world record.”

“A truly international field, no Britons involved.”

“The Republic of China – back in the Olympic Games for the first time.”

“Don’t tell those coming in the final result of that fantastic match, but let’s just have another look at Italy’s winning goal.”

“He’s 31 this year – last year he was 30.”

“He just can’t believe what’s not happening to him.”

“In a moment we hope to see the pole vault over the satellite.”

“He is accelerating all the time. The last lap was run in 64 seconds and the one before that in 62.”

“It’s gold or nothing … and it’s nothing. He comes away with the silver medal.”

“There is Brendan Foster, by himself with 20,000 people.”

“Forest have now lost six matches without winning.”

“The front wheel crosses the finish line, closely followed by the back wheel.”

“And here’s Moses Kiptanui – the 19-year-old Kenyan who turned 20 a few weeks ago.”

“If that had gone in, it would have been a goal.”

“This evening is a very different evening from the morning we had this morning.”

“I think there is no doubt, she’ll probably qualify for the final.”

“Nobody has ever won the title twice before. He (Roger Black) has already done that.”

“Both of the Villa scorers – Withe and Mortimer – were born in Liverpool as was the Villa manager Ron Saunders who was born in Birkenhead.”

“And the line-up for the final of the women’s 400 metres hurdles includes three Russians, two East Germans, a Pole, a Swede and a Frenchman.”

“We estimate, and this isn’t an estimation, that Greta Waltz is 80 seconds behind.”

He will be sadly missed.

combined managers

UPDATE Voting is now CLOSED. 7.6% of people correctly predicted 1-1. Well done! Great game, too!

Fascinating game this weekend. Man United find themselves uncharacteristically half way down the table after a turbulent time with Moyes coming in as manager. Saints find themselves riding uncharacteristically high, currently placed fourth after a dream start under Mauricio Pochettino.

Last season Sir Alex Ferguson said Southampton were the best team to play at Old Trafford. Saints have already beaten Liverpool away this season.

So what will be the result this weekend? Can Saints do it again and keep their run going? Will United finally find some killer form with their awesome players. Will the two sides cancel each other out?

You predict! No prizes, just fun.

By the way, Artur Boruc should be fit in goal for Saints, as should young left back Luke Shaw.

125 years strong

125 years strong

As anyone knows who has wandered by Wellthisiswhatithink in the last couple of years, I am a fanatical, tragic, totally addicted, beyond help supporter of Southampton Football Club.

That’s why occasionally a post has no relevance whatsoever for anyone except my fellow football sufferers. This is one of those.

Now, if you didn’t vote for Saints to fill one of the three relegation positions … 18th-20th … then care to say who will fill them?

 

You have three votes in the second poll.

You have one week to vote in both polls!

Holding a multi-coloured flag is now a threat to state security.

Holding a multi-coloured flag is now a threat to state security.

Despite widespread criticism, Russia will apparently enforce a new law cracking down on gay rights activism when it hosts international athletes and fans during the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, the country’s sports minister said Thursday, appearing to contradict assurances to the contrary from the International Olympic Committee.

Russia’s contentious law was signed by President Vladimir Putin in late June, imposing fines on individuals accused of spreading ”propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors, and even proposing penalties for those who express these views online or in the news media. Gay pride rallies also are banned.

”An athlete of non-traditional sexual orientation isn’t banned from coming to Sochi,” Vitaly Mutko said in an interview with R-Sport, the sports newswire of state news agency RIA Novosti. ”But if he goes out into the streets and starts to propagandize, then of course he will be held accountable.”

So, it’s OK if you keep it in the closet, but being out and proud is no longer acceptable in “modern Russia”. Pfft. The country slides ever further back into the bad old past under Vlad’s dictatorial KGB-bred rule.

"That hat is SO Priscilla Queen of the Desert, darling."  " I knew you'd love it, big boy."

“That hat is SO Priscilla Queen of the Desert, darling.”  ” I knew you’d love it, big boy.”

Mutko emphasized that the law wasn’t designed to punish anyone for being gay or lesbian. But like the Russian lawmakers who authored the bill, Mutko said athletes would be punished only for propaganda, a word that remains ambiguous under the new law. The shameful treatment of peaceful protestors like Pussy Riot shows what the laughable disgrace that passes for a legal system in Russia is capable of.

Murko said: ”The corresponding law doesn’t forbid non-traditional orientation, but other things: propaganda, involvement of minors and young people.”

Whether or not a gay lifestyle is ‘non traditional’ – highly debatable if one looks at history, Ancient Greece anyone? – and whether or not portraying a gay lifestyle as acceptable to young people could be in any way considered propaganda or even wrong – surely they will emerge as better adjusted adults, regardless of their sexual orientation, if equipped with a balanced world view? – to see Russia moving emphatically in the other direction from the rest of Europe, the Americas, and much of Asia merely serves to stress that the country is a long, long way to conforming to modern notions of equity and equality.

The law specifies punishment for foreign citizens, to include fines of up to 100,000 rubles (US$3,000), prison for up to 15 days, deportation and denial of re-entry into Russia.

Four Dutch citizens working on a documentary film about gay rights in the northern Russian town of Murmansk were the first foreigners to be detained under the new law, although their case did not make it to court, according to RIA Novosti.

While activists and organizations supportive of gay rights have called for a ban on Russian-made products like Stolichnaya vodka in bars across North America, they have yet to find a unified response to the Sochi Games.

Instead of a boycott of the Olympics, athletes have made individual gestures and called for protests, such as a pride parade, to be held during the games. One wonders what Russian attitudes will be to a podium gay rights protest similar to the black civil rights protest at the Mexico Olympics.

Despite the obvious grey areas and potential for conflict, the IOC said last week that it had received assurances ”from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the games.” It pledged to ensure there would be no discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media in Sochi.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams said Thursday the committee continues to accept past assurances from the Russian government that the law will not affect athletes, officials or spectators during the games.

Gerhard Heiberg, a senior IOC member from Norway, also said Thursday that in winning the games, Russia and the city of Sochi had committed to preventing discrimination of any sort. But he issued a word of caution to the athletes.

”At the same time we always say to our athletes, ‘We do not want any demonstrations in one or the other direction. Please, you are there to compete and behave. Please don’t go out on the Net or in the streets,'” Heiberg said. ”I think it was very clear for London in 2012 and it will be very clear in 2014. Demonstrations in one way or another, no, but discrimination, absolutely not.”

(Definitely the case: whatever you do, if you’re a female, don’t flash your tits anywhere near the Olympics.)

More moral courage on display from the IOC. They really are an appallingly conservative organisation.

Oh well. So much for free speech. Just another small blow; just another small slip on the slope towards removing the right to protest, a trend we see gathering pace worldwide.

Your thoughts, Edward Snowden?

Meanwhile, all those – gay, straight, or anything in between – who are interested in sexual equality in sport and an end to homophobia will be interested in this campaign organisation.

And protests continue grow, including a spreading movement to stop using Russian products such as Stolichnaya and other Russian vodkas.

Luckily, I prefer Finnish vodka anyway, so that switch will be easy enough.

(With Associated Press, Yahoo and others)

Read more about Russia’s homophobic traditions here.

News again – in Australia, today – of a father of two severely injured by a single blow to the head.

It seems that every few weeks someone gets “king hit” somewhere or other, and ends up hitting their head on a kerb stone or the ground and either killed or severely injured.

I have written before about the dangerously casual acceptance of violent behaviour that now seems pervasive in society, and the fact that people everywhere, young men especially, need to understand that a single blow thrown in anger can ruin lives, including their own.

I blame both the acceptance of violence fostered by living in a society where violence is normalised through endless coverage of armed conflicts, (not to mention the ready use of armed conflict to resolve disputes), and also where scenes of violence are commonplace (but sanitised) in innumerable movies and TV shows. And also where what I call societal violence – allowing entire families to fall through any concept of a social safety net – is accepted with little comment across the political spectrum – where concern for those less able or less well off than ourselves has somehow become daggy and unfashionable. Where breast beating ferocity meets any attempt to devise a society which is fairer or more caring.

Violent behaviour of any sort should never be acceptable. Not everything about the “good old days” has been airbrushed in retrospect. There is little doubt in my mind – no, make that no doubt – that society is more violent in many ways than it was in my youth, in terms of casual violence against the person, rather than formal violent crime.

Yes, of course there was violence back then too – I just missed the “mods and rockers” era but remember full well what it was like to attend a football match with 20,000 skinheads. But those social movements were transient, and have largely been left behind us. Sadly, though, what has replaced them is a world where no one seems surprised to see someone – anyone – throw a punch, or react with fury, sometimes to the mildest of stimuli, in a vast range of environments. The prevalence of “road rage”, for example is just one example, where one is frightened to remonstrate no matter how politely with another’s poor driving for fear of inviting a tyre lever through the windscreen or worse.

The answer? Well, it’s a cultural issue, of course. It’s not about enforcement or interdiction. Young people simply need to be brought up to respect the values of a peaceable passage through this world, and to instinctively reject violence as a means of navigating their way through life, instead of instinctively resorting to it. And older people need to be reminded that the mores of their youth had real value.

Jordan+ClarkI balance that miserable little diatribe, however, with this great story from the UK, that a young cricketer has just become one of a remarkably elite group of players – only four previously, in the whole history of the game – to hit six sixes in an over in a competitive (professional grade) cricket match. Step forward, Lancashire’s Jordan Clark .

The English county club said in a statement on Wednesday that the 22-year-old had achieved the astonishing feat in a Championship Second XI game against Yorkshire to join an illustrious list of names.

For Americans reading this blog – or anyone else who doesn’t have a clue about cricket – a “six” is the highest scoring shot a player can achieve on any one ball: banging the ball right out of the playing area without it bouncing on the ground, for a score of six points (called “runs” in cricket). A bit like a home run in baseball, if that helps.

There are six balls bowled in each “end” or “over”, a subdivision of the game after which play moves to the other end of the pitch for six balls, then back again, and so on.

(And so on ad infinitum, some would say, especially those who don’t enjoy the fine nuances of the game.)

So for someone to score six sixes in an over is unbelievably difficult, a freak occurrence. Like one player hitting six home runs in a row. Most players would be glad for just the occasional six in their entire batting performance, no matter how many hours that may last, let alone six sixes in one over.

 

Anyhow, as you can see in this wonderful piece of classic TV, former West Indies all-rounder Garfield Sobers was the first man to do it, against Glamorgan in 1968, and Indian Ravi Shastri followed suit in 1985.

South Africa opener Herschelle Gibbs smashed six sixes in an over at the 2007 World Cup and Indian Yuvraj Singh did the same at the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup the same year.

If young Mr Clark does as well as those names, he will have a hell of a career.

Just a moment after the sinking of the teeth. Photo: AFP

Just a moment after the sinking of the teeth. Photo: AFP

I had thought to spend some time today yammering about – in the context of my mental meanderings on societal violence – Luis Suarez’s just announced ten match ban from the Premier League for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic in last weekend’s English Premier League match at Anfield.

Liverpool were quick to react, with managing director Ian Ayre declaring: “Both the club and player are shocked and disappointed at the severity of today’s Independent Regulatory Commission decision.”

And then I decided, bugger it, I really can’t be bothered to talk at length about the obnoxious Suarez, or even my distress that Liverpool’s reaction wasn’t “Yup, he deserved it, and we’ve sacked the little twat.”

Especially since this is just the latest in a series of incidents from this astoundingly gifted but serially idiotic young man. Last year, remember, the FA banned him for eight matches and imposed a £40,000 ban for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra. And in 2010 let us not forget he was previously suspended for seven matches in the Netherlands when he sank his teeth into PSV Eindhoven’s Otman Bakkal, leading to him being dubbed the “Cannibal of Ajax”. Should punishments escalate for repeated behaviour? Yes, they should, Mr Ayre.

So. Well done Jordan Clark, enjoy your moment. And Luis Suarez? Read the start of this article, and ponder. Long and hard. Do you want to be remembered as the finest attacking player of your generation, or just as an out-of-control infant? Hmmm?

Adam Lallana celebrates scoring against rock-bottom Reading on Saturday, flanked by four of Saints most improved players this season. But which three teams will fill the bottom spots come the end? Photo: saintsfc.co.uk

Adam Lallana celebrates scoring, flanked by four of Saints most improved players this season. But which three teams will fill the bottom spots come the end of this year’s titanic struggle against relegation? Photo: saintsfc.co.uk

So another critical weekend has passed in the English Premier League, all bar the Manchester derby later today, but let’s be honest, the race at the top of the table is all but over, even if teams are still scrapping over the final European Champions League qualification place, so all the real interest now switches to the incredibly congested and exciting – well, that’s one word for it – scrap at the bottom to avoid relegation in one of the last three places in the division.

Here’s the table after everything except the Manchester game.

Saints up to 11th - nosebleed territory

Saints up to 11th – nosebleed territory!

After three great wins on the trot, (the last being a vital “six pointer” against Reading courtesy of goals from Jay Rodriguez and Adam Lallana) my beloved Southampton look all but safe from the awful prospect of the drop now.

(I trust that is not tempting fate.)

This becomes ever more vital with the vast influx of cash planned from TV rights next year – Premier League clubs will have no excuse not to be swimming in cash in 2013-14. Anyhow, a win for Saints against West Ham next weekend would make survival virtually certain and could also thrust West Ham into all sorts of poo depending on other results.

West Ham do have a game in hand over most of the other threatened teams but it’s against Man Utd in ten days when United will still definitely be wanting a win. Meanwhile, also having a game in hand Wigan can overhaul Sunderland and get out of the bottom three but that game is against Man City, and they’ll still need points, too. So the table as it stands now looks pretty realistic. So, footie fan, who will go down?

I am going to assume that Reading and QPR have been cut adrift, but you may disagree. My pick to go down with them is Sunderland (especially being aware of Wigan’s and Martinez’s fabled determination) but I’d also be very nervous if I supported Norwich or Stoke, both of whom seem to have lost the plot somewhat at exactly the wrong time. Villa seem to have hit a vein of form, but they have been dreadful all season, so who knows? Newcastle surely can’t continue to hover around the bottom with the squad they’ve got, can they? A recent uptick would say probably not. Then again …

So, you tell me: which three teams will head to the Championship come the end of the season? Vote now! Everyone gets three votes of course: just click on the boxes next to three teams and press Vote. Simples!

The poll expires in one week, so vote today! When you’ve voted, feel free to leave a comment as to why you chose the teams you did …

What must be said is that this season’s competition shows once again what a great test of clubs the English Premiership is.

To have so many teams in genuine danger of the drop at this stage shows how the differences between one side and another are really quite marginal, and why, on their day, most teams can beat most other teams. Even if the top spot itself is really, over the course of a whole season, restricted to four or five teams with very deep pockets, even those top sides can come a cropper against a more lowly team who lift their game on the day, as with Saints’ huge recent wins against Liverpool and Chelsea.

This is what gives the league its worldwide fascination. Long may it be so!

Like many others, this is how I will choose to remember Lance Armstrong.

Like many others, this is how I will choose to remember Lance Armstrong.

Like everyone else, I have watched the train wreck that is Lance Armstrong’s last 18 months with horrified fascination and deep sadness.

First of all, let us hope that this doesn’t result in cycling being dropped off the map of world sports, for example at the Olympics. I think the dope testing regime in cycling now is so strict that the sport is probably as clean as it or any other sport is ever going to get.

What is interesting in this story (as told to Oprah Winfrey) is Armstrong’s insistence that he didn’t feel like he was cheating: he took growth hormone and so on to ensure a level playing field, implying everyone was taking it at the same time. Many of those guys are still racing … hmmm. Something may have to be done about that.

An event like no other on Earth, Le Tour enthralls, amazes, and entertains. Let us hope it emerges stronger, not weakened forever.

I really enjoy watching the Le Tour especially, and with what is asked of those guys it hardly seems credible that they don’t do something out of the ordinary to boost their oxygen carrying red blood cells.

And the list of what’s banned and what isn’t always strikes me as somewhat arbitrary.

Why is it – morally – OK to get a massage that gets extra oxygen to the weary muscle tissue but not to take a pill that has the same effect?

I am not making a judgement either way, I just find the whole controversy fascinating and confusing.

I also think the wilder criticism of Armstrong should be tempered by the fact that he is responsible for founding and promoting one of the biggest and most effective cancer charities in the world.

When the balance of his life is weighed, I suspect that will be his legacy, not this embarrassing and sorrowful end to his amazing career.

I wouldn't walk down it, let alone drive, let alone cycle down it at 80+ mph. No thank you. Nu-uh.

I wouldn’t walk down it, let alone drive, let alone cycle down it at 80+ mph. No thank you. Nu-uh.

Let us also say, it is highly unlikely that his doping enabled him to be as good as he was. Perhaps it enabled him to be a little better, or stay at the top a little longer.

But anyone who ever watched his steely determination in whatever terrain type in the Tour de France will know: he was a champion anyway.

He didn’t used to beat the other cyclists, he destroyed their determination to compete, he was all-conquering, he was the best that perhaps there ever was. Even Armstrong himself seems to understand this belatedly, with comments like “I didn’t know what I had”.

What a shame it all got ruined through a dreadful lapse in judgement. He has paid a high price. So has his sport.

THE former England cricket captain and veteran Channel Nine commentator Tony Greig has sadly died, aged 66.

Greig, who had a key role in Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket revolution and was a distinctive voice in cricket broadcasting, suffered a heart attack at his home on Saturday and was rushed to St Vincent’s Hospital.

‘‘The staff of the emergency department worked on Mr Greig to no avail,’’ a hospital spokesman said.
Greig died about 1.45pm. It is understood he was surrounded by his family.

Greig was diagnosed with lung cancer in October and did not join the Channel Nine commentary team this summer.

After an initial diagnosis of bronchitis in May,  Greig had tests in October that revealed a small lesion at the base of his right lung. He had fluid removed from the lung and tests revealed he had lung cancer.

Last month, he spoke to the Channel Nine commentary team during their coverage of the first Test between Australia and South Africa in Brisbane. He was candid about the disease, saying, ‘‘It’s not good. The truth is I’ve got lung cancer. Now it’s a case of what they can do.’’  He had an operation later that month.

Richie Benaud, the iconic former Australian captain and doyen of cricket commentary, was told of Greig’s death by the Nine chief executive, David Gyngell. Benaud then broke the news to rest of the commentary team.

Benaud paid tribute to his long-time colleague. ‘‘The main thing I found is that he was the most entertaining commentator to work with … Tony always had a slightly different angle.’’

He described Greig as a dynamic cricketer, a fearless thinker and an entertainer. ‘‘I found him a fellow full of courage, that was before he was ill. He was full of courage because of many things that had happened to him in his cricket life and his outside life as well.’’ The last time Benaud spoke to Greig he was determined to beat his illness. ‘‘He was very upbeat about it and said, ‘I’m going to knock this thing off,’ and he wasn’t able to do it. So it’s first of all a shock and then sorrow particularly for Tony but for Viv and the … kids as well.’’

 

Fellow commentator Bill Lawry said: ‘‘World cricket has lost one of its best known figures. He’ll be greatly  missed right around the world. It’s not only the fact that he was a great all-round cricketer but because he was a great personality as well.’’

Born in Queenstown, South Africa, Greig trialled for Sussex in 1965 as a teenager and set himself the goal of representing England, which he did in 58 Tests between 1972 and 1977. He qualified to play for England through Scottish parentage.

He was a key figure in recruiting international players for World Series Cricket which began in 1977, but his controversial involvement cost him his England captaincy and his Test career.

For his work and loyalty, Packer promised Greig ‘‘a job for life’’, and Greig did indeed work for the rest of his life as a commentator for Channel Nine. The network described Greig as a ‘‘beloved’’ figure.

‘‘Tony Greig is a name synonymous with Australian cricket – from his playing days as the English captain we loved to hate, to his senior role in the revolution of World Series Cricket, his infamous car-keys-in-the-pitch reports and more than three decades of colourful and expert commentary,’’ a Channel Nine statement said. Nine had ‘‘lost part of its extensive cricketing DNA’’.

‘‘It’s a deeply upsetting time for his family and for everyone associated with Tony at Nine, and indeed for many, many others who came to know and love the man.”

In the statement, Vivian Grieg said, ‘‘Our family wants to extend our gratitude for the support and condolences we have received and would ask for privacy at this very sad time.’’

Writer John Birmingham perhaps best summed up the sentiment of Grieg’s many fans on Twitter with the comment:

‘‘That’s a big chunk of my childhood trailing along behind Tony Greig as he makes that last long walk back to the pavilion. *Stands. Applauds*’’

Tony Grieg was larger-than-life, both figuratively and literally. He was chirpy, larrikin, good natured, and generous. It seems, does it not, that the best often die tragically young? Anyhow, he will be sadly missed by anyone who loved cricket, and who admired his professionalism.

He brought his cheerful determination to everything he did.

It is not generally known, for example, that he was a lifelong sufferer from epilepsy, including once collapsing during a game. A friendly media and cricket establishment managed to get the story reported as heatstroke. His achievements, in that regard, are even more remarkable.

Safe paths, big fella.

(SMH and others)

Fist

This is a deadly weapon. We need to get the message out to our youth. And you know what? “One Punch Can Kill” sounds like a good starting point to me. As does, “Walk Away, Chill Out.

From AP

How many times have we all said “You know, I could kill that bloody referee!”

Tragically, now, a Dutch linesman has actually died after being beaten by players in the aftermath of a youth match the day before.

Richard Niewenhuizen

RIchard Nieuwenhuizen set out to run the line at a kids soccer game. Now he’s dead.

Richard Nieuwenhuizen collapsed and was rushed to the hospital hours after players from Amsterdam club Nieuw Sloten punched and kicked him.

Nieuwenhuizen’s club, Buitenboys, said the 41-year-old linesman died Monday evening but did not announce the exact cause of death.

Three players, whose ages range from 15 to 16, were arrested earlier Monday for alleged involvement in the beating in the town of Almere.

It remains unclear why the players beat Nieuwenhuizen, but they certainly weren’t justified. The police haven’t ruled out making more arrests as their investigation is ongoing. Meanwhile, Nieuw Sloten have already announced that they banned the players arrested from the club and pulled their team out of the league.

Apart from this terrifying loss of control by the boys concerned, this story highlights something that we are always concerned about at Wellthisiswhatithink, namely, that as little as a single blow can kill someone. Tragic cases happen all the time, they are in the news regularly.

Typically, one teenage boy hits another, usually fuelled by alcohol, and the next thing we know one boy is dead and another is on trial for murder or manslaughter, their life ruined. Two families destroyed.

We see campaigns, constantly, persuading youth not to carry guns or knives. Well, we think we are long overdue a broad public education campaign reminding boys – whatever they see in popular media, and surely the casual violence of continual fist fights in Hollywood movies must have de-sensitised us to the use of punching – that fist fights kill, and a single blow can be all it takes.

Zero tolerance for violence. Nothing else is acceptable.

I found this site, One Punch Can Kill, from Queensland, which is a start. Well done them. But we need a wider campaign reaching youth around the world. The yield will be hundreds if not thousands of young lives saved, and a similar number saved from having their lives ruined by a moment of insanity. Surely social media – YouTube, Facebook, would be perfect to get the message out to the right audience. And it should be reinforced at the places that matter – clubs, pubs, public transport, on the streets.

You may also care to checkout the Matthew Stanley Foundation. Matthew was just 15 when he died attending a party in Queensland. 1,000 people attended his funeral.

Great advice. Simple, memorable.

Great advice. Simple, memorable.

The Matthew Stanley Foundation are responsible for the “Walk Away, Chill Out”  campaign.

Walk Away, Chill Out.

If only we could get that simple message out there so EVERY young person hears it.

Ideas, comments, help, all welcome.

Olympic athletes from America and Iran remind us what international relations should be about. People. Individual people, writ large.

And good on them.

 

I award them both the Gold Medal for Sanity

Manchester United IPO: traders wore the club’s home jersey on the trading floor – but it didn’t help United’s stock price.

(From AP)

Man United shares flat on New York debut

Soccer club Manchester United has made a disappointing debut on the New York Stock Exchange, even after opening at a discounted price, with enthusiasm for the celebrated team overshadowed by its debt load and financial track record.

Many had expected that fans of most famous soccer club in the world would snap up shares, leading to a pop in early trading, but that didn’t materialise.

Some analysts had warned that the initial public offering was overvalued, particularly since the club is debt ridden and the family that owns them, the Glazers, retained almost total voting control over the team.

“There was a lot of wing flapping, but not much flying today,” said John Fitzgibbon, the founder of IPOScoop.com on Friday.

“It’s reflective of the overall IPO market; they may hit a couple of road bumps, but the deals are getting done.”

Manchester United shares ended the day’s trading on the New York Stock Exchange at $US14, unchanged from the level they were priced at by the offer’s underwriters late on Thursday.

The stock, traded under the MANU ticker symbol, had initially been expected to be sold for between $US16 and $US20 per share.

The $US14 per share price still valued the club at $US2.3 billion ($A2.18 billion), slightly higher than the record $US2 billion paid for the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team earlier this year.

The 134-year-old soccer club expects to make $US110.3 million from its offering of 8.3 million shares. It will use $US101.7 million to pay down senior notes.

The Glazer family, which owns the team, is selling another 8.3 million shares separately.

The family’s 2005 leveraged takeover was valued at $US1.47 billion, much of it borrowed. United carried STG416.7 million ($A620 million) in debt as of March 31. It had no debt when it was bought by the Glazer family in 2005.

The Glazers are the American family that owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Malcolm Glazer is CEO of First Allied Corporation, a holding company with numerous business interests. His two sons, Avram and Joel, are co-chairmen of Manchester United.

After the stock offering, the Glazers will keep control of the team through Class B shares that have 10 times the voting power of the stock sold to the public.

Manchester United is one of the most renowned sports teams in the world. It claims 659 million followers and 26.9 million Facebook fans. Half of its fans are in Asia, where its games are televised and its replica shirts and other products are huge sellers. But analysts are more sceptical of the team, known as The Red Devils, as a financial commodity. It is not a high-growth company like a tech startup, but like some tech startups, it is heavily in debt.

Manchester United is hoping to expand its lucrative sponsorships and licensing deals. Earlier this month it announced a $US559 million, seven-year shirt sponsorship agreement with Chevrolet. But financial performance has been choppy. The team expects to report a loss for the year ended June 30, excluding a tax credit, with revenue down 3 per cent to 5 per cent.

And broadcasting and ticket revenue is largely dependent on how far the team goes in English and European cup competitions.

The IPO market has been chilled since Facebook’s disappointing debut in May.

Outback Steakhouse owner Bloomin’ Brands debuted below its expected offering price on Wednesday. On Friday, its shares slipped 63 US cents to end at $US12.86 in morning trading, still 17 per cent higher than its IPO price of $US11 per share.

One analyst said Manchester United’s flat opening is a signal that individual investors, who are typically attracted to well-known name brands on the market, are paying more attention to valuation and price.

“The bigger story confirms that individual investors felt so burned by the market – having been burned twice, by the financial crisis and then by Facebook – that they’re not willing to get burned again,” said Sam Hamadeh, CEO of PrivCo LLC, which researches privately held companies.

Personally I wouldn’t go anywhere near this stock – the Glazers have not been good for Man Yoo in my opinion. But I wish I’d had the money to buy my beloved Southampton when they went broke a few years back – now back in the Premiership and debt free. “May you live in interesting times”, says the ghost of Peter Osgood.

OK, this guy could have been called Braun, Schmidt or Schimmel.

But he wasn’t, he was called Feck. I mean, what are the odds? Taking off from the 3 metre springboard, up, twisty-twirly thingy, down, and flat on his back – splash – in front of the whole world.

It was all over YouTube, but sadly the International Olympic Committee have ordered all copies removed. Boooo! Meanies!

Just hunt, people, if you didn’t see it live, as I am sure it will turn up.

You can also see the incident here in time lapse … For some reason the video has vanished from here, too.

But all this interest does, at least, allow us one final pun.

“Feck. That hurt.”

Hypocrisy abounds at the Olympics, once more …

Sprinter Kim Collins is on his way home after the St Kitts and Nevis Olympic Federation pulled their greatest athlete out of the London Games citing disciplinary reasons. The 36-year-old, who won the 100m world title in 2003, was notable only by his absence with his lane empty as the 100m heats got underway at the Olympic stadium on Saturday.

A furious Collins said he’d been withdrawn from the Games for visiting his wife at a hotel and would never again run for his country, a small Caribbean nation, complaining he had been shown a lack of respect.

I reckon he looks one way cool dude. Actually most of them do. I must say, I really admired their ties when they were in the opening ceremony – even tweeted about it. I want a St Kitts and Nevis tie! Want!

“I could be wrong but I don’t see why it should be such a problem,” Collins said. “I would have better luck if I went out with some chick and came back and there wouldn’t be a bit of a problem. I honestly don’t see what is the big deal. I’m a grown man with kids, about to have grandkids.”

The St. Kitts and Nevis team said it “regrettably announced” that Collins, who it described as a “national hero,” was leaving the Olympics. Obviously seeking to de-focus on the “he visited his wife, oo-er missus”  side of the story, they commented:

“Mr. Collins departure is down to his repeated absences from training sessions and also for refusing to respond to repeated phone calls and emails by team manager and coaches,” it said in a statement. “Furthermore, Mr. Collins did not make an appearance for registration for his events at the Olympic Village (on Friday) as requested.”

Collins will not be hanging around in London for the 200m and sprint relay, having had the chance to race in the 100m wrenched away from him.

“I’m about to go and change my flight and go home,” Collins told a London radio station. “And see my kids who I haven’t seen for a while. For me it’s a done deal. I’ve been disrespected for too long for too many years.”

The opening ceremony flag-bearer for his country was apparently expected by his national federation not to leave the Olympic Village.

Whereas, if he had stayed, and presumably cheated on his wife, he would have been able to enjoy using as many of the 150,000 free condoms distributed to the athletes by British maker Durex as he liked – that’s 15 rubbers per athlete, so presuming they only use them with another person, that’s a lot of shagging going on, right there – not to mention the other miscellaneous makes of donated condoms floating around, (if you will forgive the mental image that rather unfortunate pun brings to mind), including the rather wonderful Boxing Kangaroo condoms donated for the Australian team, with the great slogan “For the gland downunder”.

Caroline Buchanan

So, random sex with some wired young athlete in the village so you can both get to sleep without Stillnox, no problem. Nipping to a nearby hotel for a bunk up with the missus. Scandalous, you’re out.

Snorts.

Anyhow, thanks to easy-on-the-eye Aussie BMX-er Caroline Buchanan, and her Twitter feed, we now know what the Aussie baby stoppers look like, or at least their dispenser.

Young Australians? Having sex in London? “Shurely shome mishtake?”, as Private Eye would have had it.

Roo Rubbers. Come on, admit you’re whistling a Men At Work song in your head right now.

Anyhow, Collins took to Twitter to vent steam over his sacking. In one tweet he remarked: ”Even men in prison get their wives to visit,” he tweeted. ”6 athletes and 9 officials. That ain’t enough to make some people happy. Omg.”

We hear ya, bro.

(Thanks to Yahoo and countless others)

As yet un-named filly, by Soldier’s Tale out of Great Tradition – any suggestions?

My experiences with owning horses have not been happy. I am currently “0 for 2″  in American terms, having bought a lot of oats and paid a lot of vets, but not seen either of my purchases actually get to a racecourse. But I am a sucker for a nice arse. What can I tell you? Look at those hindquarters, will you? She’ll stay for ever, I’m telling you.

Could you resist those eyes? I couldn’t.

Sire: SOLDIER’S TALE
Dam: Great Tradition
Sire of dam: Rock Of Gibraltar (Ire)*

Colour: Bay or Brown
Gender: Filly
Age: 1 year old
Foaled: 17 September 2010

(Libra – hmmm –  anyone know anything about horse astrology? She Who Must Be Obeyed is a Libran, so I must like Librans. They get on well with Geminis I am told.

According to one website:

Libra is the seventh sign of the zodiac, and is a cardinal air sign, which is ruled by the Venus. The Libra-sun horse is therefore naturally outgoing, charming and graceful. More than anything, this horse wants to be popular, and will seek to be on good terms with everyone. Your Libra-sun horse will actively go out of its way to initiate friendships. It is important to do activities together that give it a sense of companionship. In building your partnership with your Libra-sun horse, you will come to realize that it is innately indecisive, so will expect you to communicate constantly your intentions. Your Libra-sun horse will go out of its way to please you and accommodate all your demands, so it is important that you appreciate this, and treat it fairly and justly. Your Libra-sun horse will demand, in the most charming of ways that you give as much as it does. This horse’s aim is to seek balance in whatever it does. As Libra rules the kidneys and the lumbar region, the Libra-sun horse is prone to health problems in these areas. Generally this will only occur if your Libran horse’s needs for peace, harmony and fairness within the partnership are not met.

I will be on the phone to the trainer in the morning, insisting he hug the horse a lot. However, I think I am clutching at straws.)

Silks

Black, Gold Star, Checked Sleeves & Cap

Owners

Stephen Yolland and 19 other incredibly wise/foolish people – too early to say yet.

*PS Last night the footballing powerhouse that is, er, Gibraltar beat the hated Portsmuff 4-0 in a friendly. An omen, or what, huh?

PPS The horse is being trained by Luke Oliver at Caulfield through a great new horse syndication group called Grand Syndicates. They’ve got a really good deal on the go that just about anyone can afford who is in paid employment. If you’re mad enough to want to know more, email me at steveyolland@yahoo.com and I’ll tell you who to speak to.

Ricky Lambert scores last minute equaliser against Blackpool

Ricky Lambert scores a last minute equaliser against Blackpool in the 2-2 draw on 10 December 2011

I am perpetually bemused and amused by the propensity for otherwise reasonably sane people, oneself included, to become helplessly trapped in a cycle of despair and adoration for a group of sportspeople.

Currently, the football team which has been my deep love for more than thirty years – the “Pride of Hampshire”, Southampton FC, a.k.a the “Saints” – sit proudly atop the English Championship, the second tier of English soccer. If they continue to win more games than their rivals, then the end of the season will see the ultimate dream achieved, returning to the Premiership – the world’s greatest domestic football league – which they once graced for a remarkable 27 continuous years.

St Mary's Stadium

St Mary’s Stadium, home to Southampton FC, nestled in an industrial area near the famous port

Southampton’s story is that of a family club, once based around a Church football team – St Mary’s, now the name of their new stadium,and the origin of their nickname – way back in the 19th century, that has always punched way above its weight. At one point when I started supporting them (whilst at University in the ugly little south coast port city, so scarred by Nazi bombs in the 2nd world war) Manchester United used to make more from programme sales on a Saturday than Southampton made from ticket sales. The club nearly crashed out of existence altogether through financial troubles just a few short years ago, and have languished in the lower reaches of English football while they sort themselves out. These are heady days indeed.

Saints have always, with temporary diversions inflicted by misguided managers who rarely lasted long, been a club that preferred to play “total football”: football with genuine flair, football with what used to be called “Continental panache”, football to make you gasp with pleasure when it went right and cringe with pain when it went wrong. The roll call of great players who slotted comfortably into this unrealistically idealistic atmosphere almost beggars belief for a club of the size of Southampton – Bates, Gilchrist, Davies, Paine, Boyer, MacDougall, Moran, Osgood, Channon, Keegan, Wallace, Shilton.

Matt Le Tissier

Matt Le Tissier, perhaps the most talented footballer of his generation – perhaps any generation – and Southampton legend.

And, of course, the mecurially brilliant and sublime Matt Le Tissier. Or as he became universally known by Southampton supporters, “Le God”. Without question, the most gifted attacking midfielder the English game ever produced, who steadfastly refused multi-million-pound offers to move to the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United with the simple words, “I like it here”.

It was this crazy, knockabout passion that led to Saints once memorably defeating Manchester United in the prestigious FA Cup Final, despite being a division below and a light year apart in terms of raw talent. It remains the only major trophy the club has ever won.

It is Saints’ generation-on-generation preference for bold, flowing courageous football, so often resulting in the team losing games 4-3 at the death knock of the 90 minutes as the defence streamed forward, looking for a winner, that led one supporter to memorably comment, “It’s not the despair that really gets to me, it’s the hope.”

So anyhow, last night, my beloved team were on the TV live, playing a team, Blackpool, that on current form they should beat easily. And true to the deadly obsession that is sports fanaticism, a bunch of us on the other side of the world from the actual match trailed loyally into a pub in Melbourne at 11.30pm in the pouring – torrential – rain, to once again undergo the ritual sacrifice of our sanity.

All ages, shapes, sizes and sexes. Actually, what was really funny was that in the streets and in the pub we were surrounded by cheery Christmas party revellers, many of them late teen, early 20s girls dressed in their best party finery – which means mini skirts that make handkerchiefs look excessively over-manufactured and legs that never seem to stop as they reach for the sky. Yet we only had eyes for the TV and every missed pass, crunching tackle, and woodwork-rattling shot. They must have felt their efforts to impress were entirely wasted. Or perhaps we were all gay? We certainly looked peculiar, decked out in red and white team shirts, and one bizarre fellow sporting a felt jester’s hat in team colours with bells. Yes, dear reader, that was me.

Bartosz Bialkowski

Bart Bialkowski – the stand-in keeper’s mistake gifted Blackpool a vital goal

And once again, Saints put us through the emotional wringer, with a performance that ran the full gamut of the sublimely talented to the horrifyingly inept and back again. They totally dominated the opening period, and scored a good goal from the latest hero to embody Saints’ spirit, Ricky Lambert. Then they let in two goals, one a well taken effort that was probably unpreventable, and one a goalkeeping howler that will haunt the lad concerned for the rest of his career. Stand-in keeper Bart Bialkowski somehow let an otherwise harmless shot squirm under his body and through his legs to give Blackpool the lead.  Perhaps the only consolation for the lad is the mishap occurred too late to be included in the “bloopers of the year”compilation DVDs out for Christmas.

Not until the second minute of five minutes added on to the normal 90 did Saints finally score an equaliser (seen above, again from “Goal Machine” Lambert). The relief in the Sherlock Holmes Tavern was palpable. And Saints’ nearest rivals, West Ham, contrived to lose, to boot. So we were still somewhat fortuitously top of the table, still with an unbeaten home record (although the current record-breaking run of 22 homes games won came to a sticky end) leaving us tragics in the pub buoyed up and near-salivating for next Sunday’s game against arch-rivals Portsm*uth.

(I have to write Portsm*uth and not the whole name of that benighted club, because it is a long-standing tradition amongst Saints fans that we never write their club name in full, which would pay them too much respect. They are more commonly referred to as simply “Skates” or “the fish fiddlers”, in deference to the belief that fishermen in the area used to acheive sexual satisfaction by having intercourse with the wings of the Skate fish, common in the area, (a type of small ray), which was supposed to mimic a human female sex organ. The fact that those fish were then on-sold to the locality, including Southampton, may well have something to do with the persistence of the mythology and the mutual dislike. Since time immemorial, the rivalry engenders more hatred and detestation than possibly any other in English football.)

I was left, driving home in the pouring, leaden, dark night, to reflect on what it is about supporting a sports team that makes it such a consuming and culturally-independent experience. Around the world, sport of all kinds, but especially the various codes of football, captures the hearts and minds of thinking, rational people and turns them into dribbling idiots, crying or laughing into their beer, and happily hugging smelly strangers indiscriminately.

I saw it again last night, when, in response to our manic shouting at the TV, (“Ref! You total bastard! Offside!”), the entire clientele of the pub started to forget what is was they were there for originally, and pay attention to the flickering images of inch high men running backwards and forwards, beamed live through unimaginably brilliant technology from the other side of the planet. By the end of the game, and Lambert’s last-gasp equaliser, they were all on side too, cheering, asking us if they could wear our colours, asking about the team and our star players, and cheerful adopting our lifelong allegiances as their own. As one colleague bemusedly remarked to me, “Not bad, another 30 new supporters who’ve never heard of us before.”

Yes, for a few brief minutes, we were the same tribe. We were the same religion. We believed the same things. We were the same town. The same country. The same world.

We were the same family.

Damn, it felt good.

Post Scriptum

Southampton were promoted back to the Premiership in late April 2012, returning to the top flight of English football – possibly, arguably, the best league in the world – after seven years away. A week before, Portsmouth were relegated to League 1, the old “Division 3″. As one wag remarked: “Normal service has been resumed”.