Shift 1 – The chaos has begun

Training Day

So I am one of the fortunate ones – I am a volunteer for the 2017 World Para-Athletics Championships in London (and I will never tire of saying that!) Just three weeks ago, I wasn’t even a part of the event, but there was no way on earth I was ever going to turn down this kind of opportunity.

Our training day just confirmed everything I wanted and more; a volunteer family for the 10-day event, I was going to fit in just fine! The second we all walked in to the lecture hall, the buzz of excitement was deafening with everyone chatting for the very first time – some of the stories I found out were incredible. Three of them had volunteered for the Olympics in London back in 2012, two others had flown out to Rio last year, and someone else had been volunteering for the last 20 years for everything from the Moonwalk to Athletics competitions. The only thing missing was a partridge and a pear tree!

Fast forward another week and it was time to pick up our uniform and accreditations – getting out of Westfield Shopping Centre was like trying to escape the Crystal Maze; no-one made it particularly clear that to get to the stadium, going up a floor was a necessity. So by the time any of us actually made it to the pop-up centre, we’d all been running Accreditationaround like blue-ass flies to ensure we didn’t miss our timeslot, and no-one had warned us of the photo opportunity on arrival. Mine was more like a mugshot. Not impressed in the slightest. And what’s worse – officials actually have to look at that monstrosity to let me in.

The uniform is great and Asics have covered all the bases – we have everything from tops (which are a luminous pink so that people in passing planes can see us) to waterproof jackets (that will come in useful, I don’t know if London can go 10 days without some form of rainfall!) to socks and trainers, all of which we can keep after the event. But as with all new trainers, breaking them in is vitally important, so mine have been making appearances in the office, despite the strict dress code. Not entirely sure bright aqua-coloured trainers fit in with the ‘smart casual’ theme…

So that’s the background, now comes the action!

Our first day was chaotic, incredible, mind-boggling and exciting, and that’s before any of the racing actually began! We have a great team of Lane Markers and Starting Blocks people, but I’m not at my best first thing in the morning; waking up at 4am to drive up from Southampton to get to the stadium for 8am is usually unacceptable for me, especially on a Saturday morning, but for this, I’ll make an exception to the rule. I did have to apologise to my team though for my less than sunny demeanour. I liken myself to Garfield in the mornings…

Starting blocks There’s so many different things to remember before and after each race, and manoeuvring the starting blocks can be a little tricky – turns out, they are a lot heavier than they look on TV – but we’re all hoping it gets a little easier as the shifts go on. On the plus side, our Team Leaders are great and are teaching us as much as possible to make it look seamless. They’ve done this countless many times and know exactly what the officials want us to do, so we are effectively sheep – we’ll follow them and go wherever we’re told for now!

The team dynamic is fantastic and everyone has some incredible stories to tell. I’m one of the babies of the group at 22, so my life experiences are a little mute compared to some of the seasoned veterans of volunteer work, but I can guarantee I’ll learn a ton just by being around these incredible people from around the country and further afield. But it’s one of those situations where even if you have never met them before, they are still willing to help.

Me and DeniseI am more than happy to admit my sense of direction is atrocious – I may have also mentioned that in my interview for this role which probably wasn’t my greatest move – so getting to the stadium and then the right bridge for check-in could have been problematic, but I found another person in a pink shirt and got chatting away. Turns out, she’s been working behind the scenes at the Olympic Park for the last three months and walked with me to where I needed to be, stopping off and showing me all the landmarks on the way. The generosity of the volunteers is incredible, and so far, I still have my bearings!

WhatsApp LogoWe’ve even set up a WhatsApp group for our team so we can share memories and photos throughout the event and stay in contact afterwards. So far there’s only about 8 of us in it, but I’m sure as the days go on, it will grow stronger, and so will the bond between us all. I’ve only met around 20-25 of us from shift one, but there are plenty of others to meet and grill them about their lives. After all, I’m a journalist and therefore a nosy bugger!

Can’t wait to get started for shift 2 now, roll on the morning!

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Stage set for Simm’s comeback

SOUTHAMPTON’S Kelly Simm may have been out of action since November last year, but she plans to come back with a bang at the British Championships this weekend in Liverpool.

Kelly Simm - credits to Team Solent

Simm back in competition mode – Photo credits to Team Solent

An injury after securing a World Team Bronze medal at the end of 2016 hampered the start of her Olympic season, and despite only just finishing her rehabilitation programme, she feels the pressure is off for this competition.

“There is pressure with any competition, no matter what the size, but it terms of getting results, I don’t feel there is much pressure on me this time round.

“This competition gives me a chance to push on the rest of the season. Me and my coaches are just so happy to be here and it’s a chance to get used to competing in a big arena again.”

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Simm commentated for the BBC in Glasgow, working alongside Matt Baker (pictured)

Simm admits that the preparation leading up to Saturday’s event has been stressful, and having to withdraw from the World Cup event in Glasgow last month was a difficult decision, but the extra time has been beneficial to her recovery: “It has been tough to get things together for this weekend.

“(By not competing in Glasgow), it has allowed me to have the time to finish my rehabilitation plan properly before building my skills back up again. It will be good to be able to push on after this and get back in the gym.”

The 20-year-old expresses her joy being back at the Echo Arena and how lucky she feels to even be competing: “It’s always nice to compete in Liverpool. The British is always such a special competition and the crowd in the arena create an amazing atmosphere for us all!

Despite not performing her hardest elements this weekend, Simm knows there is more to come from this Olympic season: “It’s my first competition of the year due to the setback, and because of injury, I’m not doing all my difficulty.

IMG_1011“I’m just happy I am able to compete on all four pieces, but I’m excited to get back in the gym next week and work on getting the bigger skills together and consolidate them.”

The World University Champion is no stranger to competition at the highest level, helping the GB squad earn a full women’s team in Rio later this year, and is relishing returning to action with the best Britain has to offer.

“Everyone is looking really good at the start of this year and it depends completely on what happens on the day. Gymnastics is so hard to predict!”

And she is right – the women’s event has been blown wide open in the last few months, and with places in Rio up for grabs, this competition could be their defining moment. The Team GB coaches have some difficult decisions to make in the next couple of months.

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Tinkler receiving her all-around trophy in the Team event

16-year-old Amy Tinkler (South Durham) will be looking to retain her all-around British title from 2015 and was the stand-out performer in the British Team event last month in Glasgow, bagging the overall crown, as well as two other trophies for highest scores to add to her growing collection.

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Fragapane mastering a sheet jump on the beam

Meanwhile, 4ft 5in tumbling powerhouse Claudia Fragapane from Bristol Hawks, will mount a very tough challenge to keep her place for Rio. Frags, known for her energetic and innovative dance, already has four gold commonwealth medals to her name from 2014, and could easily increase her tally this weekend.

The likes of Liverpool’s Rebecca Tunney and Ruby Harrold from The Academy have bundles of experience on the GB team after coming through the junior ranks, and their spot on the plane to Rio is far from secure. Tomorrow’s event could catapult them into the coaches’ minds once more.

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Rebecca Downie surprised after finishing a clean routine!

And then we also have double trouble in the Downie sisters. Older sibling, Rebecca, is more of a bars and beam specialist in the last few years and showcased her new routines in Glasgow last month, but could push to go for the all-around title to ensure her trip to Brazil.

Whereas, baby sister Elissa is rapidly climbing through the junior ranks and broke into the senior squad at the end of last year, remaining overwhelmingly consistent across all apparatus and has a genuine chance of the overall title on Saturday, as well as a GB spot.

Finally, Southampton Solent student, Kelly, may be coming back from injury, but the selectors certainly can’t rule her out of the Olympics this summer, with world university titles under her belt.

The women’s event is too close to call, and sparks could fly once more with the British elite fighting to become national champion.

GB’s Max Cater just misses out on top spot in Poland

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Cater with GB Performance Coach Harry No.

GREAT Britain Tae Kwon Do star, Max Cater, has added to his impressive medal tally in the men’s under 54kg category, taking a silver from the Polish Open over the bank holiday weekend.

The 17-year-old, who lived in Holbury before moving to the country’s Tae Kwon Do base in Manchester, was seeded 2nd in the event, but lost in the final to pre-tournament favourite, Jesus Tortosa Cabrera from Spain.

It was a fairly straightforward bout in Cater’s opening match against the Dutch athlete, Vincent Godel, and won the match 17-5 to swiftly progress into the semi-finals.

The 2014 men’s Commonwealth champion then faced Belarus’ Illia Kukshyntsau for a place in the final. It was to be a tougher match, but Max won in style, comfortably beating him 21-8 to set up a mouth-watering dual between the top two seeds.

The Spaniard was going into the final as favourite and was a very close encounter which was to be expected, but pipped Max to win the title 20-14.

This silver caps off an outstanding year for Max, after tournament wins in Bosnia and Switzerland earlier this year as well as podium finishes in Australia and Turkey.

Southampton’s Max Cater bids for Taekwondo gold in first European Games

MAX Cater has been called up to the Great Britain Taekwondo squad for the first European Games aged just 17.

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Cater picking up his Gold Medal at the Swiss Open in March

The games held in Baku, Azerbaijan, will be a big test for New-Forest-based Cater, and a step up in character for the under 54 kilogram fighter, however, he has held his own against international opponents in recent years.

Not only has he won titles in the Swiss Open and Bosnian Open already this year, but is also the reigning Commonwealth gold medallist from 2014, proving that his place in Team GB is well deserved, and his move to Manchester to train with Great Britain’s elite has paid off.

The seven-strong team of athletes competing travelling to Baku also have the opportunity to gain valuable points at this event and challenge for Olympic qualification; a dream that Cater has been working towards from the age of five.

“My inspiration for Baku is to go out and perform my very best, hopefully bringing back a gold medal.

Jordon sparring with black belt teacher, Fallon

Jordon sparring with black belt teacher, Fallon

“It’s the first major event for me, and is a great achievement to be picked at 17. But I’m always looking to improve for Rio next year.”

However, Cater isn’t the only Southampton-based interest; Jordon James, who has been scouted by the Panther Taekwondo academy, competed for the first time on Sunday taking home bronze, and is tipped to be a star for the future.

James showing her strength against a black belt in warm up

James showing her strength against a black belt in warm up

James came third in her first competitive bout after only eight weeks of training in the sport, but believes her background in cheerleading and dance has helped her to adapt to the martial art.

“It’s not been hard to make the transition, because a lot of it comes from flexibility that I got from dance, but it is much more disciplined.”

For extended interviews with James’ coach, dad and herself, click the link below:

By Talia Jones

@TaliaSofia16 @SouthCoastSN

Is now the time to be changing the face of Formula One?

imagesQR4ZK13OAfter recent Formula One races, everything has been called into question about the integrity of the sport – from the infinite lack of safety features (due to Jules Bianchi’s horrific crash in Japan) to the financial situation of the lower ranked teams.

Caterham and Marussia have fallen by the wayside in recent seasons, causing them to plummet into administration, despite Bianchi’s heroics in Monaco, handing the Marussia team with their first ever points in the sport.

images20DMV7R7This year’s racing appears to the fans as a transition season; new regulations have been put in place left, right and centre, leaving the action more exciting, but some of the fans less enchanted.

So is this really the time to start discussing the possibility of three-car teams? Most of the die-hard F1 supporters are still trying to get to grips with the new double-points system for the final race in Abu Dhabi. Something that championship leader Lewis Hamilton disagrees with.

“It sucks,” were Hamilton’s exact words, considering his title challenge could be wiped out with one poor race, gifting the championship to his biggest rival and teammate, Nico Rosberg.

Whilst both Mercedes drivers are sitting pretty at the top with the Constructor’s championship and every other accolade already bagged for the season, the future seems much bleaker for the teams who won’t be participating in this weekend’s American Grand Prix.

imagesLFG09J5SThe race in Austin, Texas, has been utterly overshadowed by the Caterham and Marussia teams who will be absent. However, this could be an unfortunate sign of things to come if the three-car teams structure is approved by the FIA.

If these two constructors are struggling to compete on race days and keep up to date with the tax man, it is near impossible for them to form a team of three drivers on an even lower income.

Formula One wouldn’t be the global sport it is today without smaller constructors coming through the ranks. They have made it to the grid on merit, so they should be given a fighting chance to stay there.

One main example is Toro Rosso – Whilst they may be the sister team to the Red Bull garage, money (or a lack thereof) has always been a main concern; they have found a way to make it work, though, and with top-class talent consistently being brought through the ranks, the team should be safe in future seasons.

imagesRPE3GUUHBut the FIA look as though their sole priority are the biggest teams and giving them more opportunity to increase their finances, rather than helping the lesser-known teams cope with the overwhelming demands of the sport.

So many drivers, including heavyweight of Formula One Jenson Button, are decidedly against this new idea, due to losing too many teams who can’t afford it, even if it means he keeps a driver’s seat for the 2015 start in Australia.

Surely if drivers are willing to risk their seat in favour of keeping the system the same, the FIA should be taking them seriously. These are people with a love for the sport, not out to destroy its integrity.

After all the new regulations, they have to give the teams time to adjust to them, not create more and send F1 into disarray.

Are American sports taking over the world?

Wizard of OzAs Dorothy once said; “There’s no place like home’ but Kansas’ fairytale story hints that baseball is looking to fly off in the Wizard of Oz’s balloon.

From clothing to the music industry to programmes, American culture is increasingly overtaking the rest of the globe and raking in the money. Now their sporting franchises are dominating the back pages and fast becoming the superior power.

In recent years, England has played host to major events such as the Superbowl for American Football and NBA basketball matches.

Manchester City are keen to tap into this with a tie-up with perhaps the world’s most famous sporting franchise – the New York Yankees.

images (10)The latest financial ploy is to bring Baseball to the masses. But is it because the British have a love for the sport, or is it all about generating vast amounts of money for one of the biggest global brands?

It isn’t as if their financial situation is dire; the average ticket price just for one game is £341, and they will easily be able to sell out every stadium throughout the seven games in the World Series between Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants.

Admittedly, Kansas’ fairytale story has not been without issues, coming through one of the longest playoff droughts in history to make it to the World Series finals.

After 28 years of near misses and failed attempts, their wishes have finally been granted. Through hard work and dedication though, not by clicking their red heels together.

But the MLB season started a long time ago in a land far, far away from Sunflower state. In fact, seven months ago, 8.839 miles and a 20 hour journey away in Sydney, Australia.

untitled (10)It’s not just the players that have been acting like the Globetrotters; the brands from the American leagues have been jetsetting across continents and taking the world by storm.

Products such as baseball caps and shirts have now become a part of mainstream society, and are now the fashion for men and women, whether they enjoy (or even know) the sport at all.

However, it is hard to distinguish whether branding is detracting from the action at the plate, or if the publicity is building the framework for future seasons.

Either way, there is no such thing as bad publicity, and the more logos are shared, the more we’ll be talking about American sports. But maybe Toto will be Kansas’ mascot in years to come.

The King of clay marches onto the final

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Rafael Nadal dispatched of former World number 2, Andy Murray, to face the current number 2, Novak Djokovic, in an enthralling French Open final on Sunday.

The Spanish star comfortably won in a 6 – 3, 6- 2, 6 – 1 straight sets victory over the two time Grand Slam champion, proving his utter dominance in Paris.

The win takes him to an unprecedented 64th victory in 65 matches at Roland Garros; a record spanning back to 2005. His sole loss came at the hands of Robin Soderling five years ago.

Murray staked his attacking claim with the opening point of the match, as a sizzling forehand winner down the line stunned Nadal into submission. But it didn’t take long for the eight-time French Open winner to return to business as usual, taking the crucial first game.

The Briton’s first service game was relatively shaky, after a double fault and two unforced errors gifted Nadal an instant break in the first set, before consolidating it, taking a 3 – 0 lead.

By this point, you couldn’t help but feel the Scotsman could be in for a not-so-long, but painful afternoon…

World number one, Nadal, had won all five previous meetings against Murray on clay, and it was becoming clear that there could be a similar outcome in this match, as the Spaniard raced to a 6 – 3 lead. Advantage Rafa.

Whoever decided it would be a good idea for a pasty Scottish man to wear an illuminous yellow shirt in searing heat does have to question their fashion sense, but Murray’s first love service game came at the beginning of the second set. Maybe it was a lucky colour for him, however unfortunate that may be for our eyes.

Camera-gate was fast becoming a problem in Murray’s service games in set two, and even discussed the issue with chair umpire, Damien Dumusois, after Nadal broke his serve for the second time in as many sets.

Despite playing two five-set matches on the way to the semis (against Phillipp Kohlschreiber and French favourite, Gael Monfils) the British number one didn’t appear to be flagging in energy as he aimed to become the first Brit to reach the Roland Garros final in the open era.

The changeable blustery conditions were beginning to wreak havoc in the French capital, as the Spanish favourite pounced on the first of two break points, extending his advantage to 5 – 2 and a chance to serve for the second set. He took it comfortably. Suddenly, the prospect of a shock victory for Murray was fading further into the distance.

The outstanding statistic for Nadal and the secret behind his success for the second set, was winning every point on his first serve. The Scotsman is arguably the best returner in the game, but it was obvious nothing was going to deprive Spain’s class act of his ninth final in ten years.

Unforced errors continued to decimate Murray’s game, with the net proving to be his nemesis in the third set. Another two breaks on the Murray serve all but ended the match, however, the lack of pressure on the Brit gave him an impetus to show the 15,000 strong crowd glimpses of what he could do before his back surgery in September 2013.

The final straw and match point came from a forehand smash, and although the game may have been 1 hour and 40 minutes of unadulterated pain for Murray, there was nothing more he could have done against the seemingly invincible Spaniard. He can walk away from Paris with his head held high and marching on towards Wimbledon in two weeks’ time, hoping to reclaim his title as champion.

As for Nadal, the final awaits him and is a repeat of last year’s title line up. Djokovic v Nadal, who do you place a bet on…?

1948 and 2012 London Olympics – much the same and yet so different

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London is the only host nation in the world to have staged the Olympic Games on more than two occasions, in 1908, 1948 and most recently in 2012. This surpasses the home of the Olympics (Athens) after the inaugural event took place in 1896. However, whilst there may be many integral parts that remain the same over more than a century, other worldwide issues have been resolved and adapted over the years.

 

Financial gains and losses have always been perceived as a contentious subject when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) make their decision on the host nation of the biggest global event every four years. The economic climate was a huge challenge in both 1948 and 2012, but for entirely different reasons. The Austerity Games (as they were known in 1948) was an unprecedented success, despite Britain and the IOC doubting their ability to create such a prolific event in such a small timeframe.

The games were announced in August 1945, to be held just three years after World War Two (WW2), and a chance to unite countries. Britain’s major problem was that because of the war, the country was bankrupt and had no way of supporting the athletes and creating new infrastructures to compete in. The IOC used Empire Stadium rent-free and had the services of the permanent members of staff to cut down on costs.

However, in 1947, concerns were brought up as London’s financial difficulties made holding the games seemingly impossible; but it was too late to withdraw the bid, leaving the question as to whether the use of vital materials (such as steel and coal) could be justified for an event that wasn’t essential -sport was seen as a frivolous event, not the competitive nature it holds now. – London’s saviour was that the games brought in £1 million to balance the books of the country’s debts.

Whereas, 2012 had the double-dip recession to contend with. Just months before the Olympics were due to be held, figures were released in newspapers, proving that Britain’s economy was the slowest to recover in more than 100 years, making it worse than the Great Depression in the 1930’s. This left questions on whether the British economy was financially stable enough to hold the games, drawing similarities with 1948, but in different circumstances.

The final cost of staging the biggest global event in London was £9.3 billion in total, however, unlike 1948, the IOC had to build the Olympic Park, Stadium and venues for competitors and their coaches. Whereas, the Austerity games utilized what already existed from before the war; the 26 year old Empire Stadium at Wembley. This created a myriad of issues though.

For instance, the stadium didn’t belong to a governing body, so it had to be leased out to the British Olympic Committee for the duration of the games. Accomodation for the athletes, coaches and spectators was another contentious problem. Schools local to the area became home for three weeks for some competitors, RAF bases were also offered to people needing somewhere to stay, and families who lived close to Wembley offered to take athletes from other countries into their homes, providing shelter to people who may not have spoken the same language. The volunteers were crucial in getting the 1948 Olympics to go ahead without a hitch, whether it may be the people offering their homes, to the stewards chaperoning the events.

The same can also be said in 2012, as the London Organising Committee received over 240,000 applicants willing to donate their time for the worthy, once in a lifetime cause. More than 70,000 volunteers (games makers) helped to make the games run so smoothly, and in both 1948 and 2012, the volunteers are one of the main reasons as to why the events were so successful.

 

Political stances between the two Olympics couldn’t have differed more. The Attlee government in 1948 didn’t see the games, or sport in general, as a necessity and therefore, not high on their list of priorities after the war. For example, at the time, a Sports Minister didn’t exist in government and hence, the Labour Prime Minister (PM) left all of the organising to the IOC. Attlee did support the idea of the games to reconnect the community and attempted to provide some form of funding, however his view was to rebuild the economy and promote financial security to the majority of homes.

Whilst sports policies weren’t in place, the Butler Education Act (1944) did attempt to get more children involved in sport, and made it a legal responsibility to provide sporting facilities in secondary schools. This vital scheme may not have changed the outcome of the 1948 games, although it had a definitive impact for the 2012 Olympics, as the younger generation were introduced to sports and the necessity for physical activity.

In comparison, both Blair’s Labour (who were in charge over the bidding process of 2012) and Cameron’s Conservative government were completely behind the Olympic movement. The National Lottery funding scheme was set up in 1990 to supply equipment, sponsorship and money to the athletes who showed the greatest promise in their respective sporting events. Overall, 1200 British Olympians and Paralympians were funded by the government’s scheme and more than £2.2 billion was awarded to the athletes to threaten for the medals.

Furthermore, the government were instrumental in bringing the Olympics to London for 2012. Tony Blair travelled to Singapore in 2005 to prove the government’s backing to the Olympic selecting committee – something that had never previously been done by a British PM, and certainly a feat not seen in 1948. London won the bid to stage the games over four other competing cities in the most recent Olympics, however, the games were thrust upon Britain in 1948 as no other country was in a position to play host.

The Royal family also played a key role in both Olympics; King George VI announced at the opening ceremony that the games were officially beginning in front of over 80,000 spectators. In contrast, the members of the Royal family were much more proactive in the 2012 games, both before and during the event. Prince William travelled to Singapore with the PM to gain exposure for London’s bid, as well as providing the royals’ unwavering support for the cause.

In addition to this, Zara Phillips – the Queen’s granddaughter – competed in the equestrian event, winning silver in the team event and becoming the first person in the royal family to own an Olympic medal. To make the occasion even more special, Princess Anne, who competed in the 1984 Olympics, awarded the silver to her daughter at Greenwich Park, and created a lasting royal legacy that could continue for generations to come.

However, all the heightened public speculation on the Royal family and the pressure of hosting a major global event meant that in both cases, the media’s coverage of the games put a spotlight on London and Britain as a whole. The BBC was the only form of televised viewing in 1948, and paid 1000 guineas for the privilege, but other corporations across the globe could buy television rights to show specific events.

At the time, all television programmes had been suspended because of WW2, so the Olympics was the breakthrough in sports broadcasting, although there were many problems with this, mainly accessibility. Not all households owned a television in 1948, as they were a new invention that wealthy families could afford, excluding the majority of Britain. Therefore, BBC also integrated radio into their broadcasts of the Olympics. During the war, radio was every home’s form of communication, hence how the nation were aware of the successes of the games.

Comparatively, 2012 saw the rising of a new digital media age. Despite the BBC vying for few sporting events due to a lack of finances, they still ensured the rights to the Olympics, and had sole propriety of coverage in Britain. While radio isn’t used as frequently as it was in 1948, BBC Radio 5Live was still used as an integral part of their coverage. Meanwhile, the use of the internet has rocketed into the biggest digital power. The most recent London Olympics was the first time internet broadcasting had a contract separate from television, proving how much the world has progressed in technology and how we watch sport in the modern era.

The director of the IOC TV and marketing services, Timo Lumme, explained in 2010: “We’ve witnessed the rapid growth of digital media. In fact, we now have the same amount of hours covered globally on the internet and mobile phones as we have on TV.” In order to appeal to the masses, the IOC had to react to the public wanting sport on the go, and demonstrates the cultural shift from the whole family listening into the radio in 1948, to watching the Olympics on tablets, phones and other devices in multi-locations.

 

Society has adapted and changed how we consume sport too. There are few similarities between the two games in relation to how the athletes conducted themselves, both when competing and in training, posing the obvious question; Amateurism versus professionalism? In 1948, the athletes who competed in the games also had a working life (whether it be raising a family, or being the breadwinner of the household.)

In stark contrast, athletes competing in 2012 are perceived as seasoned professionals in their respective fields, who solely focus on training every day, and competing at the highest level in worldwide meetings. For example, Mo Farah was so dedicated to his bid of winning double gold in the Olympic stadium, he moved his whole family to Oregon, America, to concentrate on his training programme.

One key aspect that links amateurism and professionalism within the Olympics is that in either games in London, no athletes taking part were paid for their triumphs. However, Boxing is the only Olympic sport which still follows the ‘amateur’ lifestyle; anyone who competes in the sport is strictly prohibited to anyone who has had a professional career, showing that the essence of the Olympics still stands. Instances are Luke Campbell and Nicola Adams, who made their Olympic début in 2012, going on to win gold medals, and have now both stepped up to the professional game.

 

Whilst staging the games may have been seen as the priority, the media coverage of certain athletes also produced expectation and pressure on the ‘Poster Girls’ of both Olympics. The Dutch track and field specialist, Fanny Bankers-Koen went into the 1948 games as World Champion in no less than seven athletics disciplines, and was perceived as the star before the Olympics began. Nicknamed the ‘Dutch Flying Housewife’, she managed to juggle being a mother of two children, as well as a quadruple Olympic champion from the London games.

Despite the four gold medals she returned home with, she withdrew from the long jump competition to concentrate on the hurdles. The Dutch government presented her with a bicycle so, in their words, “You won’t have to run so much.” This could have been the moment where attitudes towards women were addressed as in the space of three years, women were involved in a world war and now creating heroic performances in front of millions.

Similarly, Jessica Ennis was Britain’s shining beacon of light, also coming from a background in track and field. The heptathlete’s face was plastered on posters across the city, showing how many of us were behind Ennis in her quest for gold. This clearly states how Britain have taken massive strides on the global stage and how the public expect greatness from our athletes. Using women as the face of the Olympics also shows how much has changed in the space of 64 years on terms of equality.

For instance, women presenters are starting to gain more coverage on mainstream, primetime television. No women were involved in front of the cameras for the BBC in 1948, whereas, the likes of Clare Balding, Hazel Irvine, Sue Barker and Denise Lewis were amongst many others commentating alongside men on the BBC alone, not including other female presenters from other television stations and programmes covering the Olympics.

Moreover, Olympic participation in women’s events has significantly increased since the Austerity games. Only 390 women participated in the earlier games out of 4,104 athletes. Meanwhile, the split was much more equal in 2012 (4,569 women/10,383 athletes.) Statistics like these reinforce the government’s scheme to get more females involved in sport as a whole, from grassroots to Olympic level.

It is not just women who are making significant breakthroughs in the fight for equality; people with various disabilities were able to gain media coverage and make it more acceptable in society to be handi-capable. The Paralympics were introduced in 1960, 12 years after the London games and have steadily been making progress in getting the deserved recognition. But 2012 produced the biggest, and most accessible, paralympics in history.

The event during September was as successful as the Olympics just two weeks previous, but Oscar Pistorius managed to blur the lines between able-bodied and disabled athletes, becoming the first person in history to compete in both global events. The South African ‘Bladerunner’ is a double leg amputee but achieved the standard time to race in the 400 metres and the relay for the Olympic team.

Coverage for the Paralympics had never been so widely accepted either, and programmes such as The Last Leg on Channel 4 (who had television rights) only aided and adapted people’s stances on disabilities – if these games were attempted in 1948, there would have been hushed, reverent tones of how the disabled shouldn’t receive any publicity whatsoever. People would condemn Britain for including them, proving how equality has shifted in just 64 years.

 

Success has always been measured in medals when relating to the Olympics, and as the government took more notice in sports, Britain’s rise up the medal table was also evident as a direct correlation. The 1948 Olympics saw just three gold medals in the entire competition for the host nation, claiming the top step on the podium for two of the rowing races and one sailing regatta. In addition to this, only 59 countries participated on the worldwide stage, despite only Italy, Germany and Japan being banned from the games.

Because of the government’s backing for professional sport in 2012, (and that the athletes were seen as role models for the younger generations) more time and effort had been put into the British athletes, and the success was unbounded. 29 gold medals and 65 in total for the host nation justifies the government’s ploy to get more people involved in sport as a whole, and proves that dedication and finances have a direct link with the amount of success a team achieves.

Moreover, the strength of the competition worldwide was unprecedented, as 204 nations participated in the most recent games; the highest on record. Not only does this show the scale of the British successes, it also exposes how accessibility has been improved. More countries are able to take part in the biggest global event, and have athletes from their respective nations able to get the funding to travel across the world, as well as be physically adept to be genuine competition.

 

In conclusion, both Olympic Games held in London were looking to the future as part of their long-lasting success, however, they differentiate in what their legacy was to maintain. The 1948 games’ aim was to reconstruct relations between all countries involved, acting as a form of the United Nations playing international peacemaker. Whereas 2012’s bid was heavily based on sustaining the legacy created in the six-week period where all eyes focussed on the city.

They had planned for the future – football team, West Ham, will move their home fixtures to the Olympic Stadium, but still maintain the athletics track, as well as hosting other world sporting events in the remaining infrastructures built for the games. Similarly, inspiring a generation was vital to their winning bid. However, the long-term concern is that what makes the Olympics unique may be eroded over time if financial and commercial interests are prioritised over the sports themselves, which realistically means only a handful of cities will be able to host the global event in future years.

 

 

Southern Sirens smash it in Paris!

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New Forest-based Cheerleading squad, Southern Sirens, defied setbacks galore to return home as international champions, with 16 European trophies to their name.

Overcoming everything from a missing passport to endless hospital visits due to illness and injury, the squad coped brilliantly under immense pressure, changing patterns and the routines up to 15 minutes before performing.

The Future Cheer event in the French capital was the squad’s first international competition, and placed in the top three in all but one of their 17 routines, despite only having 16 cheerleaders taking part.

Months of hard work and determination came down to single performances on the day, with a range of individual and group routines. The Hampshire team rose to the occasion, winning seven of the categories, including both senior dance routines.

Roxanne Edmonds, Head Coach of the Sirens, said: “Despite the unfortunate setbacks, we have performed amazingly, and the results show it. I’m very proud of the squad and how they were able to adapt to changes so quickly, as well as produce outstanding routines.”

A mixture of gymnastic tumbles, jumps, stunts (or throwing people in the air) and choreography are the key components to a successful routine, but the execution of these moves are what distinguishes the elite teams.

Sirens’ fiercest opponents came from Carshalton Crystals, based on the outskirts of London, and also travelled the English Channel to compete in Paris. However, the local team outwitted their rivals, beating them in most of the categories.

Southern Sirens’ next challenge is in three weeks’ time in Telford, as they take on the UK’s best at the National Championships; with a bid to earn their place on the world stage in their sights, they will be fighting for the title of ‘champions’ even more.

If you would like to get involved in Cheerleading, email roxanneis@hotmail.co.uk for more details. Classes are open from the age of four up to open seniors (anyone over the age of 18) All are welcome.

ICC Champions Trophy 2013 – England v India

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England lost by five runs in the ICC Champions Trophy final to India, after hitting the self-destruct button. India set them a target of 130 at Edgbaston, but collapsed with 20 runs to go.

Despite a gallant effort from Ravi Bopara, England’s batting order slumped to 124-8, after captain Alistair Cook chose to bowl first in the weather-affected match.

Bopara’s heroics with the bat and the ball were evident after bowling three of the Indian team out, and went on to score 30 from just 25 balls. However, England’s run chase faltered once he left the crease.

The game was a thrilling encounter, with both sides proving in the reduced overs match, but Ravichandran Ashwin’s match-winning performance with the ball sealed the title.

India bowled first, five hours behind schedule, and produced a steady performance, only losing two wickets for 50 runs. But up stepped Bopara, who reduced the champions to a measly 66-5.

Virat Kohli’s batting game was on top form, as he scored 43 runs off only 34 balls, including two sixes, and guided his Indian team to a total of 129-7; A respectable score, but not out of reach.

Although Bopara disposed of three key wickets, Tim Bresnan – who was the only new edition to the side – was slightly more ineffective, conceding 34 runs without a wicket.

England’s start was more action-packed, with Cook’s shot falling into the hands of Ashwin with only three runs on the board.

The nerves were starting to affect England’s play, as Indian captain, MS Dhoni, stumped both Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott. Enter Bopara and Eoin Morgan.

Their impressive 63-wicket stand left England in the driving seat, and showing that India would have to work to be crowned champions. Morgan’s score of 33 off 30 balls helped their run chase dramatically.

But these two key batters were bowled by Ishant Sharma and caught by Ashwin; this effectively ended England’s chances as the rest of the order crumbled under the pressure.

Four quick wickets for three runs demoralised the Three Lions, as the team fell from 110-5 to 113-8. The confidence they started with was now running on empty.

England needed 19 runs from the final over, and despite a brave performance from Stuart Broad, who scored a four, they finished five runs away from victory.

The Three Lions now need to dust themselves off and start again, knowing that they were 20 runs away from the trophy with six wickets in hand. Time to use that as a confidence builder.