Sunday, 29 July 2012

The true Olympic spirit; or Britons find their underdog

Over on the excellent BBC Olympics website, the most watched video is entitled: 'Plucky rower wins hearts of home fans'. If you click on it, you see a rower out on his own. For one second, I thought that perhaps he was winning by a distance, which is why one can see no other boats. In fact, he was losing by a mile. The crowd, who this morning were whooping and cheering for the British men's and women's pairs, who won their heats, were now roaring for a brave loser, from a distant country with which few of them will have had any connection.

Hamadou Djibo Issaka, from Niger, apparently only took up rowing three months ago. He looked so tired that it would not have been a surprise if he had stopped short of the finishing line, but the happy British crowd, who love nothing more in the world than an underdog, had found their new hero, and almost lifted him over the line with their yells of support.

It's lovely to see the champions excel. It's especially lovely if one of them is from your home country. But this little moment was a delightful example of chauvinism literally stopping at the water's edge. Britons adore an underdog, but what they love even more is a trier, and this fellow was trying his heart out, against all the odds. When all the medals are counted, and the world records smashed, and the triumphant pack up their golds and go home, I bet you any money that one of the people who shall be most remembered from these games is the rower from Niger, for whom that most British of adjectives, plucky, could have been invented.

You can watch him here:

I can't guarantee much in life, but I guarantee that it will bring a tear to your eye.

Photograph by Darren Whiteside for Reuters.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Team GB: equestrian

For those of you who are getting excited, as I am, about the Olympic three-day-event, Will Connell of the equestrian team is, rather amazingly, taking the time and trouble to write a blog. Considering the pressures that must be on him as he works with the riders, and the amount of work that it takes to get horses to their crest and peak for a competition of this nature, I think that really is something to be applauded. It's very well written, and gives a candid and fascinating insight to what is happening behind the scenes at Greenwich. If you want to cheer on the British riders, you can leave a comment of support.

You can find it here:

Here is William Fox-Pitt on the absolutely glorious, and wonderfully named Lionheart, who will be going for gold, starting tomorrow:

Photograph uncredited, from the official Team GB website.

Best of British to the entire squad: William Fox-Pitt and Lionheart, Mary King and Imperial Cavalier, Tina Cook and Miners Frolic, Nicola Wilson and Opposition Buzz, and Zara Phillips and High Kingdom. And do not forget the people behind the scenes who make it all possible: the grooms, vets, farriers, coaches, and the families too.

You can find details of the full competition, which starts with dressage over the weekend, goes to cross-country on Monday, and finishes with the show jumping on Tuesday, here:

Thursday, 26 July 2012

A riveting insight into American politics

So sorry I have been neglecting this little blog. I return with a blast. Even if you know nothing of American politics, this episode of the Rachel Maddow show, guest hosted by Ezra Klein, is is fascinating on a pure human level. Plus it has excellent graphs. And two of the loveliest experts I've seen in a long time.

Sixteen minutes of pure fascination:

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