Monday, August 06, 2012

Run!

Yer actual Richard E Grant has only been and gone and gotten himself cast in Doctor Who, hasn't he? The news was announced by the BBC via the popular long-running family SF drama's official Twitter feed at midnight on Sunday, after it had tweeted earlier that an 'iconic star' was to feature in the show. And, Richard is certainly that. Grant will reportedly play the villain in the 2012 Christmas special, alongside Silent Witness actor Tom Ward, according to the Sun. While specific details of the Withnail & I actor's role have not yet been confirmed, Grant has previously appeared within the Doctor Who universe as the voice of the Ninth Doctor in the flash-animated series Scream of the Shalka, which featured on the show's website in 2003 and was also one of a number of actors who played alternative future regenerations of The Doctor in The Curse of Fatal Death sketch, part of 1999's Comic Relief night. The special, written by current Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat, also featured Rowan Atkinson, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant and Joanna Lumley as various incarnations of The Doctor, with Jonathan Pryce playing his arch-nemesis, The Master. One of the great actors of his generation, it'll be fascinating to see what Richard can bring to show, proper. Doctor Who will, of course, return with its seventh series opener Asylum of the Daleks in August.

And, speaking of Tom Ward, it's also been announced that he is to leave Silent Witness. His character, Harry, will depart the forensic crime drama following final two-parter And Then I Fell in Love, the BBC has confirmed. 'Silent Witness owes a great debt to the talented Tom Ward who has given us our beloved Harry with wit, style and passion for ten seasons,' said BBC Drama's Kate Harwood. 'We'll miss him so much and wish him all the best.' The sixteenth series of Silent Witness - due to be broadcast in early 2013 - will introduce two new series regulars, with David Caves and Liz Carr joining the show. Caves will play 'forensic scientist and part-time cage fighter' Jack Hodgson, with writer Tim Prager promising that the character will deliver 'a shot of testosterone' to the long-running thriller. 'He is intuitive rather than academic,' Prager explained. 'His volatility adds something different to the other characters, who are more cerebral. He is impulsive, full of feeling, emotionally volatile, warm and clever. Jack is like Nikki (Emilia Fox)'s naughty younger brother.' Carr will play Hodgson's lab assistant Clarissa Mullery and described her character as 'witty, smart and sarcastic.'

Regular dear blog readers may have noticed that today's From The North update is a bit earlier in the day than of late. This is because yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self is, in fact, proving that he does have a - bit of a - life by going out tonight with his good friend, Geoff, to attend 'a gig.' First one of those for about three years. He's going to see yer actual Public Image Limited at the Academy, a collective yer actual Keith Telly Topping last saw some thirty two years ago. Hope they're as good tonight as they were on the Metal Box tour.
Quote of the Olympics so far comes from four-time gold medallist Matthew Pinsent: 'I hope after the games we watch that "reality" stuff with a better idea of what winning, talent and drama really are.' So does this blogger, Matthew mate. But, I wouldn't bank on it.

Just in case you missed it on Sunday night because you were contemplating the inherent ludicrous nature of existence, dear blog reader, yer actual Usain Bolt his very self defended his men's one hundred metres title in stunning style at London 2012. He won Sunday's final in an Olympic record time of 9.63 seconds. As Mad Frankie Boyle noted four years ago, 'I can't do anything in 9.63 seconds. It took me ten seconds to watch him do it in 9.63 seconds!' The Jamaican, who holds the world record, finished ahead of countryman Yohan Blake and the American sprinter - and former twice-caught drug-cheat - Justin Gatlin. Seven of the eight finalists ran under ten seconds in what was the fastest Olympic hundred metres final in history. But the massively popular Bolt came home first, clocking the second quickest time in history in front of an awestruck eighty thousand-capacity crowd. Bolt had come into London 2012 with doubts about his fitness and his form, having been beaten by Blake in the Jamaican trials. But he made it successive Olympic titles in the hundred metres and can win a further two golds in the two hundred metres and four by one hundred metres relay. 'I was slightly worried about my start,' he told BBC Sport. 'It was not the best reaction in the world, but I stopped worrying about it and executed it and it worked.' Asked to respond to the sour-faced doubters who'd cast aspersions upon his inherent magnificence, Bolt said: 'I'm not concerned. I've said it from the start, people can talk, all they can do is talk. When it comes to the championships, it's all about business to me - and I brought it.' Bolt also praised the atmosphere inside the Olympic Stadium. 'It was wonderful,' said the twenty five-year-old. 'I knew it was going to be like this. There wasn't a doubt in my mind that it was going to be loud and it was going to be great. You can feel that energy, so I feel extremely good and I'm happy.' Former Olympic two hundred and four hundred metres champion Michael Johnson, now a pundit for the BBC, said that Bolt had handled the occasion well. 'He was under a bit of pressure, but his technique looked better than it has recently,' said Johnson. 'It wasn't a great start but it didn't need to be. Bolt is the best there has ever been, there is no doubt about it.'

Usain Bolt's record-breaking run drew a peak audience of over twenty million for the BBC. The Jamaican retained his title and won the gold medal with an Olympic record time of 9.63 seconds. The race had 19.4 million viewers on BBC1 on Sunday night. Six hundred and twenty eight thousand additional viewers watched the race on the BBC's Olympics Three channel. The Jamaican sprinter will be back in action on Tuesday in the two hundred metres heats. Earlier on Sunday a peak audience of 10.7 million watched Andy Murray make history at Wimbledon by becoming Great Britain's first men's singles gold medal winner in one hundred and four years. But it was the BBC's primetime Olympic coverage between 18:45 and 22.15 on Sunday that drew the highest audience. The entire three-and-a-half hour programme - which included Christine Ohuruogu securing a silver for Britain in the women's four hundred metres final -averaged 17.3 million viewers, representing a 61.5 per cent audience share of the terrestrial TV audience. All this helped to condemn ITV to its worst ever single day ratings performance, beaten for the first time in the all-day audience share by BBC3. ITV's share of the audience sank to just 4.8 per cent between 6am on Sunday and 2am on Monday, marginally increasing to five per cent when timeshifted channel ITV+1 is taken into account. This was ITV's lowest daily share of the audience since new BARB methodology was introduced in 2002 – and, indeed, in the broadcaster's entire fifty seven-year history. ITV is also understood to have suffered its worst week on record, both in terms of all-day and peaktime viewing. Horrorshow. And drag. The commercial channel also lost out for the first time to BBC digital channel BBC3, which like BBC1 is devoting almost its entire schedule to the London games and had a 5.2 per cent share on Sunday. BBC3's biggest audience of the day was the five-minute peak of 3.3 million viewers who watched Ed Clancy's bronze in the track cycling Omnium at 5.20pm. Another seven hundred and forty thousand people were watching the event on digital games channel, BBC Olympics Six. The day was dominated by BBC1, with a 42.7 per cent share of all TV viewing, but not even that could hit its record high of 52.7 per cent, achieved on the day of the Olympics opening ceremony. ITV was also beaten by BBC2, which had a 5.2 per cent all-day share and also showed several hours of Olympics action. Whilst ITV traditionally suffers a four-yearly dip in its ratings at Olympics time, the impact was occasionally lessened in the past by the time difference, as when the games were hosted in Beijing in 2008 and Sydney in 2000. Up against the all-conquering Olympics, ITV scheduled blanket drama repeats including Martin Clunes vehicle Doc Martin and Columbo on Sunday. ITV's biggest-rating show was a rare first-run outing, documentary series The Zoo, which had 2.3 million viewers. This was followed by a repeat of David Jason crime drama A Touch of Frost, watched by 1.6 million viewers, between 8pm and 10pm. ITV's peaktime share of 7.1 per cent (between 6pm and 10.30pm) was a fraction of BBC1's 50.9 per cent.

Meanwhile, a man was arrested after a bottle was thrown on to the track seconds before the start of the final at the Olympic Stadium. A Metropolitan Police spokesman said that a man had been heard shouting abuse and was then seen throwing a bottle. It landed behind the sprinters.  American sprinter - and former twice-caught drug-cheat - Justin Gatlin, who won bronze in Sunday's race, said the bottle had been a 'little distraction.' Nobody was injured and the event was not disrupted, police said. The suspected is being held in police custody at an East London police station on suspicion of causing a public nuisance. And, being a wanker. Bolt told reporters that he had been unaware of the incident. He added: 'I keep hearing that. I don't know who would have done that.' Fellow Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake, who came second, said: 'I was so focused I didn't see anything. I was so focused on just running to the line.' Dutch judo Olympic medallist Edith Bosch later revealed that she had tackled the 'unruly crowd member' at the Olympic Stadium after he threw the bottle onto the track. 'The man had been heard to shout abuse and then throw a plastic bottle onto the track immediately prior to the start of the men's one hundred metres final,' a Metropolitan police spokesman said. Bosch, who won a bronze medal last week, wrote on Twitter that she had 'hit a drunk man' after he threw the bottle. She also added that the incident caused her to miss the actual race.

It demonstrates the level to which we've got rather blasé about British gold medal success over the last few day that the fact it took until shortly before five o'clock on Monday afternoon (Day Ten) before Britain secured its first gold of the day (seventeenth in total) was actually beginning to get noticed. It came in the show-jumping at Greenwich Park. Great Britain captured their first Olympic showjumping gold medal in sixty years, winning a dramatic jump-off against the Netherlands. Gosh, but Clare Balding was excited by that. The quartet of the veteran Nick Skelton, Ben Maher, Scott Brash and Peter Charles had tied with the Dutch on eight points in the main competition. They had the best three scores out of the four in the jump-off to take gold. Overnight leaders Saudi Arabia took the bronze with a score of fourteen points. It was Britain's first Olympic showjumping medal of any colour since 1984 and their first gold since the Helsinki 1952 Games. Meanwhile, over in the Velodrome, Jason Kenny was taking on France's Gregory Bauge in the cycling sprint final. Could he do it? You bet yer ass he could. 'After five nights of these medal sessions in the volumedrome you would think I would be getting used to the noise this place generates when a British rider is in action, but it continues to amaze,' noted the BBC's Matt Slater. 'The crowd reaction to Jason Kenny's victory over Gregory Bauge in the first race of the men's sprint final was reminiscent of a last-minute winner at one of the great homes of British football: Anfield, Ibrox, Old Trafford or Roots Hall. The second race is just minutes away, if Kenny wins again this place will explode.' It did. Australia's Shane Perkins beat Njisane Nicholas Phillip of Trinidad to bronze. Kenny took silver behind Chris Hoy at the Beijing Games but was preferred to Hoy under the controversial 'one rider per nation' rule introduced for the 2012 games in a crassly obvious effort by the rest of the world to stop Britain winning everything. It hasn't worked. His triumph takes Great Britain's medal tally in the Velodrome to five golds and a bronze from seven events over the past five days. The Bolton-born rider lost to Bauge at the World Championships in Melbourne in April, but hopes were high he could reverse that result after he recorded the fastest time in Saturday's qualifier. Kenny, who teamed up with Hoy and Philip Hindes to start Britain's gold rush on the track on Thursday, came through a semi-final with Phillip, the surprise package of these Games, to set up another showdown with Bauge. Bauge has actually won the last five world titles, but lost his 2011 crown to Kenny after being given a backdated suspension for doping offences. Victoria Pendleton, meanwhile, will face German Kristina Vogel in the semi-finals of the women's sprint, which take place tomorrow.

Britain's Beth Tweddle became an Olympic medallist at last with what may be the final routine of her career. Tweddle's score of 15.916 took bronze in her uneven bars final after a decade pursuing an elusive Olympic medal. The twenty seven-year-old has four world titles and is the most decorated British gymnast in history. A step back on landing may have cost her even higher honours. Russia's Aliya Mustafina won the gold medal ahead of Beijing 2008 champion Kexin He of China. Mustafina scored a massive 16.133 to win the title, a mark Tweddle had herself posted in qualifying at London 2012. The Olympics is expected to mark Tweddle's final outing at this level. She has endured agony to reach this point, her body breaking down in a sport which usually spits out gymnasts by their early twenties at best. The City of Liverpool gymnast slept with an ice machine strapped to her leg for much of this year to calm the swelling from training, and long ago abandoned two of the four pieces of apparatus in women's gymnastics to preserve her fitness for the bars and floor. While she did not reach the floor final at her home games, her bars routine was the best in qualifying and she replicated that scintillating form for nine-tenths of her performance in the final. Elsewhere on Day Ten, Britain's trio of Lisa Dobriskey, Laura Weightman and Hannah England all qualified for the women's fifteen hundred metres semi-finals and Lawrence Okoye produced the fourth best throw of qualifying to make the men's discus final. Canoeist Tim Brabants safely negotiated his way into the kayak K1 one thousand metres semi-finals. Australia will reportedly review the performance of its swimming team after being left without an individual gold medallist for the first time since the 1976 Montreal Games. 'We must do everything possible to get Australian swimming back on top,' said Swimming Australia president David Urquhart. Algeria's Taoufik Makhloufi has become the ninth athlete to be excluded from London's Olympic Games for not trying hard enough. Makhloufi, who won one of Sunday's fifteen hundred semi-finals, was forced to race in the eight hundred metres after Algeria failed to withdraw him before Sunday's deadline. However, the twenty four-year-old completed just two hundred metres of his heat before quitting. The International Association of Athletics Federations said he had 'not provided a bona fide effort' and would be 'excluded from further events.' Makhloufi lined-up at the start of heat five, but quickly fell behind the rest of the field then stopped running and wandered across the infield. 'The referee considered that he had not provided a bona fide effort and decided to exclude him from participation in all further events in the competition,' read the IAAF statement.

The Royal Mail has promised to paint a postbox in Olympic cycle champion Laura Trott's home town gold, after first painting one in the wrong place. Trott, with Dani King and Joanna Rowsell, won a gold medal in the Olympic team pursuit contest. The Royal Mail decided to paint a postbox in Harlow, where Trott was born. But after Trott tweeted that her hometown is Cheshunt in Herts, the firm said it would paint one there also. Trott initially wrote on Twitter: 'When my postbox is painted gold tweet me your pics with it.' But after discovering the mistake, she added: 'So people, I need you to tweet the Post Office for me. My postbox is going in Harlow which isn't in my hometown. Cheshunt is where it should be!' Tim Cowen, of Royal Mail, said the mistake was made because her home town was listed as Harlow on the official Olympic website. 'We tweeted her straight back to say we'll be delighted to do one in Cheshunt as well,' he said. Cowen added that the company would paint a box near to where she went to primary school, but it could be delayed until Monday due to Britain's run of gold medals. 'We are running a little short on gold paint, which is testament to Team GB's success. We'll be getting more supplies tomorrow,' he said. The Royal Mail has pledged to transform one postbox from red to gold in the home town of every British Olympic champion during the games.

Sniffy French rivals have raised eyebrows – and half-whispered 'suspicions' – about Britain's 'outrageous' Olympics success. France's cycling chief, Isabelle Gautheron, said that she is 'perplexed' by the dominance in the Velodrome by the likes of Victoria Pendleton and Sir Chris Hoy. Well, it could just be that they're better than everyone else, Madame. Bit of a wild stab in the dark, there. Journalists across the Channel have been very busy casting sly and insidious aspersions over what they might be 'missing' which has propelled British athletes to triumph. Class? The vineyard-full of sour grapes comes just a week after French president Françoise Hollande thought he was being really clever when he taunted Britain over his country's early success in the Olympics, saying that London had 'rolled out a red carpet for French athletes to win medals.' Now, he's gone rather more quiet on the subject. Gautheron said of British cyclists: 'They have not dominated the last four years – they were among the best teams with Australia, Germany and France. Here, they crush everyone. Girls, especially, are four seconds ahead in the pursuit. It's good for them. Do they have a technology? A secret preparation? We have to do sports intelligence to know how they can be so strong.' French cycling commentator Greg Bauge said: 'We're missing something. I don't know what.' Champion heptathlete Jessica Ennis didn't escape a dose of Gallic scorn either. Ouest France journalist Thierry Vautrat posted on Twitter: 'Ennis? She's a bit unreal. Wonder how she could win the 800m so easily, with no pain. Surprising.' Ooo, le sulk.

BBC3 controller Zai Bennett has said that his channel remains keen to 'promote and nurture new talent.' This, dear blog reader, from the man that cancelled Ideal. Insert your own punchline here. Bennett praised the channel's track record in 'supporting original British comedy' (and, you know, cancelling it) and said that BBC3 also wants to support established talent trying out new ventures. 'We were the channel that brought to the screen Little Britain, Gavin & Stacey, The Mighty Boosh; I want us to be doing that again,' Bennett told the Gruniad Morning Star, adding that odious, wretched, unfunny Jack Whitehall's new - piss-poor looking - sitcom Bad Education shows that BBC3 is 'happy to look at people [who are] maybe a bit more established doing something new.' Bennett also explained a change in approach in terms of factual programming, saying: 'Rightly we are not doing the more "shocky" titles in factual, which were four years before I joined and shows what a long tail these things have. The "F-off"-type titles did the shows a disservice because they were actually excellent documentaries and that totally coloured the way they were perceived.' Bennett also said that he thinks using the channel as part of the BBC's Olympics coverage 'provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for BBC3 to recruit new viewers and persuade people - who may have thought different things - what we are about.'

Here's some consolidated final ratings for week ending 29 July 2012:-
1 Olympics 2012: Opening Ceremony - BBC1 Fri - 24.24m
2 Olympics 2012: Opening Ceremony Countdown - BBC1 Fri - 10.25m
3 Coronation Street - ITV Mon - 8.87m
4 EastEnders - BBC1 Mon - 8.46m
5 Olympics 2012 - BBC1 Sun - 7.21m
6 Emmerdale - ITV Wed - 6.42m
7 Absolutely Fabulous - BBC1 Mon - 6.38m
8 BBC News - BBC1 Sun - 5.95m
9 Ten O'Clock News - BBC1 Thurs - 5.44m
10 Six O'Clock News - BBC1 Fri - 5.02
11 Holby City - BBC1 Tues - 4.67m
12 The National Lottery Draws - BBC1 Sat - 4.22m
13 Line of Duty - BBC2+BBC HD Tues - 4.03m
14 Formula One: Hungarian Grand Prix Highlights - BBC1 Sun - 3.70m
The average viewing figure for the four-hour show, broadcast on BBC1 and BBC HD - 22.4 million - makes the Olympic opening ceremony the UK's thirteenth most watched programme ever. The programme also had an eighty two per cent audience share - almost twice that of Barcelona 1992, the previous high for an Olympic opening ceremony.

Scottish ITV broadcaster STV has fallen for a fake Twitter account claiming that Blackadder was due to return. The channel's website reported that Rowan Atkinson had tweeted on his official feed that a final episode was being made. However a cursory glance at the account might have revealed some doubts. It was only set up on Monday and does not have Twitter's 'blue tick' confirming a genuine account. Posts made after STV and other media outlets reported the 'news' would certainly have been out-of-character for the famously private, Atkinson. They included: 'Okay Twitter folks - let's get the return of Blackadder trending,' 'retweet this if you're looking forward to the return of Blackadder' and 'I'm going to be following a few of you who can help make this happen.' Bladrick, have you a cunning plan at this point to sort this fiasco out?

Asked 'what three tips would you give someone wanting to do your job?' by Televisual magazine, the BBC executive producer Lisa Ausden (who oversees Watchdog and created Rogue Traders) said: 'Always do your homework when recruiting staff. Getting the right person is the most important thing. Get it wrong and you can be stuck with that decision.' Frustratingly, the magazine gives no indication of when and how she said this – ingenuously, before there were any concerns about the Rogue Traders presenter Dan Penteado? Or remorsefully, after his being jailed last month for benefit fraud?

Police and cycling clubs have warned that there may be a 'Bradley Wiggins effect' in Surrey. They have noted that there has been a large increase in cyclists in the area since King of the Mods Brad won Olympic gold last week. Motorists have been asked to take extra caution as many enthusiasts are trying to emulate Wiggins by riding along the Olympic cycle routes in Surrey. The Surrey Police force posted on Twitter: 'Planning a nice drive in the Surrey Hills? There will be more cyclists than usual out there so expect them.' They added: 'Great to see people enjoying the Olympic road race route yesterday. Remember - Bradley had closed roads, so take it easy.' Cycling campaigners in Surrey have now put out a warning for a 'Wiggins effect' riding boom. Hotels in the area have already begun taking bookings for 2013 from cyclists who are looking to ride on the Olympic routes, reports BBC News. The nine and a half-mile Olympics route takes riders from the Mall, through West London, to Surrey and back.

Conservative MP, novelist, technology entrepreneur, self-publicist, TV comedy quiz-show regular and gobshite Louise Mensch is to step down from the Commons, the Tory party has confirmed. Oh dear. What a shame. Because, she was so good at her job. The MP for Corby - seldom short of an opinion, on pretty much any subject you care to name, most of them nothing whatsoever to do with her - is reported to be moving to New York with her three children to be close to her husband Peter Mensch, the manager of rock bands Metallica and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. This will trigger a by-election in her Northamptonshire constituency. Before entering politics, Mensch found some infamy as the author of a series of truly dreadful 'chick-lit' novels, under her maiden name, Louise Bagshawe. She was among the more high profile Tories to enter the Commons in 2010, but was even more in the spotlight last year during the investigation of the phone-hacking scandal by the Commons culture committee, of which she is a member. And for her cowardly licking of billionaire tyrant Rupert Murdoch.

At a recent recording of the popular radio comedy quiz I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue in Swansea, the teams were reportedly 'shocked' and 'stunned' when a heckler in the audience referred to its late chairman Humphrey Lyttleton. In the middle of the recording a man is said to have rudely yelled out: 'It's not the same without Humphrey Lyttleton, is it?' There followed a stunned silence, until new host Jack Dee broke the tension by saying in his trademark dry-a-s-bone world-weary voice: 'Ah, dear Humph. I wonder where he is now? I envy him.'

The BBC has appointed a new acting head of Vision to replace George Entwistle, its newly appointed director general. Roger Mosey, currently the BBC's director of London 2012, will take on his new role on 20 August. Dave Gordon will replace Mosey as director of London 2012 for the duration of the Paralympics. George Entwistle will take up his position as the BBC's new director general on 17 September. BBC Vision is responsible for the commissioning, producing, scheduling and broadcasting of all content on the BBC's television channels. Announcing the appointments on Monday, outgoing director general Mark Thompson said Entwistle would step down later this month to concentrate on the DG handover. He said the process of making a permanent appointment as director of BBC Vision would begin later in the autumn. Shortly after the announcement, Roger Mosey tweeted that he was 'honoured to have been asked to be acting director of BBC television this autumn.' As director of London 2012, a role he took up in April 2009, he has been responsible for planning the BBC's coverage of the Olympics, the Paralympics and the Cultural Olympiad. Mosey's previous positions include editor of Today, controller of 5Live, head of BBC television news and director of sport. Dave Gordon is currently the head of major events at BBC Sport.

Yer actual Jessica Ennis has been tipped to land several new sponsorship deals following her gold medal triumph in the heptathlon. Ennis has already has marketing contracts with Jaguar, Coca-Cola-owned Powerade, BA, Aviva and Olay among others. Industry experts are now expecting Ennis to secure more promotions following her success at the Olympics and her general commercial appeal. 'For Jess Ennis, being the poster girl for the games, she has obviously secured a lot of sponsorship agreements in advance - probably around one million pounds to £1.25m,' brandRapport's Nigel Currie told Marketing Magazine. 'However, her victory will potentially earn her around three million pounds per annum over the next two to three years in the run-up to Rio. Because of the number of medals Britain has won, there will be even more competition for the lucrative marketing contracts but Ennis has clearly emerged as the big star.'

Chinese athletes have been victims of alleged 'double standards' at the Olympics, the country's top official state-owned newspaper claimed on Monday while questioning the expulsion of two of its players from the badminton tournament. The People's Daily said that decision was made 'despite ambiguous rules.' It also criticised a ruling depriving a Chinese cyclist of a gold medal in the women's team sprint and - wholly unfounded - doping allegations made by an American coach against the swimming sensation Ye Shiwen. 'In ruling on infringements, making accusations of poor sportsmanship and raising suspicions about a genius competitor, there are double standards that have taken aim at the Chinese team and its athletes,' said the paper, the main voice of the ruling Communist party. 'This unfortunately is hard to explain as inadvertent mis-steps, it might be closer to the truth to see it as deliberate attacking and interference.' Last week China was rocked by the expulsion of its top-seeded women's doubles pair Yu Yang and Wang Xiaoli, among eight badminton competitors kicked out for playing to lose group matches with the aim of gaining more favourable draws in the knockout rounds. Nonetheless, China completed a sweep of all five badminton golds, clinching the men's singles and doubles titles at the London Games on Sunday. The People's Daily said the furore in the sport had been used unfairly against China. 'Though there can be different understandings of the rules of competition, the Chinese delegation nevertheless voiced its respect for the punishment,' said the paper. 'Yet some Western media still seized upon this to deliberately disparage the Chinese athletes and delegation.' The paper noted the British cyclist Philip Hindes's sprint team kept their golds, even though the rider was reported as saying that he crashed on purpose – words which his team later said were 'lost in translation.' 'Levelling all the accusations at Chinese athletes plainly lacks fairness,' said The People's Daily. China's basketball hero Yao Ming also waded into the badminton controversy, saying over the weekend that the expelled players were 'victims' although he also supported the decision to disqualify them.

Channel Four is to broadcast a second edition of Eight Out Of Ten Cats Does Countdown. The comedy panel show previously merged with the popular daytime quiz as part of Channel Four's Mash Up in January. Jimmy Carr will again host the special episode, with team captains Sean Lock and Jon Richardson facing off in a rematch. Irish stand-up comic David O'Doherty will join Countdown regular Susie Dent in Dictionary Corner, while Rachel Riley will receive 'a little help' from comedian Joe Wilkinson on numbers and letters. The new Eight Out Of Ten Cats Does Countdown will be shown as part of Channel Four's Funny Fortnight, which will feature two weeks of new Channel Four comedies throughout August. Other Funny Fortnight commissions include new shows from Harry Hill and Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer.

The US space agency has only been and gone landed an effing huge new robot rover on Mars. Come on, that's pretty impressive. I mean, even by Usain Bolt standards, it deserves a smidgen of respect! The one-tonne vehicle, known as Curiosity, touched down at in a deep crater near the planet's equator after a plunging through the Martian atmosphere. It is going to look for evidence that Mars could once have supported life. A signal confirming the rover was on the ground safely was relayed to Earth via NASA's Odyssey satellite, which is in orbit around the Red Planet. The success was greeted with a roar of approval here at mission control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The mission has even already sent its first low-resolution images - showing the rover's wheel and its shadow, through a dust-covered lens cap that has yet to be removed. A first colour image of Curiosity's surroundings should be returned in the next couple of days. Engineers and scientists who have worked on this project for the best part of ten years punched the air and hugged each other. The descent through the atmosphere after a five hundred and seventy thousand-million-kilometres journey from Earth had been billed as the 'seven minutes of terror' - the time it would take to complete a series of high-risk manoeuvres that would slow the rover from an entry speed of twenty thousand kmph to allow its wheels to set down softly. After the landing, the flight director reported that Curiosity had set down at a gentle 0.6 metres per second. 'We're on Mars again, and it's absolutely incredible,' said NASA director Charles Bolden. 'It doesn't get any better than this.' Well, I dunno - actually finding some life there might just top it. is yer actual Keith Telly Topping tempted to play 'Uncle Sam's on Mars' by Hawkwind at this juncture, dear blog reader? Yes. Yes he is.

The Football Association would not prevent Joey Barton signing a six-month loan deal with League Two Fleetwood Town from QPR. BBC Radio Lancashire reports that Fleetwood are set to sign the twenty nine-year-old on loan. He is due to serve a twelve-match ban - for rank glakery - but would return to action sooner at Town because they play more games early on in the season. The FA would not sanction any loan it deemed designed to circumvent the ban but a six-month loan would be allowed. Barton would not be allowed to play for QPR before they had played twelve games this season - even if they recalled him after his ban had technically ended at Fleetwood. If the loan goes ahead, it means Barton could now return to action on 6 October or sooner, six weeks earlier than if he stayed at QPR. QPR deny holding discussions about a loan move to the League Two side. Barton played forty five minutes of Fleetwood's friendly with Kilmarnock on Tuesday. The one-time England international agreed to join the Football League newcomers for a week during pre-season, but was not expected to play a match.

Motorists were warned to drive carefully after the North East of England was battered by torrential downpours causing flash flooding. Yer actual Keith telly Topping just managed to avoid a drenching his very self, having been up visiting Mama Telly Topping when the cloudburst arrived. He got home between downpours and then watched, aghast, although at least dry, as Wigmore Avenue turned into a small tributary of The Tyne. Thunder and lightning also hit the region on Sunday, but police said that most roads were passable 'with care.' And, you know, a snorkel. The Coast Road in North Tyneside was waterlogged as was the Cradlewell Bypass and roads around the Galleries in Washington. There was disruption on the Metro system with some services suspended for a time. Gateshead, Central and Jesmond stations were closed due to flooding, with Jesmond reopening later. Northumbria Police said there was some disruption to roads and transport with a number of roads in Gateshead, South Tyneside and Newcastle closed but later reopened. The Swing Bridge, between Newcastle and Gateshead, was closed due to debris caused by the flooding and was expected to stay shut overnight.

For today's Keith Telly Topping's 45 of the Day, dear blog reader, here is The News.

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