Friday, August 10, 2012

Some People Pay For Thrills But I Get Mine For Free

Great Britain's gold medal haul at London 2012 stands at twenty five after they won two Olympic titles within an hour in the mid-afternoon. Nicola Adams might, just, have become the face of the games after she beat China's Ren Cancan to win women's boxing's first ever Olympic title shortly after Charlotte Dujardin took her second London 2012 dressage gold. Dujardin's victory on Valegro and bronze for her team-mate Laura Bechtolsheimer were Britain's first individual dressage medals. The pair also won gold in the team event. Flyweight Adams had already created history by guaranteeing Britain's first women's Olympic boxing medal, but she outclassed three-time world champion Ren to win sixteen to seven on points. Dujardin's gold increased Britain's best gold medal total for one hundred and four years. Only in the London Games of 1908, where the hosts won fifty six medals, have Britain done better and, as noted many many times over the last fortnight, it was a different world back then. With the team of Dujardin, Bechtolsheimer and Carl Hester - who finished fifth in the individual event - having already tasted victory at Greenwich Park, the further gold and bronze medals complete an unprecedented haul for the British dressage team. The country is now well ahead of the 2008 Beijing medals total, and also above their minimum London target of forty eight. It was also a glorious afternoon for Ireland, as Katie Taylor gained their first gold at the games in the women's lightweight boxing, outpointing - and outclassing - Russia's Sofya Ochigava at a raucous ExCel Arena. And then, just as most people were going to bed, in the same building teenager Jade Jones took Great Britain's gold medal tally at London 2012 to twenty five by claiming the country's first ever Olympic taekwondo title. The Welsh nineteen-year-old beat China's Yuzhuo Hou in the final after causing a huge upset to beat world number one Tseng Li-Cheng of Chinese Taipei in the semis. It wasn't all good news for the British, however. In the semi-final of the men's hockey, the team got the hiding of a lives off the Netherlands, being spanked 9-2. Embarrassing, so it was. Men against boys. The 9-2 defeat was the worst ever for a Great Britain men's team. Their previous worst result was an 8-1 defeat against Pakistan in 2000 and a similar score versus Spain last December. The only team to record a bigger Olympic semi-final win was India who beat France 10-0 in 1936. Britain will play Australia for bronze on Saturday, before the Dutch go up against Germany for gold. Meanwhile, in the Olympic Stadium, the great David Rudisha became the first athlete to set a new world record on the track at London 2012 as he won eight hundred metres gold in one of the great two lap races of all time. The twenty three-year-old Kenyan stormed his debut Olympic final to become the first man inside one minute forty one seconds, clocking 1:40.91. Botswana's Nijel Amos took silver, with fellow teenager Timothy Kitum of Kenya in third. Britain's Andrew Osagie was in eighth place and clocked a massive personal best of 1:43.77. Reigning world champion Rudisha led from gun to tape, setting an opening lap of 49.28 seconds, and stormed clear down the back straight. With the rest of the field dragged along by his pace, only Abukaker Kaki in seventh failed to record a personal best. In eighteen-year-old Amos and Kitum, seventeen, the future of the event looks in good hands but whether anyone can get near the dominant Rudisha before the next Games in Rio looks unlikely. Rudisha has set the three fastest eight hundred metres times of all time and made them look easy. His pace was consistent throughout, clocking twenty three seconds for the first two hundred metres, twenty five for the second, twenty five for the third, and 26.1 for the final quarter. Osagie's run puts him fourth on the British all time list behind Seb Coe, Steve Cram and Peter Elliott. Just to put Andrew's achievement into some context, if he'd been in the Olympic final four years ago and run that time, he'd've won a gold medal! It was that sort of race. It was going to take something special to top that. What we got was the two hundred metres, and something special. Usain Bolt matched Michael Johnson's then world record time from the Atlanta Games of 19.32 seconds as he held off his training partner Yohan Blake in silver and fellow countryman Warren Weir in bronze. Blake had beaten Bolt at the Jamaican trials, his last race over the distance before London, but the double one hundred metres champion was in no mood for a repeat and ran a brilliant bend from lane seven to lead by two metres coming into the straight. Glancing to his left he was aware of Blake closing in at one hundred and fifty metres, but held his form to cross the line with finger to his lips. Blake's 19.44 seconds was a season's best, while twenty two-year-old Weir set a new personal best with 19.84 seconds to complete a Jamaican clean sweep. But this was Bolt's race, and these have once again been Bolt's games. On a warm, still summer evening perfect for sprinting, Bolt had clowned around as he waited to be called to his blocks, as ever a study in easy relaxation despite the magnitude of the occasion. He flirted with the girl looking after his kit and then gave a regal wave before taking his rivals apart from the moment the gun sounded. Four years ago in Beijing he won his first Olympic two hundred metres gold in a then world record of 19.30 secs. While there was no new mark on Thursday evening, this was a display to rank among the best the event Bolt calls his own has ever seen. Then, presumably, he went out partying with the Swedish handball girls again! if you missed it, earlier in the week after he'd won the hundred metres Bolt tweeted out a picture of himself with handballers Gabriella Kain, Isabelle Gullden and Jamina Roberts. The trio had decided they wanted to meet Bolt and convinced his manager to provide them with accreditation to get to Bolt's apartment. They later said on Facebook they had chatted (and, we're sure that's all they did) for several hours until around 3am. The man is class. I heard some Daily Scum Mail-style wanker calling him 'arrogant' the other day. He's The Fastest Man On Earth, if anybody's got a right to be arrogant, matey, it's him!

On a marginally related theme, one of the highlights of the afternoon of Day Thirteen for yer actual Keith Telly Topping was watching a terrific handball match on channel three hundred and four between Norway and South Korea. Gosh, those Norwegian girls are very fit. And, I mean, on several levels as well.
And sad to report, dear blog reader, From The North is continuing to get numerous hits (over two thousand in the last few days alone) from sick and wrong people doing a Google search on the words 'Anna Meares bum' (note the grammatical error) and, for some reason, ending up here. This simply has to stop.
No, really, it does. Instantly. If not sooner.

Now, here's a question you might be wondering, dear blog reader. What do odious, full-of-herself soon-to-be-former Tory rent-a-quote MP and gross self-publicist Louise Mensch, King of the Mods Bradley Wiggins and bronze medallist Rebecca Adlington have in common? The Sun - sister paper to the disgraced and disgraceful phone-hacking Scum of the World, of course - claims that ITV is scrambling all over the headline-hitting trio to try and sign them up for I'm A Z-List Former 'Celebrity' Desperate To Get My Boat-Race Back On TV ... Please Vote For Me To Stay Here As Long As Humanly Possible, I'll Even Eat Worms If You Want. It also claims that a three-way reality TV show bunfight is under way with Strictly Come Dancing and Twatting About on Ice also trying to sign Team GB champions including sailor Ben Ainslie, gymnast Beth Tweddle and cyclist Elizabeth Armitstead. It is to be hoped that most of the above have too much dignity for any such nonsense. Although, in the case of old Bagashite, we wouldn't bet on it.

There's a very good piece by the BBC's Holly Wallis on The Olympic also-rans. No, it's not about the quite disgraceful underperformance of the majority of the British swimming team at London 2012 with their twenty five million pounds worth of tax-payers funding producing only a silver, two bronzes and a handful of personal bests, rather it's about those competitors who embody the genuine Olympian ethos of it not being the winning that's important, but the taken part. (Although, to be fair, that also applies to the British swimming team): '"I have no technique, I only rely on power," admitted Niger rower Hamadou Djibo Issaka after fighting his way over the finishing line of the men's single sculls at Eton Dorney on Friday. Issaka managed 8:39.66, leaving him miles behind the next worst competitor J Fraser-Mackenzie on 7:19.85. Issaka the Otter, as he is now affectionately known, had some twenty five thousand fans on their feet, cheering him on. The thirty five-year-old only started rowing three months ago, practising in an old fishing boat. In Issaka's case, Niger received an Olympic wild card - given out so all two hundred and four National Olympic Committees can compete, even when no athlete qualifies. Then there was sixteen-year-old debutant judoka, Wojdan Shaherkani - the first Saudi woman ever to compete in the Olympics. She stepped up to represent her country amid suggestions Saudi Arabia had purposefully sent weak female competitors to the games. Facing a heavyweight Puerto Rican twelve years her senior and far more experienced, Shaherkani lasted just one minute and twenty two seconds. But the crowd roared her on nevertheless. Saudi runner Sarah Attar had her moment in the spotlight on Wednesday, completing the eight hundred metres over forty three seconds behind the heat's winner - but with a full Olympic Stadium ovation. 'It's an incredible experience,' she said after. Marshall Islands runner Timi Garstang, for example, clocked the slowest sprint in the biggest event in athletics - finishing the men's one hundred metres preliminary round in 12.81 seconds. The system has been changed so the slowest runners have to get through qualifying before finding themselves in a heat with Bolt or Blake. The twenty five-year-old Garstang told Reuters he had no regrets: "I'm not disappointed, I guess I'd have to run a bit faster if I want to run in his [Bolt's] heat. It's a great feeling to be here."' Terrific stuff. Check out the article, it's a beautifully written piece.

The curse of BBC News strikes again. On Friday morning the lead story on the website was Britain's chances for further medals on Day Fourteen of the Olympics. It was headlined Olympics: Sarah Stevenson leads British medal hopes. However, within seconds of taekwondoist Stevenson being well beaten 5-1 by America's Paige McPherson in the preliminary round of the competition around quarter to eleven, the title of the page was hastily changed to Olympics: Shanaze Reade leads British medal hopes. If I was BMX rider Reade, due to take part in her semi-final this afternoon, I'd be really worried now.

American runner Manteo Mitchell reveals he ran the last two hundred metres of the Olympic men's four by four hundred metres relay heats with a broken left leg. Christ, he's hard. Mitchell ran the second leg for the United States quartet, who went through to Friday's final as the second fastest team despite Mitchell's injury. 'As soon as I took the first step past the two hundred metre mark, I felt it break.' Manteo told the USA Track and Field website. 'I didn't want to let the three guys or the team down, so I just ran on it.' Respect!
Great moments of the Olympics, number forty seven: The BBC cameras picking out Frank Lampard sitting in the stands of the Olympic Stadium shortly before the two hundred metres final and John Inverdale pointing out that Lampard was 'sitting next to one of Chelsea's most famous fans, Sebastain Coe on his right.' And, completely ignoring, on Lampard's left, his missus, odious breakfast TV flop, greed bucket (and drag), the Curiously Orange Christine Bleakley. Seems the former ONE Show giggling non-entity still hasn't been forgiven by the BBC for the circumstances of her leaving and remains a non-person as far as Auntie is concerned. Good. Couldn't happen to a nicer person.
The Metropolitan police has appointed Martin Fewell, the departing deputy editor of Channel Four News, as its head of communications. Fewell replaces former head of press Dick Fiasco, who resigned in March ahead of an independent report which accused him of 'exercising poor judgment' in hiring a former Scum of the World executive as a PR adviser. Fewell announced plans to leave Channel Four News after fourteen years earlier this month. He was tipped to replace Jim Gray as the programme's editor, but was beaten to the top job by foreign editor Ben de Pear. Fewell will formally start his new role in September.

New images of yer actual Benedict Cumberbatch's World War One drama Parade's End have been revealed. The mini-series, which is a co-production with HBO, is based on Ford Madox Ford's books and is scripted by Tom Stoppard. The Edwardian-era BBC1 drama is one of the most highly-anticipated programmes of 2012 and centres around the troubled marriage of Christopher (yer actual Cumberbatch his very self) and Sylvia Tietjens (played by Rebecca Hall). The supporting cast includes Roger Allam, Anne-Marie Duff, Rupert Everett, Stephen Graham, Clare Higgins, Janet McTeer and Miranda Richardson.
Jason Byrne is to pilot a new studio sitcom for BBC1. He will write and star in Father Figure, which is based on his existing Radio 2 series of the same name. The pilot TV episode will also star Father Ted's Pauline McLynn, fellow stand-up Michael Smiley and Dermot Crowley from Bleak House. All were also in the radio version. In it, Byrne plays Tom, a father of two sons whose good intentions are ruined by bad luck and his extended family. And, it's actually rather good - despite that unpromising description. The show will be recorded in front of a live studio audience and, if picked up, would be destined for a post-watershed slot. Cheryl Taylor, the BBC’s controller of comedy commissioning, BBC said: 'Jason Byrne is a bright and bouncy performer and already much loved by comedy enthusiasts everywhere. We're really looking forward to developing the new pilot.' Byrne himself added: 'I am delighted to finally announce that we will be making a pilot of my sitcom Father Figure. It's been a big dream of mine and I'd never have thought I would get the chance to join the ranks of the television sitcom world. The characters all come from real life and the outrageous situations Tom gets into have, more often than not, actually happened to me. The people in my life will never realise that it's them I'm writing about, unless my wife and two sons, mother, father and best mate ever watch it.' The show will be made in-house by the BBC; produced by Julia McKenzie who also made the radio version, with Stephen McCrum, who previously worked on the BBC's last post-watershed hit Mrs Brown's Boys, as executive producer.

The public can now express their views on an agreement which will set out the future funding and operational relationship between the BBC and Welsh-language broadcaster S4C. The BBC Trust and the S4C Authority on Friday launched a public consultation on the Operating Agreement, which sets out the new relationship once the majority of S4C's funding comes from the BBC licence fee from April 2013. This shift was initially agreed in October 2010, when the BBC reached a new licence fee settlement with the lack of culture secretary the vile and odious rascal (and drag) Hunt, involving big spending cuts and various new funding responsibilities, including S4C. Individuals and groups have ten weeks to October 23 to state their views on the draft operating agreement, which aims to 'ensure the editorial and managerial independence of the S4C service.' Perhaps many licence fee payers in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and, indeed, non-Welsh speakers in Wales itself, would like to ask the BBC Trust why they are happy to be party to such a scheme forced upon them in which the vast and overwhelming majority of those paying for this service - via their licence fees - will not be able to understand it. Mind you, that also applies to much of the product of BBC3 as well. In October 2011, the BBC and S4C reached the deal after finding a compromise that would protect S4C's independence, while also allowing the BBC Trust to keep it accountable for all licence fee cash spent. S4C's annual funding allocation is to drop by £2.2 million by 2016-17 as part of the new funding relationship. It currently receives around ten hours per week of programming from the BBC, including soap opera Pobol y Cwm, which is worth about twenty three million smackers a year. That is expected to fall to about twenty million notes from 2013-14. The BBC National Trustee for Wales, Professor Elan Closs Stephens, said that the corporation wants to bring the best value for Welsh-speaking audiences. 'My main priority is to help S4C to provide the best possible programmes for Welsh speaking audiences, while safeguarding S4C's editorial independence and ensuring that licence fee money is spent wisely,' he said. 'This new agreement between the BBC and S4C builds on the last thirty years of a successful partnership between us.' Huw Jones, the chair of the S4C Authority, added: 'I believe that the Operating Agreement provides reassurance that S4C's future and its ability to act independently have been secured, while ensuring appropriate accountability to the BBC Trust for use of the licence fee.' Anyone wishing to make submissions to the consultation can find more details here.

South Africa's independent news network eNews is to launch in the UK on Sky, it has emerged. The eNews Channel is said to be taking the slot on Sky's electronic programme guide where Africa Channel+1 used to be. The network will start broadcasting in the UK 'within weeks,' and tests broadcasts on Sky are already underway, it has been revealed. The TV with Thinus blog, which first reported the launch, said that the channel will change its name to ENCA for the Sky launch. In an official press release, South Africa's first independent twenty four-hour news service confirmed that it will soon expand outside of Africa. An exact date for the UK launch has not yet been announced, but it will be 'within weeks' once testing has been completed. Patrick Conroy, the group head of news at broadcaster, said that the move will give the channel access to more than ten million British homes on Sky. 'What is really significant is that we will have access to the South African expat community. If they want news from home it is just a click away,' he said. Alongside the rebranding, TV with Thinus reported that the eNews channel will also unveil a 'new look' when it arrives in the UK. 'Due to our expansion we will have to rebrand our service to make it relevant to viewers abroad and here at home,' said Conroy. 'It will be more of a brand tweak than an overhaul, viewers need not be concerned. It will still be the same news service with the same content. The only difference will be our appearance.' Conroy said that eNews will not be rebranding its eNews Prime Time bulletin on or its Afrikaans language service on kykNET. It is just the eNews channel itself which will rebrand. The channel, will also launch a new website in Britain by the end of 2012, offering rolling online news coverage in a similar vein to BBC News, Sky News or CNN.

Some genuinely heartbreaking news, now. The husband of Doctor Who actress Mary Tamm has died just hours after giving the eulogy at her funeral, her agent said. Marcus Ringrose is believed to have had a heart attack at home in Battersea after Tuesday's funeral. Barry Langford said that Marcus had been at his computer replying to the many well-wishers who had written to him after his wife's death when he suddenly collapsed. Mary, sixty two, who was best known for playing the first incarnation of the Doctor's companion Romana alongside Tom Baker, had been suffering from cancer for eighteen months when she died last month. She had a long career on stage and screen, with roles in films including The Odessa File and The Likely Lads. From The North's obituary of Mary can be read here.

A fox has taken a trip on the London Underground. Commuters at Edgware Road Station were surprised to see the urban fox wander onto a Tube carriage on Monday evening. The fox made its way onto the Circle Line and was even seen climbing onto the seats to get a more comfortable ride. A commuter, Stephen Ebert, noticed the fox and photographed it getting onto the Tube. He tweeted the picture as well as explaining: 'As the doors opened I boarded and immediately became aware of something down at my feet. At first, I was not sure what it was - and then I realised it was a fox. It looked young and was probably a cub. I quickly snapped it with my phone and posted it on Twitter.' Student Harriet Horn also tweeted about the fox, saying: 'So there was a fox on my Tube. It was so cute. It hopped off and went into a hole (I think). It looked like it had gone to safety.'

Juventus coach Antonio Conte has been banned for ten months after an investigation into match-fixing claims. Last year Conte, forty three, led the club to the Serie A title in his first season in charge without losing a single game. Conte was accused of failing to report alleged match-fixing involving former club Siena in the 2010-11 season. In addition to Juventus and Siena, he has also managed Arezzo, Bari and Atalanta. After being questioned by police in May, Conte denied the claims and said he was 'strongly determined to prove his total innocence.' But then, it would seem, Conte coughed his guilt and begged for mercy saying he'd been led astray by older boys. or something. Charges against Conte of direct involvement in match-fixing were dismissed last month, but the FIGC said it was satisfied that he was 'aware' it was taking place during his time with Siena. Conte had a plea bargain deal rejected by the Italian federation earlier this month. He put forward a proposal which would have seen him serve a three-month suspension and pay a fine of two hundred thousand euros. The federation has now confirmed the ten-month sanction. Police had previously said Conte was being investigated on suspicion of sporting fraud and fraudulent association over allegations concerning a match between his Serie B side Siena and Novara in April 2011. His assistant coach at Juve and formerly at Siena, Angelo Alessio, has also been banned for eight months, while former Lecce president Giovanni Semeraro and former Grosseto president Piero Camilli are facing longer suspensions. Former Atalanta captain and Italy midfielder Cristiano Doni was banned for three-and-a-half years in August 2011 for his part in the Calcioscommesse scandal involving Serie B matches last season. He was also arrested in December 2011 over match-fixing and betting allegations. In addition, former Lazio and Italy striker Giuseppe Signori was banned for five years and fifteen other players were banned for between one and five years for their parts. Grosseto and Lecce have both been excluded from Serie B, the Italian second tier, for the 2012-13 season for their part in the scandal. In May, police searched more than thirty homes, including those of players, trainers and administrators of clubs in Serie A, Serie B and lower divisions. Lazio captain Stefano Mauri, thirty two, was held along with former Genoa midfielder Omar Milanetto, while officers visited Italy's pre-Euro 2012 training camp to question left-back Domenico Criscito, twenty five. Five people were also arrested in Hungary on suspicion of being part of an illegal international betting ring.

'Several' Premier League clubs are alleged to be interested in signing former The Scum striker and odious greed bucket Michael Owen, according to his agent. So, almost certainly, he'll be turning up playing for someone in the Championship in that case. Or, rather, playing once every three or four games and developing mysterious groin strains the rest of the time. Stoke City are alleged to be one of those interested. Don't do it, Mr Pulis. You're only buying damaged goods. The Little Shit was released by The Scum this summer after three uneventful seasons at Old Trafford. He is said to be 'drawing on the services of experts,' such as former Liverpool physiotherapist Mark Browse, as he bids to continue his career in the top flight. The former England striker has also drawn attention from clubs in the Middle East but the Premier League is still his preferred option. Obviously. Cos, that's the only place where he'd be allowed to get paid loads of wonga for doing as little as humanly possible. Owen tweeted in July to say that he would not drop down to the Championship and hinted at retirement if his desires were not met. Here's hoping. 'If a good opportunity doesn't come my way then so be it,' he said. 'I know I can still bang them in at the top level. I proved that nearly every time I played for Manchester United.' Owen joined The Scum from yer actual Keith Telly Topping's beloved (though unsellable) Newcastle on a free transfer in 2009 moving far faster to get out of Toon than he ever did during his time in a black and white shirt and after having, frankly, taken the piss for four years. But his appearances became less frequent in his second year at the club, and last term he played in just one Premier League game as The Scum, it would seem, found out what a waste of space he is.

The world has gone mad, dear blog reader. Which means it's time for Keith Telly Topping's 45 (download) of the Day. Let yer actual Dizzee Rascal (you know, Jeremy Paxman's mate) tell us all about it. Word.

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