I WANT TO COIN IT LIKE BECKHAM –the real legacy of London 2012

Posted in opinion on May 22nd, 2012 by John Coxon

The Olympics may well inspire excitement national pride but it is more likely to impact on the wealth of the nation rather than health of the nation. Click to enlarge

 

Carrying the torch – moths to the flame. 

Thursday it was cloudy and overcast in Athens at the Olympic torch handover. In literature there is the notion of the “pathetic fallacy” where notably human events are mirrored in nature ; great and often disastrous events are ominously mirrored by strange things happening in the universe, hence for example ,unnatural, paranormal events occurred on the eve of the assassination of Julius Caesar.  Not withstanding the bitter irony of this ceremony,   hundreds of Greek volunteer torch bearers all got to keep their £200 a piece torches  on its week long relay tour of Greece ( the 8000 or so Brit bearers will have to pay for theirs )   Greece whose ancient civilisation, now in ruins , cradle of the Olympic ideal , is in  dire straits and its citizens  at the mercy of  its crumbling economy with people rioting on its streets against austerity.  Nonetheless, the obscenely expensive modern variant of the original Olympic show must go on.

SEB, BORIS DAVE

Step forward Seb, Boris and Dave . an interesting trio for the handover of the symbolic flame  , (sponsored by USA’s global purveyor of sugar and water,  South Korean multinational communications technology conglomerate Samsung , and to be on the safe side, Lloyds  insurance.  Seb Coe  former  comprehensive school educated , middle distance Olympic gold medalsist, Tory MP  elevated to the nobility as a Life Peer , now the front man for the Olympic  organisers . No doubting his passion , no doubting it will be a great show and a success but for me he has always been struggling to make credible statements about the hoped for legacy which was  used to try and bid-buy and now sell the games.  It does not appear to me to be an investment in the future but investment  for shot term gain , for commerce not sport although I do accept they are inter-connected in a Catch 22 kind of way. Anyone in possession of the actual facts knows all to well that the anticipated much hyped surge in participation in sport , by kids ,  in the run up to the Olympics ,  just didn’t happen and in fact has declined and there is nothing to suggest that the downward trend and the rise in the incidence of obesity ( through lack of exercise ) is going to be reversed after the Olympics.  The same is true at grass roots with the uptake in sports for kids with disabilities. A host of successes , a rack of gold medals is not going to inspire future generations , only those , in the main, who already are involved in sport and aspire to similar success  of our elite athletes.

If any group is going to be inspired, it is  students of business and entrepreneurs  as the shrewder amongst us realise the huge potential  earner the Olympics has become for any enterprise  associated with big sports events.  A lot of people , well a minority of people, are going to make themselves rich or in most cases even  richer by association with the Games and the anticipated far greater return it offers above what has been actually invested.

The Olympic ideal, 21st Century version?

No problem with Boris, a very British Eccentric , typical gauche, bike riding  Toff-Tory and yet a bit of a national treasure and as good a mayor of London as you are likely to get, and yet totally appropriate that Dave, wrongly elevated to knighthood twice by the Greek announcer, was there too in his ambassadorial role. No doubt a  knighthood for the footballer  is just a matter of time . (David is under contract to one of the torch sponsors Samsung as their Olympic ambassador )

SPORTS CELEBRITIES  – fine  role models but who do they actually inspire ?

It is a fact that majority of teens, particularly girls , are notoriously difficult to get to engage in sports or regular physical activity after puberty and it is TV and media celebrities  they aspire to be like and not sporting role models. Typically they are prey to anxieties created by being bombarded through the media and the vanity industry with cherry picked models  who are fashion and body image focused and indeed gym membership, according to Women’s Sport and Fitness  Foundation research , in the main has women motivated not by aspirations to be fit and healthy but to lose or maintain body weight and body image.  Significant numbers of people are involved in sport for itself and to maintain a healthy lifestyle and the Olympics may well inspire them to try eve harder in their own sport. Post Olympics and indeed now, sports people are a captive audience but the masses will not become engaged in sport from just watching elite Olympians   on telly as they have been able to do for many years already. there is real concern that up to 80% of the female population couild be obese by 2032.

I have no problem with Dave , East London born lad that done good. He seems a very nice bloke, a gentleman,  devoted father and husband and his football playing career  never suggested that he was anything other than a worthy sporting role model. But  Dave is not principally world famous now as a footballer let’s be honest  although in his time his  somewhat dull high long ball style was elevated to the sublime with his gift with free kick ball  bending skills  that were to become the title of a film. He is no longer the highest earning footballer, the Argentine player Messi over took him this year, but Dave has a world record breaking endorsement contract with Adidas for example , has an estimated fortune of 140 million and so far this year has netted 26.2 million, a small percentage of that from actually playing football.

Kids will recognise and identify with  Dave and his family  but not generally be inspired to copy him as a sports role model. What appeals  to aspirational teens is the celebrity life style he enjoys with  ex “Posh” spice, Victoria  and his kids,  funded almost exclusively from hugely remunerative product endorsements and the skilful trade marking of  the family name leading to a range of brands which net millions.  Kids who aspire to that life style may  take up football , often to fulfil parental goals, and health and fitness are not the name of the game, possible significant wealth and related comforts are  the common dream  for many aspiring young football players when the reality is for the few  that actually make it , masses never will.

A NATION KEPT GOING THROUGH CHARITY AND VOLUNTEER GOODWILL?

Seb Coe said all the right things upon  taking receipt of the flame ,  speaking grandly about  the amateur ideal of the original Olympic movement . The Olympic spirit, he chirped in sound bites, is “about celebrating the best in ourselves and in our communities .” He went on to state that torch bearers, like our athletes, will inspire a generation.” This is complete falsehood in real terms and mere rhetoric. Volunteer torch bearers certainly have been chosen often for outstanding public service or as exceptional people who have overcome problems and yes their character and selfless efforts  are in one sense being honoured in the carrying of the torch. But unlike their Greek counterparts,  the honour is all they get. If they want the torch as a souvenir it will cost them a cool £200 for the privilege.

Olympic Stadium 2012

All UK sports in the main and therefore all competing athletes rely significantly on an army of people giving their time and effort for nothing and significant funding comes indirectly from the pockets of citizens via money of their own they spend on lottery tickets. Individual athletes, rely heavily on funding much of their own training and coaching. Actual government cuts saw a reduction , in the run up to 2012 of some 25% for  grass roots sports  and yet they threw countless millions at elite Sport and the Olympic venues with an eye principle on improving  trade and boosting short term, a flagging economy built on borrowing.  Britain remains a democracy in name but all Britons are subjects of a wealthy elite both in terms of hereditary royalty and the minority that hold the bulk of the wealth and therefore power. Ordinary people struggle on, forced by an unelected coalition government to accept swinging cuts in public services, unemployment, reduced pensions and ever diminishing opportunities, often living on credit and ever indebted to the banks.  Britain is both one of the most heavily taxed countries in the world but yet one of the most generous in terms of giving to charity with what disposable capital they have both for worthy causes at home and abroad  and supporting in other practical ways like through volunteering.

The spectacular Velodrome building

Many vital  services , health care and medical research, community projects rely exclusively on public generosity. If the Olympics  in London has become just a major marketing opportunity  and sport merely the context in  which the few will be able to max out on profit, it is indeed an irony that for the event to happen at all requires hoards of good hearted British citizens to give their time free as volunteers for a uniform and a lunch pack? In he main, what legacy there is after 2012 will be down to volunteers working for and with youngsters and grass roots sport wil continue t struggle for funding an will remain as before largely self-funded.

YOU WILL ENJOY THE SPORT ,. NO DOUBTS, BUT IN BETWEEN THE  EVENTS YOU HAVE TICKETS FOR YOU WILL NEED TO SUSPEND YOUR DISBELIEF-  the captive audience.

The Olympic venue is probably the most expensive to construct theme park ever and you are expected to help pay for it wherever you come from .The Olympics , once just about sport , is now a  brand and any use of its trademarks  or name to sell unofficial merchandise comes with punitive consequences  as does “brand hijacking2  where companies who have not invested for merchandising rights seek to promote their own brands in the closed contexts say of event venues and stadia.  Even the year 2012 is trademarked.  Ordinary cash strapped people, asked to suffer government austerity measures, will have struggled to find the disposable income to buy  tickets  in the farcical lottery of applying for them and must of course hold the credit card of one of the major sponsors. The Olympic  Park itself is huge and often the architecture extravagantly spectacular. Security is tight with an army of security staff in evidence.

Olypmic security - scanning for retail terrorists ?

 

When you arrive at the entrance , having been guided from the station through a vast new shopping mall by hoards of smiley unpaid volunteers with placards and foam finger pointers  ,  (so you do not stray into the wrong shop ?)  you will be met at the gates  by vigorous border controls  and airport style thorough security searches. If you are looking to save money by bringing your own refreshments be warned that these will be confiscated   to protect the vested interests of  concession owners.  The prospect of a terrorist attack is possible but remote-t mostly security will be engaged in protecting vested interests  whilst  ensuring public safety.

Olympic Orbit tower

 Of course, however cynical I am personally about what I see as the over-commercialisation of the Olympics I am not blind to the market realities of promoting sport on a local, national or global scale ( and investor sponsors need  return) but the place is littered with excess.  I am disturbed by such things as the spending of 40 millions on just the opening ceremony when that sort of amount could have been invested in grass roots sports rather than making a spectacular show of things and the whole feel of the thing trying to trump previous hosts and promote the nation as a thriving and vital economy worth trading with.  Perhaps it is the so called ArcelorMittal Orbit , the scrap metal work skewed tower of a Turner prize winner, (say no more) which epitomises the duality of the Games. At  an exorbitant cost of 22.7 million it is double the height of Nelson’s column but a mere shadow of that great British naval  hero’ s achievement. The twisted metal monument to vanity  does support a more conventional structure, a restaurant and viewing platforms which you can access for an obscene £15 a head.  Major sponsor, global junk food retailer , MacDonald’s, have built the world’s largest “restaurant” as they euphemistically like to call it  catering , you would expect ,  for the bulk of  the visitors to the Park but unlikely to be of any further use after the games after it has made a real killing.  Once you are in the Park the place is so vast few would have the stamina to nip  out to  find alternative reasonably priced refreshment  or make any purchases for other needs.

POSTSCRIPT  When last event has finished and everyone has gone home, that’s it for another four years , someone else will take the baton,  host the games and threaten their own national economy with very likely even more grandiose plans.   We can then at least  focus again on the real issues that the games will have distracted most of us from, the health of the nation and the long  term future for citizens of all ages. Will the London Olympic Park become a desert sports ghost town and a collection of white elephants ?  What will the actual legacy be? We already know from  very responsible research that the problem of a largely inactive nation  will  not go away and likely worsen in a consumer led culture where example sports  shoes, replica shirts etc are in the main merely leisure and fashi0n statements.  To change that culture is going to be a  uphill struggle  and it is not going to come from continuing to focus simply  on sports and promoting it through some amazing role models we have already in a variety of sports I  have spent the last decade recording and celebrating sport at all levels but I have pledged to use as much of my free time focusing more and more on volunteer youth development projects at local level as that is where a difference can really be made . Many sports remain minority sports and need to  raise their media profiles and I have tried to do my bit for some of them mindful of the broad social and health benefits sports and the clubs that host them contribute to society . I will continue cover and help promote sports but looking for opportunities t reach beyond that captive audience. Our greatest asset is a generous hearted , fair minded majority prepared to give their time for charity and volunteering  in initiatives which the government will continue  no doubt to grossly under fund and I hope to support them in whatever ways I can.   Currently I am looking at ways to support local school initiatives addressing apathy to regular physical activity in secondary schools.

NEED HELP/SUPPORT  WITH DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS? I hold huge archive of images and have produced a range of  original largely sports based inspirational and motivational posters  but also currently working on  draft new posters  to help promote involvement in physical activity. Contact me any time by one of the means listed below if you need help or support and also “like” my john coxon.com  Facebook page which is  where  I post many of my ideas and interact with others with whom I share interests.

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TALES FROM THE RIVERBANK – PERSONAL REFLECTIONS ON PROBLEMS WITH HOCKEY TV COMMENTARY

Posted in Opinions on May 3rd, 2012 by John Coxon

GB Women epitomise the major progress of our national teams in recent times and look set to have a well earned place on the podium in London

As an team game  , both genders , as a spectacle  of pace , skill , fitness and full on sporting commitment , field hockey has come of age . It  finally is at a point where it is getting the level of media coverage it now fully deserves as the second biggest active participation sport in the country next to football. It getting reported on in national papers and is even beginning to attract serious attention from the broadcasting media at major international events  where  previously only when we  were in with a fighting chance at an Olympics did it get a token mention.  There is no issue in terms of filming it , what with the size and speed of the ball ; that myth has been dispelled by some excellent coverage  both from mainstream and  smaller independent video companies  focusing on the game more recently. The game has no problems in being highly marketable but the major concern is that we have yet to find many, if any ,who have the requisite skills to commentate on games to the standard the game deserves and from what I have seen so far, the BBC are going to undersell the game during the actual Olympics .

I agree completely that the commentary on the invitational international GB v Germany left a lot to be desired . It does not auger well for when the actual Olympics is being screened. It was old  school, somewhat uninspired , monotonous, minimalist , and   lacking in passion.  For me that style, or lack of it ,  is doing the modern game no favours . The myth that the game is impossible to capture on video has already been exploded and has in the last couple of years been really well done by both specialist and mainstream channels and  for me the blue did not give me any sense that the ball was easier to see or follow but that apart, the overall standard of terrestrial mainstream coverage, especially in terms of finding credible and entertaining commentators that reflect the amazing progress the game has made in terms of quality of play and spectacle .

GB & England Squads have shown incredible long term dedication and a professional approach and particularly the women are now a force equipped to challenge any team in the world on equal terms at these Olympics . Paucity of TV commentary is going to undersell that achievement in my view.

It is especially worrying when this Olympics  offers the biggest chance ever to show case  the game and to grasp wider public attentions  given  the huge progress in the standard of both our national teams in the last decade.  The profile of a sport relies heavily on TV coverage and perceptions of it promoted by both the camera work and the quality of commentary. The coverage of the GB men’s game I saw left much to be desired in both departments and despite having such a prestigious name in the commentary box , yes a fan of the game, but not a specialist, the coverage left much to be desired and had an over all feel of being somewhat under par with most other sport.

Veteran broadcaster Barry Davies was lead commentator with  co-commentator  Sean Kerly , the so called “Gary Lineaker of hockey”  but second fiddle but not it appeared to me , contributing much and aa work in progress if i am honest . At hockey internationals , as with other sports, it is quite rightly , common practice of having an expert ex player /athlete pundit at such things usually taking a back seat unless promoted by the more seasoned media professional.  No doubting his  knowledge of the game but not a gifted presenter and gives the appearance of still being under apprenticeship and certainly as yet no  master of the role.

Veteran sports commentator Barry Davies

The record breaking veteran broadcaster  Barry Davies ,”Voice of the boat Race “  pictured here , with forty years our vocal witness at the TV mircrophone ,  is arguably our  most experienced  sports commentator s ,   best known of course as a former  commentator on football . He is principally associated with working for the BBC TV , beginning his work their back in 1969 and associated with Match of the day for was it 35 years.  It is telling that he retired from football  commentary  back in 2004 complaining that he wasn’t getting enough big games but also to being down graded in terms of no longer being offered live games to cover. It would perhaps be unkind to delve into why he wasn’t being offered those games given his vast experience  but we have seen a wealth of very competent new football commentators ,who aren’t old school established names,  but you rarely hear of their commentary attracting any criticism at all. No doubt Barry is a national treasure , like Motty  with a voice that is instantly recognisable , and with  a wealth of experience and knowledge of many sports , much of which he recalls in his memoirs , aptly entitled “Interesting, very Interesting.” It was Davies I believe who did the commentary the last time GB had its major  successes on the international stage , Gold at the 88 Seoul Olympics and the Ladies podium in Barcelona  and perhaps that was an influence in hiring him for the Olympics and for the televised  pre- Olympic  events.   The game has come a very long way since then and especially in the last four years with central programme really kicking in and raising the bar  and for me old school no longer cuts it. I would ask if that was a premiership football game would that style of and quality of  live commentary have been acceptable ? Sadly ,  I think not.

I have no doubt that sitting in Barry Davies’s company  on a train or in a bar would be quite an experience in terms of chatting about sport and the wealth of stories and experiences he has in the archives of his brain and I’d guess he would be fired with enthusiasm and would not need prompting! I am sure, and know from one local experience,  that he is a charming man and an entertaining after dinner speaker, here   where nostalgia rules and perhaps that is now his greatest strength and perhaps more appropriate for reflective journalism than live commentary?

That is what was missing in the commentary I heard, little enthusiasm and little evidence of having done the homework and sharing all those little snippets of information from players bios and other interesting back ground stuff typical of people who are really on top of their game. That does not have the function of intrusive monologue or padding but  add to our enjoyment and understanding of the game and  should be the natural flow of a person enthused and passionate and conveying what they are privileged to be witnessing and making you feel that it is important and a worthwhile way for that person to spend their time and yours. These invitationals are of course not the real thing but a rehearsal  , team  coaches experimenting with different player combinations and game strategies . It also is an opportunity for the BBC to test run its side of things what with the new pitch colour – but of course it  is unlikely that there will be commentary team changes and that  is an area that needs further attention in my view.  As one passionate about the game but also with a professional interest in it, it may well be self defeating to raise such concerns where I always try to be positive and constructive  and this has been a difficult subject to write about and it is hard not to sound as if it is personal because it certainly is not.

Hockey  commentary has to work on two levels and treated as an emerging sport with a marketing job still to be done on it. We have  yearned for many years to have  decent media attention and especially TV coverage to raise the profile of the game to something other than a minor sport and TV and the other media has more recently embraced a variety of international hockey competitions  where previously only Olympic year hockey got widespread coverage. The game and the commentary  is going to be heard and watched most avidly by people who know the game inside out but also a raft of people new to it and thus , for example the commentator can’t presume the audience already understand the terms , rules and the technicalities  or know any of the players as the personalities that they are but there were  long silences  in the commentary which for me gave off all the wrong signals.

True it wasn’t a particularly  exciting game to watch  but the commentary did nothing to lift it. I logged onto the red button late  before the players came onto the pitch  – a blank pitch and very little sound , dull weather and cold blue –suddenly the German’s were attacking and scored while the GB players were still getting on to the pitch and the German’s scored. That was pretty puzzling but nothing much said to question that bizarre incident other than to mention the goal was good and typical of an indoor in off. To be quite frank, and I hate to be disrespectful  , but my enjoyment of the game would not have suffered if there had been no commentary at all on this ocassion.

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