Tiger, Terry and Truth

There is a free speech element to the latest celebrity sex-scandal.  John Terry sought a ‘super-injunction’ against publishing details of his affair, that also prevented the media from reporting the fact of the injunction itself.  On the Index on Censorship blog, Padraig Reidy asks whether the lifting of this injunction by Justice Tugendhat could signal the end of the ‘super-injunction’ as an effective tool in the lawyer’s arsenal.  The #Trafigura affair showed how such injunctions can be circumvented by beligerent members of society.

As an aside, I think ‘super-injunction’ is a misnomer.  Surely an injunction that prevents discussion of itself should be a ‘meta-injunction’ or maybe an ‘auto-injunction’?  Responses from linguists would be welcome.

Why the outrage?

The opprobrium directed at John Terry mirrors that experienced by Tiger Woods, who last month was exposed as having a penchant for sex with strippers and lap-dancers.  In both cases, the chat has centred around the sponsorship deals the men have secured with various brands, and the inevitable loss of these contracts once their philandering has been exposed.  The logic is that these sportsmen are paid because they represent wholesome family values.  When it becomes known that they do not, actually, live up to those values, their worth as the face of the brand is diminished.

How does this compare to the glamourous film stars, predominantly but not exclusively female, who are paid to advertise beauty products?  We all know that when they appear in display adverts, they are heavily photoshopped.   Their smooth skin, supple necks and firms thighs are actually complete lies.   Why no outrage and heamoraging of sponsorship deals, when Heat magazine reveals they have saggy bits?

British Commentators

British sports commentators are known for their idiosyncratic turn of phrase. Both radio and TV pundits have become celebrated for their ability to paste the metaphor on thickly.

Interestingly, this tradition looks like it is even being continued in the field of flash mobile text commentary. As I’ve said previously, Orange’s service seems to me to be a very good example of a new form of chatty micro-journalism, perfect for sporting occasions. This gem, seems to be very British in style. The analogies could be made nowhere else:

Murray is trudging along the baseline like Kevin the Teenager. And in the 60 seconds it’s taken me to write that, it’s 0-5.0-3: Man v Boy, Tiger v Gerbil, Man Utd v Torquay. All these match-ups are now comparable to what we’re seeing on Arthur Ashe court as Federer consolidates his break.

He also continues that very British tradition of wallowing in British sporting defeat. The old customs don’t die with the new technology.

India's Olympic Shame

Here’s an interesting alternative medal table (h/t KiwiClaire). It ranks the countries not by how many Beijing Olympic medals they have won, but by their ratio of medals to population, and to GDP.

Britain does not do quite as well in this analysis, and the lead over Australia we have been boasting about vanishes.

What’s noticeable, however, is India’s lack of impact. With only one gold and one bronze medal to share amongst a population of 1.1bn, the planet’s second most populous nation sits at the bottom of the table for both population and GDP measures.

Now, gold medals only really matter if they contribute to a sense of national pride and happiness, as they clearly do here in the UK. If the Indians don’t really care about the Olympics, and are instead focused on their cricket (say), then maybe this underperformance will have no effect. However, if sporting actually results in some kind of increased cultural capital, then surely India is losing out?

And I would say that sporting excellence does increase your cultural influence abroad. With Ussain Bolt’s victories in the 100m and 200m sprints, we have been treated to highly positive coverage of Jamaica and Jamaicans, a welcome change from the terrible impression of the carribean islands we have experienced in recent weeks.

Perhaps India needs another decade or so before it can exploit its Olympic potential. As the New York Times interactive map shows, the now-dominant China were Olympic minnows before 1984.

Four billion!?

So, the games have opened.  I am all for having a global party, and for the Olympics to be seen a symbol of peace and shared humanity, &ct &ct…  But surely these media claims that four billion people watched the ceremony is stinking hyperbole.  That’s pretty much two in every three people.  What with it being a working day in many parts of the world, what with legions of other people being asleep,  and millions more without access to a TV, I don’t think it would be possible – even if every person in China was watching.

'Free Tibet' flags made in China

Loving it:

The factory in Guangdong had been completing overseas orders for the flag of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

Workers said they thought they were just making colourful flags and did not realise their meaning.

But then some of them saw TV images of protesters holding the emblem and they alerted the authorities, according to Hong Kong’s Ming Pao newspaper.

Which is odd, because it means that footage of the Free Tibet Olympic torch harassing in London, Paris or San Francisco must have squeezed past Chinese censors.

Tibet Flag

Ask the Dalai Lama

As the farcical torch relay reaches India, and Western political leaders fret over whether to boycott the Beijing Games, Adrian Hamilton has a cheeky route out of the impasse:

I have a suggestion for breaking out of the impasse over the issue of Tibet and the Olympics. It is for the West to make the Dalai Lama the arbiter of whether we should attend the opening ceremonies or not.

Did I mention I’d met the Dalai Lama. I did? Oh, well, sorry to have troubled you.

The Price of Change

Simon Barnes agrees that there is something rather deterministic about multiculturalism:

Multifaith, multicultural, multicoloured, multilingual England: the times they are a-changing, because that’s what times do. The failure of the England team is part of a larger pattern, one in which the whole business of nationality gets more fuzzy every year and England no longer means the things that it once did. All change comes at a cost, and perhaps one of those costs is the effectiveness of the England football team – and with it, the sad loss of those biennial, heady, foolish, glorious weeks of unity.

Multiculturalism is the recognition that change happens. It is the necessary process by which we turn that change into something positive. It is the enemy of conservatism, that misguided notion that we should be satisfied with the way things are. But this also means that multiculturalism is the antagonist of tradition, the foil of nostalgia, and thus an easy target for those who want to declaim any change.

As Barnes points out, change is sometimes negative, but we would do well to remember that we cannot stop it happening. The question is no longer “should we let it happen?” but “how do we manage it in a way which is beneficial to all?” Multiculturalism is the dialogue by which we try to answer this question.

Unleash the Analogies


As well as enjoying the result of last weekend’s rugby match, I have to say I found the news coverage very amusing. A clash with France? On French soil!? The press could not contain their delight. With the unwavering purpose of an English longbowman at Agincourt, the journos unleashed volley after volley of ‘100 Years War’ references upon the unsuspecting British public.

And on Sunday, it transpired that we will be playing South Africa in the final.

Wait for it…

Wait for it…

(Hold your line, there, soldier, we don’t want anyone going off half-cocked…)

After Agincourt, prepare for Bore War

Hooray! Martin Johnson wins his spurs.

‘Sport and War’ is the subject of one of my favourite of my own blog posts: July 1st, Our Fateful Day.