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This week’s sporting headlines

For the benefit of Rust readers everywhere, here are two sports stories from today’s media that caught my eye:

 

FORMULA ONE

After the departure of Bernie Ecclestone and the purchase by Liberty Media of the Formula One juggernaut, there were always going to be changes – some might say improvements.

The sport has always had an element of Marmite to it.

Being a ‘non-petrol head or believer’ myself, if I’m around and doing nothing else, I do tend to watch the last fifteen minutes of the build-up to live TV coverage of a Grand Prix and then perhaps the first five laps or so – just in case there’s going to be a multiple pile up on the first corner (or perhaps shortly thereafter) as the regular contenders sort themselves out into the procession that is going to constitute the next 57 laps of the event.

Yesterday by chance I was at a reunion lunch at which one of the participants, a one-time keen follower of the sport and devoted lifelong fan of Dan Gurney for his sins which fact alone reveals his status as a sixty-something, offered the considered view that podium success in Formula One depended entirely upon which of the top three team in the field combining ‘best driver and fastest car’ teams had their noses ahead in the year in question.

At the end of the day, of course, the biggest sports on earth are those that make the most money for their movers and shakers.

Formula One plainly does plenty of that, having created a worldwide circus that allows rogue states, dictatorships, kingdoms (and others) with more cash than sense to sign up as hosts, both in the hope/expectation of getting a favourable view of their homeland broadcast to humanity and simultaneously making lots more lovely loot from putting up and entertaining the ‘F1 tourists’ who follow said caravan on its twenty-plus gigs around the globe every year.

After a couple of seasons of post-Bernie ‘bedding in’, it seems that Liberty Media – which bought into F1 presuming that with a few tweaks it could ‘break’ the United States amongst other markets in which F1 has hitherto had only a foothold – is now getting what we terms as ‘hands on’.

See here for a piece by Christian Sylt that appears today upon the website of – THE INDEPENDENT

 

PARALYMPIC SPORT

Regular visitors to this website will be aware that our Sports department retains its healthy cynicism about everything to do with sports administrators and indeed most elite participants, rules, conventions, the use of performance-enhancing drugs and just hypocrisy everywhere.

Sometimes this approach does not necessarily make us popular, but who cares? We just call it as we see it.

Take Paralympic (disabled) sport for example. Born of the purest and noblest of motives – affording the disabled the chance to participate in sport, to achieve, to gain recognition, to enjoy competition and the thrills of competing, winning …. and sometimes also the character-building benefits to be had from losing if one can find any in the fading embers of defeat.

Over the last couple of years, however, there have emerged tales of cheating in Paralympic sport. There has been the occasional story of performance-enhancing drugs and – more recently – allegations from British Paralympic athletes and their families that certain competitors (and yes, some of them fellow Brits) have been playing fast and loose with the qualifying criteria for different classes of disability.

To make no bones about it, there have been accusations of people faking or exaggerating their symptoms in order to qualify for ‘more disabled’ classes than their diagnosed medical conditions or disabilities should/should strictly entitle them to.

It has got so bad that at least one British Paralympian – British T37 200 metre sprinter Bethany Woodward, who has cerebral palsy and won an individual silver medal at London 2012 – has decided to retire and hand back her medal because of the alleged scandal.

In announcing her decision she gave her view that  not only had an unnamed fellow British team mate ‘massaged’ her disability’s symptoms unfairly in order to get into the T37 class, but that to some degree British Paralympic sport was systematically reviewing the given Paralympic classes and then its athletes with the deliberate intention of ‘aiming’ British athletes at disability classes to which (strictly-speaking) they did not belong, thereby gaining them an unfair advantage in the ongoing national quest for medals  … and thence, presumably, future funding.

Here’s a link to an article by Martha Kelner on the latest developments in this story that appears today upon the website of – THE GUARDIAN

Pardon me for donning my cynic’s hat, but I have always watched the explosion in development and public visibility of elite disabled sport (right up to an including the Paralympics following the four-year cycle of the Olympics) with a degree of bemusement.

I accept that it has done wonders for the ‘acceptance’ of disabled athletes – and disabled people generally – but, on the sporting level, as a purist, I just don’t ‘get’ it. Surely the purpose of elite sport is to decide the fastest, strongest, best … not to award medals to ever-increasing categories of participants? To be honest, I have never been interested in watching Paralympics sport and never will be.

In all honestly, I don’t think even disabled people particularly like watching disabled sport, save to delight in the effort, training and determination that its participants evidently demonstrate just by getting to the start-line. (Maybe they could aspire one day to emulate them?).

I say that because increasingly examples are coming forward of disabled Paralympians seeking to switch and qualify for participation in the Olympics itself. Why I mention this is because, of course, this view is nothing more than a natural extension of the line that disabled people are full members of society, equal with full-bodied and fully-abled people.

In the same way that – and I accept that I’m stepping onto thin ice here in even daring to raise this notion – true full equality for female sports stars will only actually come the day when there are no gender demarcations in sport at all (i.e. no female-only sports events).

Er – I’ll grab my coat …

 

About Tom Hollingworth

Tom Hollingsworth is a former deputy sports editor of the Daily Express. For many years he worked in a sports agency, representing mainly football players and motor racing drivers. Tom holds a private pilot’s licence and flying is his principal recreation. More Posts