Archive for July, 2012

All smiles | Ryan Lochte revelled in the praise and adoration after showing up fellow US swimming giant Michael Phelps. (Image | USA Magazine)

With four days of the Olympic Games now having passed, arguably the biggest shocks have taken place in the pool, where, among other things, we have witnessed Ryan Lochte casting the great Michael Phelps aside in the men’s 400m individual medley (IM), and 16-year-old Ye Shiwen of China smashing world and Olympic records, and her opponents, raising the eyebrows (and suspicions) of the sporting world.

Meanwhile, America’s Missy Franklin, herself only 17-years-old, picked up a gold medal in the 100m backstroke. An incredible feat for two reasons – the first being her age – Franklin had only 15 minutes prior to this been swimming to qualify for the final of the 200m freestyle. Tonight, meanwhile, Phelps bids to become the greatest Olympian of all time.

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Staying on the island | English footballers rarely take up the opportunity to play abroad, and it is an extremely infrequent occurrence in modern football in this country. (Image | Football)

Two decades since the formation of the Premier League and the football landscape in this country has changed dramatically. The Taylor Report brought in all-seater stadia; the advent of television money has resulted in TV rights increasing from £50m in 1992 to £3bn today; the availability of talented Englishmen has dropped precipitously as the league has filled with foreign-born footballers, and home-grown players no longer ply their trade abroad. Why?

There are several ways of approaching this, but the most obvious is money. Players in England benefit from a laissez faire wage structure – indeed structure is arguably too generous a term. Clubs pay players what they want, and the more desirable an individual is, the greater the outlay will be from the side that wishes to retain or purchase them. Wages of £100,000-plus per week are commonplace, creating a safety net for English footballers who are of sufficient ability to be remunerated so generously.

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London: your time is now

The perfect start | The opening ceremony showcased the tone and variety of the London 2012 Olympic Games, and did the city and nation proud. (Image | Chronicle Live)

It is so easy to forget these days, but when the concept of organised sport was incepted, it was done so for the sheer thrill of competition. It is an elemental concept which taps into the human desire to see how much we can achieve. It is this phenomenon that elucidates just why the Olympic Games continue to hold such relevance.

“Faster, higher and stronger”. It is a mantra that echoes for as long as competitive sport abides. There is something epistemological about the constant drive for success and physical progression. Would our species have progressed from cavemen and cavewomen without it?

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The world’s fastest man | Usain Bolt dominated the Beijing 2008 Olympics in a show of speed unparalleled in the history of the modern Olympic Games. (Image | New York Times)

While the Olympics is often the setting for breathtaking dominance (Jesse Owens in 1936, Mark Spitz in 1974, Carl Lewis in 1984 plus Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps in 2008), there is nothing like a great sporting rivalry. Watching one great athlete in action is a treat, but seeing them competing against an equal makes for compelling sport. Excellence is a special thing. Excellence combined with drama creates must-see television. Bolt, for example, is a sight to behold when in full flow. However, knowing that there is a realistic chance that he will not win gold adds a delicious frisson to the 100m.

Make no mistake, hanging the gold medal around Bolt’s neck at this stage is foolhardy. The form sprinter is not the reigning Olympic champion – it is his friend and team mate, Yohan Blake. Those who claimed that Blake’s victory in last year’s World Championships should come with an asterisk have been made to appear rather silly over the past 12 months.

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The world is watching | Danny Boyle’s impeccably choreographed opening ceremony was the perfect way to open the London 2012 Olympics, and captured the imagination of tens of millions of viewers. (Image | BBC)

The 2012 London Olympic Games are hopelessly commercial. From the towering, monolithic structure of Westfield that looms over the Olympic Park rather like an evil capitalist sceptre, to the sponsors’ names splashed everywhere from portacabin “walls” to cash machines, this is the true nature of modern sport. Advertising is king and there is money to be made everywhere.

One word pervades the air. “Official”. Why not pay £4.30 for an “official” beer? Which is Heineken, in case you were wondering. Perhaps you would like some “official” merchandise from the outlet located close to the Olympic Stadium itself? Or maybe some lunch and a refreshing soft drink from the “official” providers, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola?

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A long road | As the Olympic torch has been transported up and down the country, Olympic fever has slowly begun to take hold, despite the negative press surrounding the Games. (Image | The Sun)

It really has been a vintage summer of sport. The superb entertainment offered by the 2012 European Championships, England notwithstanding, Andy Murray reaching the Wimbledon final and Bradley Wiggins‘ dominance of the Tour de France will live long in the memory of sports fans everywhere.

Not only this, but arguably the most prestigious, and potentially exhilarating sporting event of the summer, is yet to even begin. It is the London 2012 Olympic Games to which that reference pertains, which unofficially begin tonight (with Women’s Football group games) and have already been hitting the headlines, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

Away from transport dilemmas, the issue of packing an extra 10 million visitors into London and the G4S debacle, the Olympic Games celebrate the greatest sporting talents of athletes from across the world. If you claim to be a sports fan, yet this somehow fails to excite you, may I suggest a quick examination of your pulse.

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The shadow of the Hockenheimring of old is still visible through the treeline, but the circuit’s new identity has proved just as entertaining (Image |

Formula 1 returns to one of its most prestigious events this weekend at the 59th championship edition of the German Grand Prix. The famous Hockenheimring hosts the event for the 33rd time since its debut in 1970.

It’s an event steeped in history and has been won repeatedly by some of the greatest names of the World Championship era – from Alberto Ascari and Juan Manuel Fangio in the 1950s through Jackie Stewart, John Surtees, Ayrton Senna, Niki Lauda, Alain Prost and into the modern era, with Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton all multiple-winners of the event.

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They’ve been the world’s best Test side since the start of the year, but now England can secure their legacy if they overcome the best bowling attack in cricket (Image | Reuters)

England have been a significant power at the top end of world cricket for long enough now to prove that it’s no fluke. Fans can rub their eyes and realise they’re not dreaming. After a generation of enduring mediocrity, and sometime worse, the phrase “English cricket” is no longer a national punchline.

England are officially the world’s best side at the five-day format of the game – a reign that’s lasted almost a year. They have just come off the back of playing five one-day matches against Australia. While Australia are currently ranked the planet’s finest at the 50-over version of the sport, they took a pasting – England hammered them 4-0, and probably would have made it a whitewash had this unseasonable English summer not intervened.

But while all may currently be rosy in the English garden, there is a potential thorn on the horizon, in the form of South Africa.

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Rangers owner Charles Green accepted the vote, saying that Rangers had “made clear we would play where we were told to play and we just want to get back to playing football.” (Image | SNS)

So Rangers will be in the bottom tier of the Scottish Football League next season, after a vote by the Scottish Football Association voted overwhelmingly against the newly re-formed club being admitted to Division 1 of the league structure.

The decision ends a month of uncertainty for Rangers, who were first told their ‘newco’ re-formed club would not be admitted to the Scottish Premier League on July 4, before talks of a break-away ‘SPL2’ and other nervous rumours essentially scotched their hopes of being allowed into Division 1.

Rangers fans have reacted angrily to the news today, with texts and tweets pouring into the BBC’s live news page.

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Kayode Odejayi, who completed a free-transfer move to League 2 Rotherham United last month, was this season’s Colchester United Player Of The Year (Image | Beswicks Sports)

Kayode Odejayi has had a busy couple of months. Since the end of the League 1 season, which proved to be his last of three with Colchester United, the 6’3″ striker has signed a contract with Rotherham United, got married and moved home. Now, with pre-season around the corner, the one-time Nigerian international sits down to talk exclusively to The Armchair Pundits about the season ahead, as well as the club he leaves behind.

Odejayi’s move to Rotherham was met well by fans of both his new and former clubs. Millers fans were excited to see the hard-working former Barnsley man signed to bolster an impressive front line featuring Alex Revell and Daniel Nardiello; Colchester fans mostly wished Odejayi well while praising the performances which saw him named Player of the Year at an awards dinner in May.

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