Friday, March 31, 2006

I'm Sorry We Havant A Win...

Another brief Eastbourne Borough update...last Saturday's 2-2 draw with play-off chasing Havant and Waterlooville has taken them up to 18th, four points clear of the relegation zone. Borough bounced back from falling behind early on to Rocky Baptiste's close-range effort, levelling through Scott Ramsay, before the former Brighton and Dover striker put Eastbourne ahead against the run of play five minutes from time. But once again they managed to snatch a draw from the jaws of victory when dire defending allowed Richard Pacquette, freshly signed from Worthing, to net a late equaliser. Still, not a bad point and a point closer to safety. Histon away next, on Saturday - match preview here...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

O/T - A Wiki-bituary...

Off-topic this one, but intriguing. I discovered the other day that Wikipedia, the free-to-edit online encyclopedia, has a Wikinews section - again, free-to-write-and-edit - which has a bizarre and slightly macabre twist.

They have a free-to-edit 'prepared articles' section, about "events that have not occurred but that are expected to take place in the future". Included in this brief list are the future deaths of TWO US presidents - namely Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford - and the arrival of Bird Flu in the UK.

All news organisations have updated obituaries on just about everyone well known, for immediate use when that person dies, even when suddenly or very young. But to make these obituaries, and the 'pre-announcement' of their death, on a public website is quite bizarre indeed.

Wikipedia's 'prepared article' on the death of Jimmy Carter
Wikipedia's 'prepared article' on the death of Gerald Ford
Wikipedia's 'prepared article' on the arrival of Bird Flu in the UK

PLEASE NOTE! The articles linked above concern events that are YET to happen. Neither Jimmy Carter nor Gerald Ford are dead, and bird flu has NOT yet reached UK shores.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Decathlete Dale's Discus Disaster

The 2006 Commonwealth Games are entering their final throes with the last few days of action in Melbourne. It's been a decent week or two with some good performances from unsung heroes, and some pretty rubbish ones from a few established names.

Sadly, though, sometimes the differences between the Commonwealth Games and the Olympic Games are glaringly obvious. In an Olympic decathlon, for example, the competitors are of such a standard that they are competitive in all ten events, nimble enough to run the 110m hurdles fairly swiftly, yet well built enough to launch the shot nearly 20 metres.

However, in the Commonwealths, some of the decathletes let themselves down in some areas - most notably Guernsey's Dale Garland (pictured), who showed he was far better on the track than in the field.

The islander led the decathlon after the first two events, clocking an impressive 10.94 secs in the 100m, the second fastest time of the entire field, before winning the long jump with 7.36m - leaving England's Dean Macey, who went on to win the event, trailing in his wake. And then came the shot. Garland managed just 11.35m, a full four and a half metres behind Macey. As if to underline his preference for track events over field events, he went on to win the last event of day one, the 400m (his specialist event), beating the rest of the field by nearly two seconds.

Dale started day two with a reasonably competitive time in the 110m hurdles - before a disasterous discus was to virtually end all hopes of a medal. Such is his lack of prowess in the event, BBC commentator Paul Dickinson suggested that all those who" have considered discus throwing as a career should look away now",
as Garland prepared for his first attempt. Dickinson's words proved prophetic; his first throw was a foul as his foot stumbled out of the throwing area, while his second hit the cage. Facing the possibility of scoring nil points for three foul throws, Dale's third effort was a conservative 30 metres, a full ten metres behind the next best decathlete.

Not only that, he also came last in the pole vault and second to last in the javelin yet won the last event, the 1500m, by two and a half seconds. His performances on the track were enough to make up for his deficiancies in the field events and Dale wound up a very respectable fifth in what was his first major competition. And it turns out his last as a decathlete - rather sensibly Dale's decided to concentrate on the 400m hurdles.

Yeading for victory...

In the world of non-league football, Eastbourne Borough's fight for survival in Conference South received a boost last weekend with a 2-1 home victory against Yeading. After a goalless first-half, and a Yeading opener soon after the break, it looked like groundhog day at Priory Lane with the game following the same pattern as the ignominious 0-1 home defeat to Eastleigh the previous weekend. But Sports (so nicknamed, for unitiated readers, because until 2001 the club was called Langney Sports) dug deep and found an equaliser through Anthony Storey's stunning free-kick, with Scott Ramsay (above right) netting his 100th goal in Borough colours soon after to give Eastbourne a lead they held on to until the final whistle.

Garry Wilson's side stay 19th, fourth from bottom (only two go down), but are now six points clear of the relegation zone and level on points with 18th-placed Hayes, and three points behind 17th-placed Basingstoke Town, with a game in hand and a better goal difference.

Borough's run-in is not easy, however, and they host promotion-chasing Havant and Waterlooville on Saturday. If you're reading this on Thursday 23rd, Friday 24th or Saturday 25th, my preview for that game can be found here.


Right, let's catch up with all the stuff I intended to blog about but just haven't got round to...

Friday, March 17, 2006

Uni - Rathergate

As part of an ongoing peek into the world of news bloggers, I've been looking into the Dan Rather affair in the US, and how bloggers, directly or indirectly, ended the career of America's longest-serving TV news anchorman.

The Wikipedia entry on Dan Rather gives detailed biographical information on the veteran broadcaster - essentially the US's answer to Britain's Trevor McDonald or Michael Buerk - while the section on 'The Gillian Documents' briefly details how Rather - wittingly or unwittingly - ran a controversial story on George W. Bush's national service based on somewhat dodgy documents which were later believed to be faked.

Right-wing blogs, believing Rather and the CBS network to have left-wing sympathies, joined forces in forming anti-Rather blogs, and putting pressure on the newscaster to resign, or face the sack. These included...

- Powerline Blog
- Little Green Footballs

And three relevant blogs from Little Green Footballs...

Liberal journalists are from Mars…?
- Old pros tricked by blogs
- Bush praises blogosphere

Thursday, March 09, 2006

2012: A Cash Oddity

As sharp-eyed readers will have observed below, a small-scale row has broken out over reports that the government has earmarked £770m of taxpayers money to ensure Great Britain finishes fourth in the 2012 London Olympics medal table.

Now fourth may not seem a good target - after all it's traditionally the worst place to finish in Olympic events, as it's just outside the medals - but no amount of money will get us near the United States, nor for that matter Russia or China (the latter of which should be even stronger after hosting the games in Beijing in 2008). And considering the 2004 Athens Olympics saw one of Britain's best performances at a summer games - and we came
tenth - a fourth place in 2012 would require a massive jump in our medal haul. And to do that, we need to throw money behind our athletes - now.

But organisations like the
Taxpayers Alliance claim that, to finish fourth it's likely Team GB would need to win 60 medals - meaning the investment would work out at £13m a medal. And when you look at it like that, the figures don't seem to add up.

But those for whom sport is a passion will tell you that any money ploughed into facilities and young athletes ahead of the 2012 games will leave a ripple effect for years to come. Let's say, for example, that the country's archery or trap shooting facilities are redeveloped with that money, enabling a handful of talented archers and shooters to develop into world class athletes, who go on to win medals in London. Those facilities will then be around for future generations to take advantage of, and the same archers and shooters who claimed medals in 2012 may well go on to match or better their achievements four, or even eight, years on. The same could be said for track and field athletes, cyclists, etc, etc, meaning that the cash-to-medal ratio drops down to around £4m a medal. Not ideal, obviously, but a far better investment than it seems on face value.

Guardian columnist
Simon Jenkins argues that "an obsession with sporting excellence (as with military prowess) is a feature of authoritarian regimes. Public money is blown so the leader can bask for a couple of weeks in a handsome stadium and thrill as burnished bodies, muscles rippling, bring to his feet literally piles of gold."

But Jenkins forgets the human side of sport - the athletes themselves. The obsession with sporting excellence comes first and foremost from within budding young sports boys and girls, who dream of one day emulating their heroes. But when, for example, the British swimmers who competed in the total shambles that was the 1996 Atlanta Olympics had to sell their swimming gear just to afford to get home, it's clear that some areas of British sport - which, whether Jenkins likes it or not is just as much a fabric of everyday life as education or the health service - suffers from
chronic underinvestment. And, even though the government denies they've even set a target for the 2012 games, any money that gets pumped into the system ahead of the 2012 games, or through the Talented Athlete Scolarship Scheme (TASS) has to be money well spent - particularly if it leads to plenty of gold, silver and bronze medals being won by British athletes on home soil.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Uni - Useful links for athletics funding story...

For anybody on our UCCA online journalism course writing about the funding for British athletes ahead of the 2012 London Olympics...

From BBC News: "Ministers 'have set Olympic goal'"
From The Taxpayers Alliance Blog: "Olympics Watch: £770m Salami Slice" - they're not happy about it all!
From Unofficial 2012 London Olympics forum: Preparing our athletes for the 2012 Olympics board - some useful threads
From BBC Sport: "Cash boost for British youngsters" - unveiling of TASS (Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme)
From SportsAid: Details on TASS