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Surely it can’t be true that the Chelsea groundsman in his characteristic flatcap was reduced to watering the pitch for Wednesday night’s game against Barcelona - this in the hope of increasing home advantage. The idea would seem based on that old Ron Atkinson theory of meterology that it never rains in continental parts. Or, in the case of Spain, it does only on the plain*. Such plans as there were at Stamford Bridge came badly unstuck in, well, getting stuck.
(* I am indebted to my companies’ colleague Mick Kavanagh for this poetic observation. An Aston Villa fan, by the way, he also organises the FT’s occasional football team, who only this month beat the Times 6-1 on the Market Road all-weather pitch in north London, a surface clearly attuned to the FT’s customarily silky skills.)
Anyone else out there badly put off by this idea that ‘x’ amount of money invested in the 2012 London Olympics will come back - or should do - in ’y’ number of medals? Is that what sport now has been reduced to? Are any of you out there from the world of high profit just nodding and saying ‘why not?’ Of course, from the absurdly Corinthian side of the fence, we could say it all dates back to ‘Chariots of Fire’ and Harold Abrahams hiring a trainer to help him win the 100 yards in 1920-something. Like many people I found the London bombings - of the day after the decision to give London the Olympics - put the importance of the Games in perspective….and now I find the ‘cost-benefit’ approach has just spoiled things that bit more.
The Aussie construction firm Multiplex charged with building the new Wembley went down fighting when it was finally decided to schedule this year’s Cup Final for the Millennium Stadium - they insisted till the end that they could still complete it on time. But I didn’t think much of their whinge as to why they were behind schedule…forget bad planning, industrial relations and the like, apparently it was down to the wind and the rain. Dunno what planet they’ve have been on all these years with a mass of red faced Poms arriving in their country at ten quid a time, not only moaning about being given work to do but also the weather they were glad to leave behind. It shows that in our new internet world of perfect information some details of life still seem to pass people by.
‘A larrikin and a gentleman’ was what the late Kerry Packer was, according to the words of Oz prime minister, John Howard, in his speech at the recent solemn commemoration of the great TV magnate’s life. The PM added that that was what all Aussie men aspired to be (ie larrikins and gentlemen, rather than TV magnates). I’ve asked around among Australian colleagues in the office and their response has been of the order of that’s the kind of reason why Mr Howard is there, and they’re here. One stroke in keeping with the late and departed, however, is that I’m sure the BBC broadcast I heard - on the Today programme, so all but Alistair Campbell surely believe it - said that the large and expensive commemoration was funded by the Aussie tax-payer. Can this really be? Packer was one of the fiercest private enterprise types ever known to man and dingo. It is a standard private sector ruse, of course, to off-load as much expense on to the state while simultaneously keeping up the complaints of ‘big government’, but that Mr Packer could manage such a thing even after death is real tribute to his entrepreneurial brilliance.
(A larrikin, incidentally, is defined in my dictionary as ‘hooligan’ and ‘street rowdy’.)
With a week to go before the first Test in India three England players - spinners Udal, Blackwell and Panesar - have gone down with bad stomachs, my colleague Robert Wright, a Scot though avid England cricket follower here informs me (you know him as the FT’s freight man, dispatches from the Panama Canal and the like). Such word was mentioned, too, on Thursday morning radio reports from India with the usual knowing nods and noises made about ‘that’s what you get’ in that part of the world (’Delhi-belly’, and such, though ‘in fairness’, as they say, no one that I heard used the actual term, and I am just assuming the knowing nods). But if we all know about it, why didn’t the MCC planners for the trip?…or do they just forget in the intervening years between tours of the ‘sub-continent’? I’m reminded that it is nearly forty years ago now that Alf Ramsey and the England football team turned up in Mexico with their own sausages and bottled water.
Good the see Jens Lehmann running into a bit of form….I speak obviously as an Arsenal supporter. Where would they have been over recent weeks if it hadn’t been for his performances…not only some sharp saves, but commanding efforts on the cross. He must be the favourite for the goalkeeper’s spot in the German World Cup team this summer. Not least because Lehmann seems to get leaner by the day. Last time I saw him - and he may have since gone on to South Beach - Ollie ‘Chubby’ Kahn was looking very unathletic by comparison.