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Olympics: Being There – Water Polo

Continuing The Substantive series of dispatches on the London 2012 Olympics from writers at The Games, Mark Perryman shares his experience from attending the Water Polo on Day 3.

Water Polo, Water Polo Arena, Olympic Park

Over the past few days I’ve lost count of the number of politicians decrying critics of the Olympics. Labour’s newly appointed ‘Olympic Legacy Adviser’ Tony Blair has returned to one of his favourite themes, declaring war on cynicism. Boris Johnson joins the chorus of boasts that the Games proves London to be the world’s greatest city. And in the press Jonathan Freedland has been amongst those demanding that enthusiasm for the Games must trump any tendency towards critique.

What none of these, and plenty of others, appear capable of recognising is that it is perfectly possible to be both a fan of the Olympics and a critic. When I passed through the Olympic Park turnstiles  I was both looking forward to the event we had tickets to see but also entirely aware of the limitations of the Games model as insisted upon by the IOC and dutifully followed by Seb Coe and LOCOG. Continue reading…

Olympics: Being There – Men’s Football

Senegal v Uruguay and GB v UAE at Wembley, Sunday 29 July 2012

Despite the minor mishaps, London 2012 has started well. There were none of the major problems in delivery past Host Cities have faced, with the issue of calling in the public services to bail out G4S typical of wider issues than those related to the Games. For over a week before the official opening the anticipation has been noticeable on commuter trains in and out of London, a dominant form of conversation between strangers who usually would otherwise be looking down at their phones. Likewise the Torch Relay’s journey through all 33 London Boroughs brought people and communities together both in deprived areas as well as at parties and in one-off events.

On a train out of London the night of the Opening Ceremony children from North Wales were excitedly talking about how they had met Athletes where they were “Guards of Honour”, an early example of Legacy and a reminder how sport can instantly inspire. It was a Ceremony that instilled pride in Britain and a great start to the Games, with the large TV audience answering cynics who cited apathy towards the cultural festival that the United Kingdom is lucky enough to have for two weeks.

On the first full day of action BBC’s new 24 channels quickly became sporting fan’s delight, a selection box with numerous sports attracting attention. In fact after Day 1 the only big disappointment were the empty seats at venues where demand was high and millions of applicants had previously been unsuccessful. There were few empty seats in Wembley Stadium by the time the Great Britain’s men football team kicked-off the second game of a double bill last night, with most of the vacant places caused by those still queuing for food and drink as the only debit card accepted for payment was no longer accepted for payment, as basic technology failed. Continue reading…

GB Football Team: Wembley Win

Continuing his pieces on the men’s GB Football Team reformed for the London 2012 Olympics, Tom Bodell reports on tonight’s win against the UAE at Wembley Stadium.

Team GB upped their performance in a 3-1 victory over an impressive United Arab Emirates side tonight, that for a frustrating second-half period looked like they would become the second side to take points from Stuart Pearce’s side in the London 2012 Olympic football.

With three changes from the side which stuttered to a draw in their opening group game against Senegal, Team GB were much more fluid from the off with round pegs put to use in round holes. Continue reading…

GB Football Team: Stuttering Start

Tom Bodell continues his pieces for The Substantive on the newly formed men’s British football team competing under the banner of ‘Team GB’ in London 2012, reflecting on their opening draw with Senegal at Old Trafford.

For the second time in six days it was hardly classic stuff from Stuart Pearce’s Team GB, who, by full-time, could quite easily have been grateful to take a point from their opening match of London 2012. Continue reading…

Prisoners of War

Spread over ten one-hour parts, the Israeli drama on which Homeland was based came to the UK on Sky Arts, slower-paced than the more famous US show, but just as compelling. Primarily focused on the aftermath of returning soldiers who have been held in captivity for years, the specific details of the story are different, although many of the clever original ideas it had, which Homeland adapted, are here.

There’s the secret language of released prisoners, the covert surveillance, a honey-trap, the flashbacks to the violent beating of a colleague and the collateral damage of the wrecked families left behind after the soldiers became prisoners. Continue reading…

Line of Duty

Following in the footsteps of Cops and last year’s The Shadow Line, Line of Duty lived up to the promise that now accompanies the category of “an original contemporary BBC2 British police serial drama”. There were elements of both those captivating predecessors in Line of Duty – there was the realism, both mundane and gritty, that Cops reflected so well, and there was the crime thriller with corruption at its heart, both themes in The Shadow Line, which was arguably the greatest British contained drama series of all-time.

With a fantastic cast, Line of Duty wasn’t too shabby either. There are few, if any better British actors at the moment than Lennie James, and he is brilliant throughout in the lead part of Tony Gates: every word, every facial expression and every movement perfectly brings to life a clever, charismatic, confident, high-flying cop who suddenly finds the walls around him closing in fast after an error of judgement. Continue reading…

Batman: The Dark Knight Rises Again

Marta-Emilia Bona was at the Batman Premiere this week. She reviews the film for The Substantive.

As a member of the general public who normally attends screenings of Hollywood blockbusters in a small cinema in Cardiff, it’s difficult not to feel somewhat intimidated when met with thousands of screaming fans and a red carpet as you enter Leicester Square. However, it’s impossible to deny the effect of the pomp and circumstance surrounding the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises (complete with twenty foot Batman mask and flaming bat crest – of course). Not being a huge Batman fan myself – I’m actually somewhat averse to the majority of superhero films – I must admit that even I was overwhelmed by the sense that I was about to experience the end of something big: the dramatic climax to an exquisitely executed trilogy. Continue reading…

Olympics: Ring of Steel

Mark Perryman argues that as the private sector fail the Olympics, with the army cleaning up the mess made by G4S, those that fought against terror overseas will now be tasked with checking for sandwiches and ‘Free Tibet’ flags to appease the sponsors of the Games.

Munich ‘72 will always remain one of the most iconic of all Olympic Games. Not so much for Olga Korbut’s impish performance in the Gymnastics or the Gold Medal haul of Mark Spitz in the pool. It is the lethal carnage resulting from the Israeli athletes being taken hostage by the Palestinian Black September group that Munich will always be remembered for. Continue reading…

Bruce Springsteen, Hyde Park (14 July 2012)

At a time when the superficial has become the norm, men and women of substance are like rays of sunlight streaming through dark grey clouds. Governments throughout Europe are allowed to plough on largely critically unchallenged with economic policies that exacerbate a situation they say they are trying to resolve, well-paid barristers use sarcasm as a legitimate form of defence in  high-profile criminal cases, and the masses use the word ‘LOL’ like a full-stop, a disclaimer for any serious thought. Bruce Springsteen is so charismatic and talented he would stand out like a shining beacon in any age, but against the backdrop of fluff that passes for modern life, he is like a saviour that has risen from the streets, a leader and man of the people at the same time. Continue reading…

Olympics: A Games of Two Halves

With his book offering a blueprint for a better Olympics published this week, author Mark Perryman summarises his Five New Rings, as an alternate model.

Seb Coe and the London Olympics Organising Committee, Cameron and his hapless Minister of Culture, Jeremy Hunt, their predecessors, Brown, Blair and Tessa Jowell. All of them cling to a bipartisan consensus that everything to do with the Olympics is fine, nothing the International Committee and their sponsors demand needs to be questioned. It was a consensus which in London managed to unite those otherwise polar opposites, Boris and Ken, too, in solid agreement that the Olympics would be without doubt a good thing for the city.

Continue reading…



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