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Olympics: Race

With John Carlos, one of the Mexico ‘68 podium protesters, on a speaking tour of Britain, author Mark Perryman’s latest contribution to The Substantive describes the continuing relationship the Games has with race.

United on the Mexico podium by their fierce opposition to racism Tommie Smith, Peter Norman and John Carlos used the medal ceremony for what has become an iconic moment of public protest. Its durability as an image of anti-racism in sport and beyond is testament to the global platform the Olympics provided. Even before satellite TV and digital media, the dignified audacity of the three medal-winners became an overnight world-wide news story. Continue reading…


Saturday was billed as “The Day of Destiny” by Sky Sports, with two big football finals where in the build-up we led to believe the prize for the first one, the Championship play-off final, was bigger because of the financial rewards. A strange way to measure the prize in sport. On a similar note, Chelsea’s win in the Champions League meant they qualified for the tournament next year, which in itself will probably be worth around at least £20m in extra revenue than being in the Europa League; but you don’t get medals, open-top bus parades or a place in the Club’s roll-of-honour for increased turnover, although in Chelsea’s case, their finances have been key to their success.

However, even with the backing of a billionaire owner for nine years that allowed them to have the luxury of a £50m player on the bench despite a handful of suspensions, Chelsea’s approach to the game was that of an underdog looking for a giant killing, with defensive, negative tactics; and as Johan Cruyff told De Telegraaf, the outcome was one that no-one, other than Chelsea fans, could be happy with.

As with the game earlier in the day, when West Ham beat Blackpool with a late goal in a 2-1 win, the better side lost. Blackpool played some excellent football at Wembley, and like Bayern later in the evening, had their finishing been up to scratch on the day, would have run out comfortable winners. So it was nice that the following night Napoli beat Juventus 2-0 with a fluid, attacking passing game that stopped the Italian Champions completing a double, and going through their domestic season unbeaten with their often pragmatic approach. Continue reading…

The Bridge

With the look and feel of Hugo Blick’s The Shadow Line, and arguably the best thing on Television since, ten episodes of The Bridge on five consecutive Saturday evenings on BBC4 have delivered high quality drama with a combination of style and substance.

As a Noir The Bridge is perfect, not just with beautiful cinematography, perfect opening titles, wonderful attention to detail and costume design, a ‘Killing’ like score, inspired direction and shots that suit the crime genre, but with dark humour that at times is laugh out loud funny. With two brilliant lead characters, Sofia Hlin’s Saga Noren and Kim Bodnia’s Martin Rohde, the dialogue is golden. Continue reading…

Olympics: Decentralisation

As the Olympic Torch arrives in Britain today ahead of a nationwide relay, author of a forthcoming book on the Olympics, Mark Perryman, questions the claim of “A Games for All.”

Beginning its long route around Britain the Torch Relay is one of the few examples of decentralisation and free-to-watch events that could have transformed the 2012 Olympics into a Games for all.

There is little doubt that the sight of the Olympic torch as it passes through a village, town or city up and down the byways, with photo-opps at famous landmarks will ignite popular interest and huge media coverage. Continue reading…

London Prepares: Hockey

6th May 2012, The Riverbank Arena

The Visa International Invitational Hockey Tournament test event at the Riverbank Arena in the Olympic Park concluded on Sunday on 6th May in front of a near capacity crowd with the Great Britain women’s team beating Argentina 2-0 to win Gold in front of the raucous home crowd. Continue reading…


The intercut highlights of the two games that decided the title on Sunday make compelling viewing; almost addictive, they demand repeated watches on some of the many different shows now available, with drama and emotion that only sport can provide. The shots of first the Manchester City crowd when they go 2-1 down and then later Manchester United players and management when the penny drops that City have won the title feel like an intrusion in private grief, yet they are, as with the celebrations either when goals went in or news came from other grounds, a reminder that the supporter is an integral part of the action the Premier League license out in various formats.

As a brand the Premier League still has the hype; the presenter on Sky Sports ‘Football First’ authoritatively said it was the first time the title had been decided in the top flight had been decided by goal difference – only true if anything prior to the last twenty seasons has been wiped from the records, but not letting facts get in the way of a good story. And countless other pundits, caught up in the excitement of Sunday, have been talking about the best season ever, as the Premier League reaches its landmark twentieth birthday, glossing over the fact the quality has at times been inconsistent. Continue reading…

The Fall, The Coronet (11 May 2012)

A former theatre and cinema in that most unloved part of London, the Elephant and Castle, the Coronet has been undergoing a bit of a renaissance these last few years as a club and gig venue. Passing through metal detectors and by flustered door staff on my first visit, though, didn’t really instil much confidence in me (especially as I remembered a story from a mate of mine who swore blind that he was once robbed by a dwarf there), but I guess that air of edginess seemed fitting for an appearance by the Fall. Continue reading…

Ray Lewington

Tom Bodell looks at Roy Hodgson’s first appointment as England manager.

The announcement last Friday evening that Fulham coach Ray Lewington had been appointed to Roy Hodgson’s England staff for EURO 2012 raised a few eyebrows. A quick scan of the Twittersphere told me so.

This wide-spread scepticism was born solely out of the fact that few people have actually heard of Ray Lewington. Save for the few clubs inside the M25 that Lambeth-born Lewington has coached at, he is very much an unknown quantity with the wider football population who still seem put out that Harry Redknapp is not the man putting together his coaching staff right now. Continue reading…

Books on Books

A couple of weeks ago, on 23 April, it was World Book Night. Distinct from World Book Day, which mostly seems to involve harassed parents having to dress their child as Harry Potter or Mr Tumnus or the twitching corpse of a slaughtered teenager from The Hunger Games, World Book Night is when people get to give away free copies of a book from a selection chosen by a panel, from nominees provided by a public vote. A lot of these books weren’t actually very good, but that’s what happens when you let the public vote for things: Nick Clegg in government, Olly Murs in the charts, and Sophie Kinsella novels dished out on World Book Night.

One thing I did notice was that two of the books on the list that are very good are, fittingly, about books. So I thought I’d use the opportunity to recommend them, and a few more books about books too. Continue reading…

Bitter Green

There was a noise coming from a number of the back pages of the national press last week; not the everyday white noise of often baseless transfer speculation, quotes taken out of context and hype for a forthcoming match, all of which are easy to ignore, but something more nasty. Though in reality the sound was the same as a spoilt child spitting out its dummy and rattling its play pen, the personal abuse directed at Roy Hodgson even made the front page of The Sun. Continue reading…

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