Terrorists v Presidents

The Olympics Games were safe: that’s to the President’s credit. The Games were a security disaster, the President was right all along.

Even terrorists know when they are wrong, preferring to keep quiet and avoid spin. Or maybe they quite enjoy the Olympics.

I’m torn. You tell me..

Darts or Weightlifting?

What can I say? I’ve always been a huge darts fan. Not to play (for that is impossible) but to watch. As a kid the Christmas holidays were a time for presents, the World’s Strongest Man and the Darts World Championship. The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

There’s something feverishly magic about waiting for the final dart to land to take the leg, hit the 180 or secure the World Championship. It’s heart breaking to see your man lose, the agonised look of devastation, after all those months training in pubs up the land. For as is said, “you can take darts out a pub, but you can’t take the pub out of darts. The protagonists echo in our minds, for which sports fan doesn’t know their names:

Phil’ The Power’ Taylor quizzically described as “a true sporting phenomenon”, but correctly nominated for a Knighthood.

Steve “The Adonis’ Beaton, dart’s adonis, a man with the greatest curly mullet since the 1980s coupled with bushy moustache. Don’t believe me? Well take Sid Waddell words for it…”Here he is, stepping up to the oche, the Bronzed Adonis, Steve Beaton, most handsome man in darts …” But alas ladies, he’s married to some lucky, lucky lady.

Darts commentator Sid Waddell is worth a note for his pure unabated energy, his sheer lucidity through his near impenetrable accent. He once said of a player: “Under that heart of stone beat muscles of pure flint.” And the legendary comment after another victory by The Power, “there’s only one word for that…”great darts.” Genius.

Bobby George. Wow. The Liberace of darts. A man with more gold than BA. Bobby is a ‘Lanndannn’ fella to the ‘aert. This perma-tan just gets oranger and oranger but fault the guy? No way. You arr aving a larff.

And then there is Eric ‘the crafty Cockney’ Bristow. What can I say? The undisputed king of the sport in the 1980s. Five World Championships, five losing finals in 11 years. A confident man who quipped “I have two bowls of confidence for breakfast each morning,'” Bristow also won 5 World Masters in the same period and then just collapsed, unable to throw a dart, the most celebrated victim of dart’s block, a disease I’ve been struggling with all my life. But Eric was and still is the man. As Sid put it, ‘Eric showed that darts could be theatre and poetry and how far the anger of losing could be taken…He glowed with the arrogance of a cockney wideboy and he could psych out anybody.’

So that’s darts. convincing case isn’t it?

So why weightlifting eh? Well I dunno, but it’s fascinating. Along with darts, it has that one-manness about it, one man in front of a hopeful expectant crowd. It’s simple like darts, the pressure and the victory delivered by the same shoulders. And it’s brutal like darts, the competitors, coaches, and supporters’ hopes dashed instantly.

It’s not patriotic, you will them on and are impressed by any athlete. The beauty is in the simplicity. The tension in the silence. The pride in the achievement. The fun in the predictions. The men are so big that it took 10 people to carry a Norwegian lifter off the stage after he collapsed with a thigh strain.

Two things struck me these games in 2004.

1. Flicking over the channel, we found the weightlifting. I settled in my chair for hours of entertainment. I decided the first lifter named Batsiushka let me down by failing in the lift. Out came a handsome looking Michael J Fox from the Ukraine to pick my hopes and boy, he lifted effortlessly. Or did she? The next competitor confirmed I was watching pseudo-women. Interesting. Steroids are cool. But the Korean women looked like any Korean woman.

2. The Eastern European men have traditional dominated the Super Heavyweight category with their extensive competitions and drugs programmes. But now Hossein Reza Zadeh has usurped them, a rabid 140kg giant known as the Iranian Hercules. A man so strong that his nearest competitor said ” I never expected to win the gold medal,” “Reza Zadeh is unbeatable at present. He is the strongest man I have ever seen.”

Before each lift, Zadeh lowers his portly belly to pray, sings Allah’s (peace be with him) praise when holding the bar above his head and bows his forehead after each lift. The crowd love him and he loves them. It’s pure theatre. At 26 Zadeh will be around for a third gold medal attempt and maybe regarded as greater than Vasiliy Alexeyev, the 1972/1976 Soviet lifter who set 79 world records between 1970 and 1977.

There is something great about willing on a lifter. The sheer excitement as the bar slowly moves from the squat is fantastic. If this was a pub game, I’d never work again.

Both sports have but one task. Hit the target or lift the weight. The simplicity gives it clarity. The pressure is on one shoulders. There is no team or coach to share the burden. Darts players’ hands are like miniature painters, craftsmen of the highest order. It might be the ultimate test of human physical and mental strength. So what am I to say?

Sid Waddell’s greatest comments. This is very, very funny


Choice Sir?

Not being European, I haven’t really grown up in cafe culture and I’ve yet to adapt. It’ll come with age, they thought. One day you won’t want to be in a smokey, stickey-tabled environment. You’ll want to be a little sophisticated, a little middle-class. Well I’m middle-class and getting older but the cafes?

Maybe it’s the atmosphere: the crass cleanness, the opinionated comments from people who cross their legs. Possibly it’s the lack of entertainment, people watching is only of use when they don’t look like the Korean volleyball team. It could be that the wider selection of drinks from alcohol to non-alcohol and then soft is confusing enough that my eyes struggle to find focus. Choice is confusion.

“What would you like sir?”

“Errrr, a coffee.”

“What type would you like? We’ve got mochas, decafs, cappuccinos, green teas……..”

I raise my eyes to the vast board overlooking them as they drone on like a Lancaster bomber. It’s a board reminiscent of Waterloo Station but covered in concoctions I’ve never heard, seeming to change in a blink of an eye, morph with the turn of my head, into something completely different, some other notion as my mind wanders. A Colombian, a Costa Rican, a Sumatran? She talks and talks and then silence, expectant silence. The sweat beads on my neck, tension in my shoulders paralyses me. I feel the desperate eyes of queuing people. What do I want? What do I want? But then I know, it’s what size? Hot or Cold? Inside or take away?

“Well?” her eyes tell me.

My smile breaks out…

“Ummm? Well I dunno. Just a coffee I mumble.

You could use it for an analogy about individualism, or democracy or consumerism if you like but while democracy might be burdensome, life without democracy is troublesome. Of course, sometimes in democracy you don’t get what you want (re. Iraq) and even when you do, they can still take it away from you (re. Chile). Choice? Who needs it?

It reminds me of the relief I felt in a bar in Osaka with only one beer tap. To be able to simply say, ‘a beer please mate’ was so relaxing. That’s where Dan wants to be. And he’ll a pack of salt and vinegar with that.

Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength

I’ll be plain. I supported Germany the other day. Never cheered for them in my life. Never willed them on to take on and strip another team of their dignity. But hey, they were playing Korea. What was I supposed to do?

Possibly it’s to do with only seeing Koreans winning medals on TV and seeing it repeatedly. I mean the same highlights repeatedly. This is the first time I haven’t seen the most of the Olympics. But I have never willed so vehemently against a country. Why I post next. My Politics teacher Mr Wright once told me for many Americans, there is no world outside America as that’s what their TV tells them. He was right of course, but the phenomenon is prevalent all over for varying reasons.

The States is so big, diverse and powerful that it has enough to deal with covering and looking at itself. Here in Korea, it’s simply part of the character. Koreans are notoriously inward looking. It manifests itself in many ways; the lack of consideration for others, probably a Confucianism legacy; the irrelevant mass produced education system; the manufactured nature of talent: the complete lack of perspective regarding Korea’s relative position in the world and its true power to forge it’s own destiny; the bullying and neglect of those who are different, those who are not pure Korean, for this fair land is purely homogeneous and overtly proud of it; and those who unlucky to be born with into a divorce, a mixed-race marriage or have fathers of menial means. Those are forever held in situ, unable to move up or on, for money is the fluid and family history is the business. There are many other examples but you get the point I hope.

Freedom is hard fought and subtly lost. Ask thinking Americans. If freedom means anything, free will, free thinking, free speech are its lifeblood. But a population can only feed off what it learns, what it’s told, what it chooses to learn, what it chooses to hear. Education well done can precipitate enthusiastic discovery. Done badly, it can close the mind to the world, reduce ideas to dogma, leaders to followers.

So when Ryu wins the table tennis tonight, I’ll be turning over. And turning over and turning over, for there is no escape. Some call it patriotism, some nationalism. I call it propaganda. For then everything can be all right, can’t it? As evil (I don’t use that word without thought) North Korea totters, silently crying to oblivion, the liberal South celebrates and congratulates itself that it is so free. But then, everything is relative.

Let the games begin

It all begins here. One of the best days, in lush sunshine, on golden pitches, teams roll out their new stars, supporters pack bars and stadiums alike, drink in the warm, sporting their colours, waiting for the first of many victories, (your team never draws on the first day of the season), optimism tinged with English reserve. They maybe over-paid drama queens, but they are also our drama queens and carry more than our expectations but our hopes, fortunes, that only come from years of cultivated rivalry and league failure.

I’m optimistic. This will be a great season for a lot of teams.

Let the games begin

Howay the lads

Korea confident at the Olympics

Despite being a small country of 40million clones, Korea is expected to do surprisingly well in the Olympics which kick off in a day or so in chaotic Athens. Quotes like “We’re ready. Our venues are ready. Our people are ready,” insisted Athens organising chief Gianna Angelopoulos Daskalaki . “The tram, metro, light rail and Olympic Lanes are open”  do little for me.

That’s right but there was a national power cut when they tested the system on Monday.

Gold medal hopefuls is interesting:

Bang Yu Youp is a gold hopeful. This dynamic boxer has a devastating right especially after the late rounds of beer and is particular dominant over smaller opponents with breasts.

Ruri Runk and Wok So Wat are an excellent partnership in show-jumping, consistently seeming able to get over and around any hurdle and reach the end of the day without having done any work.

Mi Sou Oh is hoping to get at least a silver medal in the “still looking for a job” event.

Mi Too Yung is in the sport of ‘waiting to take responsibility.’ It’s gonna be tough for this nipper who only turned 30 last month.

Yu Go Baek is an interesting one. A foreigner from England (who changed his name from Dan), it’s believed he sneaked onto the plane after last minute qualification in “Yes please”. While this dynamic athlete is very happy to participate, he is expected later to remove the smile from his pocket and sail off into the sunset.