A comment on mountain safety


There’s been a string of tragic accidents on the Scottish mountains this winter. Which is a little strange given how there’s actually been very little snow and fairly mild conditions (climate change I suppose, rather that a steady build up it all comes at once and then melts or avalanches off). A few weeks back two highly experienced climbers died on Ben Hope, while Ben Nevis has now seen three accidents with multiple fatalities, notably a fall off the ledge route and just the last few days three were killed in an avalanche in nearby number 5 gully.

Now inevitably the media position is, oh mountaineering, in particular these adrenaline junkies hanging off of cliffs, its really dangerous and should be banned. Well statistically, climbing is still safer than sports such as cycling, field sports, horse riding or water sports. So if you’re going to ban mountaineering, you’d have to ban these as well presumably. And according to mountain rescue statistics, in 2017, only 51% of call outs were for actual mountaineering related emergencies (although admittedly its usually more a 60/40 split). The rest are for things such as rescuing motorists trapped by snow or general search and rescue.

Another point is that a lot of these accidents have occurred on fairly easy routes. No. 5 gully and the ledge route are Scottish winter grade I or II, which is technically a winter scramble rather than an ice climb (easy climbing or hard walking depending on your point of view). In fact, this I’d argue is the problem, people are equating “easy” with “safe”, but that’s not the way it works.

The Ledge route for example (I’ve been up both of these routes before) is fairly exposed includes an airy scramble along a very narrow section of ridge. A grand day out, if the weather is good and you’ve a good head for heights. But certainly it comes with a certain level of risk, and that risk factor soars in the wrong sort of weather conditions or poor snow, or if the party is simply inexperienced (or poorly equipped). And no. 5 gully tends to accumulate rather a lot of snow and is thus prone to avalanches. It also tends to build up a large cornice on top and on at least one occasion I’ve been up it and we had to climb back down as we couldn’t safely break through the cornice without risking it collapsing on top of us.

Given that there was a “high” avalanche warning in effect on the north of Ben Nevis over the last few days one has to assume the climbers in the most recent accident either didn’t see the forecast. Or, as foreigners, they just weren’t aware that this particular gully is avalanche alley in the wrong sort of weather conditions.

But to be fair, I’ve seen scenarios where quite experienced climbers have gone out in bad conditions and argued, oh we can’t do Tower ridge today, lets do the ledge route or CMD arrete instead, that’s easy. And again, yes they are easy, but that doesn’t make them any safer in bad weather. If you’ve backed off one ridge because you think its unsafe, what magical thinking leads you to believe that another ridge on the same side of the same mountain (just narrower and more exposed!) is somehow immune to these dangers?

And for the record, its actually hillwalkers rather than climbers who are most likely to get into difficulty. Statistically only a tiny fraction of call outs are for climbers (94% hillwalkers, scrambling or climbing the remaining 6%), be it in summer or winter. The vast majority of accidents happen on well marked walking trails in summer (accidents being 3.5 times more likely to occur in summer than in winter). So this magical thinking extends to walkers as much as climbers, with people equating “easy” for “safe“, which isn’t always the case.


Careful navigation off the summit of Ben Nevis is essential, particularly in winter

Case in point, the pony track up Ben Nevis (otherwise known as “the tourist route”) is probably the most likely spot in the UK for a mountaineering accident. Because while on a sunny summer’s day its a nice easy walk along a wide path (so wide many climbers call it “the motorway”), it can be very different on a bad day. Snow and freezing temperatures on Ben Nevis in summer is not unheard of. While in winter, temperatures can plunge to below -30’C and the snow can be several metres deep (hiding any waypoints or features under deep snow). And the path passes by several large and dangerous gullies as it approaches the summit. Gullies that in winter might be hidden under massive cornices. So careful navigation off its summit is essential (meaning you need to know how to use a map and compass!).

As the saying goes, the mountain doesn’t know you’re experienced. And some of that experience should come with knowing when to go down or not even to bother going up in the first place (or if and when things go south, how to get out of dodge). Hence the golden rule of mountaineering “going to the summit is optional, coming back down is compulsory”.

Not going out


The great outdoors, Rannoch Moor Scotland, with the mountains of Glencoe in the background

You may, or may not, have heard the story that Penn State university has banned their outdoor recreation club, because its too dangerous for their students to be let out in public. Which from a PR point of view doesn’t exactly send out the right message. Come to Penn state and you’ll be so hopeless at everything you can’t be trusted to go outside.

Let’s be clear this has little to do with “elf & safety”. I cannot help but notice that the American football team, water sports (generally anything involving water carries a certain level of risk), skiing (who tend to be more at risk from avalanches than hikers) and boxing clubs aren’t being closed down, even though some of these would be much more risky. And any contact sports is where we’d expect to see the bulk of injuries to students. Instead this is more a case of “liability avoidance” or what I refer to as Save Ass Policy Schemes or SAPS for short.

Admittedly, being a mountaineer and a bit of an outdoorsy type myself, it has to be said that the risks involved with such activities are difficult to quantify, as is often the case with many adventure sports. A route that some would find suicidally dangerous (e.g. the Cullin ridge on Skye), experienced climbers will do while wearing boxing gloves and roller blades….or riding a bicycle. Similarly even the most experienced climber in the world would be putting himself at an unnecessary risk if he went up certain routes in the wrong kind of weather (the guides on Skye won’t go up the aforementioned Cullin ridge in bad weather, its just too dangerous).


One person’s inaccessible pinnacle is another person’s Sunday morning bike ride

So context is very important. Indeed this is kind of an important life lesson mountaineering teaches you, how to manage risk. Which, can be a useful thing to put on one’s CV or cover letter. But clearly the SAPS in Penn State are too dumb (or scared) to understand that. I bet employers will be queuing around the block to hire these graduates after they hear of this!

I would note that said SAPS are probably reacting to parental pressure. US universities are increasingly having to deal with not so much “helicopter parents”, but what are referred too as “snow plough parents” who expect every possible obstacle to their little darling to be swept out of his or her way. I’ve seen several situations where students stuck with a course that they didn’t like simply because their parents insisted. And when he got caught cheating, it turned out that this was the parents idea. That is kind of what universities are having to deal with right now.

You could argue the most insulting thing you could say to a mountaineer is to call him “experienced”. Because often you learn from your mistakes (so when I say I’m an “experienced” mountaineer, that means I’ve “extended the trip” or “explored alternative routes” on a few occasions). The trick with student clubs is to create a safe environment for people to learn without putting them in danger.

In Scotland we have a pretty good system set up in which the university clubs and the various mountaineering organisations (the mountain rescue teams, guides & instructors, RAF/RN rescue, McOS, BMC, SMC, etc.) arrange various safety courses towards the beginning of term. There’s events in early autumn (just a few weeks into the 1st semester) focusing on general mountaineering safety with further courses run in January/February focusing on winter mountaineering skills (just about the same time the snow’s started to accumulate). This allows new recruits to clubs to pick up the necessary skills pretty early. The clubs also tend to ease people into it, taking them on easier routes first, so they can learn some sense…rather than taking them straight up Tower ridge on Freshers week.

And this is the thing, far from improving the safety of students by shutting down this club, instead Penn state is putting them at risk. The reason for all the courses in Scotland I mentioned earlier is a little statistically anomaly. University clubs rarely get into trouble (given all the precautions they take and the fact they tend to be pretty well equipped). However, students in general are involved in a very high proportion of mountaineering accidents.

So by removing this “safe space” in which students can learn good practice, Penn State is arguably putting its student’s at risk. I won’t be surprised if, irony of ironies, they are sued in a few years time after a student gets into difficulty after being denied access to safety equipment and denied the opportunity to learn safety skills by the university.

Of course I’m going to guess America being America there’s probably a gun club in Penn State and I’m going to assume that there’s no way they’ll get banned (as nobody in senior management would want to pick a fight with the NRA). And given that Pennsylvania is an open carry state, that they ain’t going to say a word about anyone carrying a gun on campus.

Well there’s the solution, change the name of the Outing club to the Outing Gun Club. They carry on as normal, just always carry guns around while doing it (you don’t have to shoot, or go hunting or anything, just carry guns while muttering about your 2nd amendment rights). In addition use NRA style language to get out of answering any pesky questions from uni admin e.g. “Where are we going this weekend? That sound’s like an attempt to run a background check. Deep state! Deep state!”. When in Rome, do as the Romans do!

But either way, this sends out all the wrong messages. It suggests the uni doesn’t trust its own students. In which case why should any employer consider hiring them? People accuse millennial of being “snowflakes”. Yet when they try to do anything remotely adventurous, they get told not to do it. If you don’t let people learn how to manage risks, they’ll either never try anything adventurous, or worse, go out and do something incredibly reckless and foolhardy. Which hardly sounds like the sort of life skills a university wants to encourage in its students.

Weekly roundup

Veto warning


At a conference to discuss the post-Brexit future of the EU, the UK was warned that the EU would make leaving “very painful”, if any form of immigration controls were included. Indeed, the threat was made of a possible veto of any deal by four Eastern European countries, if the UK refused to guarantee freedom of travel. Its unclear if this applies to just current EU citizens in the UK or future arrivals. However, the message is clear, the Brexit position on immigration is not going to be allowed, it is not and never was a deliverable possibility.

But we do 60% of our trade with the EU the brexiters claim, why would the EU jeopardise that? Well because it might be 60% of the UK’s trade, but its only about 10% of the EU’s trade. And certain countries will bear the brunt of that. Others, such as the Eastern European countries making these threats, will not be seriously effected. There is no way the rEU or the UK can bully them out of a veto. So if the UK tries to stonewall the EU, as the three brexiters seem to plan on doing, they will be in for a rude awakening.

Keep in mind at the point where this veto will be made it would be at the back end of negotiations where the UK has likely just days or weeks away from essentially being chucked out of the EU and EEA if it doesn’t get a deal. In such circumstances a panicked climb down by the UK seems very likely.

As always my suspicion is that cooler heads will prevail long before we get to this stage. Some sort of horse trade will be done, EU citizens will have to fill out some forms and will not be entitled to benefits for a few years (although that could result in a rebate of their taxes back to their country of origin). The swivel eyed loons will be told they’d got immigration controls, but in truth nothing substantial will have changed.


Academic poaching

And as if to underline what’s at stake here, there have been warning about how much of the UK’s key science centres are now a risk of being poached. Either individual scientists, or the entire institutes themselves might well move in the next few years.


As I mentioned in previous posts, a lot of the funding for these institutes comes from the EU. And they also get quite a bit of private sector funding too (often the EU funding is dependant on them raising matching funds from the private sector). And many research centres and university’s in Britain will have a small network of high-tech start ups around them, which will both assist and be dependant on the success of said institute at securing funding. Getting that funding outside the EU gets very complicated very quickly. Freedom of travel is also crucial to science and I can’t see how these institutes could function if that were to end.

So the price the UK could pay, is much of its very best and brightest, everything from Fusion energy research to graphene could potentially move overseas in the next few years. Then again, many Brexiters seem to be the anti-science troglodytes who’d rather go back to the 1950’s. Well be careful what you wish for……


ITT Tech


Just prior to the Brexit vote the Universities minister issued two statements which caused great concern in academia. The first was his intention of allowing for-profit universities in the UK. The 2nd was his statement that “some providers may exit the market”, or in other words, the government is okay with the thought of universities going bankrupt.

Well we had a warning this month of what the likely consequences of such a policy would be. ITT Tech, the parent company of several for-profit universities across the US went bankrupt just before the start of term. This left tens of thousands of students out of pocket and with no university place to start or continue their studies at. Many of them have now been left in limbo.

And the reasons for their collapse? Poor standards of education, well below those of mainstream universities and accusations of predatory practices. ITT tech students were some of the the most heavily indebted students in America. And incidentally some of that debt was owed to the US government. Students are now refusing to pay back these loans, arguing the collapse is the fault of the government for failing to regulate ITT tech properly.

So I would ask anyone in the Tory party or any government minster, do you really want to see this sort of scandal play out in the UK? And before you answer that question, take out an electoral map of the UK, work out how many marginal seats are in (or near) a university town and after you’ve worked out how, estimate by how much you’d lose the next election, perhaps then you might decide to reconsider this policy.

Tweeting twits in cars


There was recent talk about increasing the number of penalty points for mobile phone use in cars to 6 . In some respects I can see the point of this. Far too often I’ve seen people driving along, not just talking on a mobile held to their ear, but texting with it. And I mean sometimes when I’ve been cycling or walking along at night I’ve noticed drivers gliding along with their face down at the phone, trying to drive with one hand and half an eye on the road. You do have to worry about some people.

However, the danger with such knee jerk legislation, is that it can often lead to overzealous enforcement by the police. Keep in mind the cops have done people for blowing their nose at a traffic light or threatened to arrest a four year old child for riding a kiddies bike on the pavement. Given the cops an inch in the UK and they will take things to an illogical extreme.

What counts as mobile phone use in a car? For example, I’ll sometimes use my mobile as an Mp3 player. Now I’ll plug it in and set everything up before I start driving, but occasionally I might need to just hit the volume button or turn it on/off (without taking my eyes off the road of course and only when its safe to do so). Does that count? Should I get 6 points for that? Now okay, maybe you say yes it does count, in which case I suppose I’ll just listen to the radio instead, will adjusting the volume on the radio now get me 6 points? Because its essentially doing the same thing. Or how about adjusting the air-con, or the sat nav? Keep in mind that there are time you’ll need to adjust these systems for safety reasons (e.g. its night, the sat nav display is too bright so you turn it off or tap it into night mode, your coming up to a busy junction, you hit the mute button on the radio so it doesn’t distract you, windows start to fog up, you need to clear them, etc.).

And I bring this up because it has a legal bearing for me. I have an Irish license and while the Irish government does transfer points issued by the UK authorities onto Irish license, they don’t give the UK courts a rubber stamp. We have this long standing principle in Ireland of “rights” and “due process”. And any Irish court would likely take a dim view of saying doing such and such a thing with a mobile is enough to lose you your license, but doing the same thing with the car radio is okay. Indeed the Irish government has been having difficulty securing convictions for its own laws against in car mobile use.

And to go slightly off topic, but there’s a Brexit dimension here. While I suspect the transfer of penalty points across the Irish border will continue (its a bilateral agreement and nothing to do with the EU) I’m not sure about other EU countries. I suspect any such rules the UK has with the rest of the EU will end with Brexit. Meaning Polish lorry drivers will be able to not only use their phones while driving without fear, but speed as fast as they like and park wherever they like and there’s basically nothing that plod can do about it other than go whistle Dixie. Keep in mind I already know people from the continent who regularly just tear up parking tickets they get in the UK and put them straight in the bin. Such rules are difficult to enforce at the moment, post Brexit it will be impossible. And again its the tendency of the UK legal system to ignore the basic principles upon which any proper legal system is supposed to work that’s to blame.

But I digress. Clearly one has to wonder how out of hand such measures could get and how difficult it becomes to enforce. Might I suggest a more common sense approach. If you are so addicted to your phone that you can put it down for a few minutes while driving maybe you need to decide which is more important, your ability to drive safely or your phone? Keep in mind that if you travel by public transport instead not only can you text and tweet to your hearts content, but many buses and trains theses days come with free wifi. #OMG

And in much the same way that anyone stumbling out of pub with car keys is likely to be rugby tackled and subject to a citizens arrest these days, if you see someone in the car behaving recklessly with a phone (or turning his head away from the road and trying to tune the radio), point out to them how dangerous this is. #where_did_that_tree_come_from? #Sad face


Unsporting behaviour

There was some controversy this week when one of the Brownlee brothers helped the other across the line to win a bronze medal. The British media looked on this as brothers in arms, or good sportsmen ship. Ah, no! I’m afraid its what’s known as “cheating”.

The rules of individual sports like the triathlon are very clear, you cannot assist in any way another competitor, nor can they or should they except such help. Riders have been disqualified in the past just because a spectator (never mind another runner) was seen to push them. Until a few years ago triathletes weren’t even allowed to slipstream during the cycling stage of a triathlon. Giving or accepting aid like this isn’t just against the rules, it violates the very spirit of the sport itself.

Put it this way, if a Polish or Chinese athlete had done the same thing and a British athlete had been denied a medal, would the UK media be reacting the same way? Probably not. We can’t have one rule for those who are popular with the media (and have a good sponsorship deal) and another rule for everyone else. There’s little point in getting worked up about Russian doping, if were going to apply the full weight of the law to one group of athletes and ignore them for others.

So while I hate to be mean, but both brothers should have been disqualified for this. And should another “hand of god” like moment happen in a future football match, I don’t want to hear any English whinging about how unfair it all is. You’ve gain just as much, if not more, unfair advantage in sports as everyone else.


Not so fancy bears

And speaking of sports there were more revelations about the medical records of British athletes. Now to be fair, if the Russians are trying to tar everyone with the same brush, they are failing. What these records show is that the sort of massive state sponsored doping isn’t going on in the UK or US. However, that’s not to say all of the UK’s athletes are angels. The revelations do flag up some worrying questions.

Quite a few appear to regularly be benefiting from what’s called TUE’s basically an excuse to use a banned substance for medical reasons. The problem is that known drug cheats like Lance Armstrong were known to use these as a way of getting around tests, when they realised (or feared) they might fail a test. So an athlete regularly getting these, while it doesn’t prove anything, it certainly doesn’t look good. In short, anyone who believes doping begins and ends with Russian, think again.


The Empire club

A restaurant in Australia is in hot water after calling itself the Colonial club, a sort of colonial themed restaurant for public school boys who are ignorant of history. Naturally this is causing much offence and there are calls for it to be closed down. One wonders if they do a Jallianwahla Bagh cocktail, or an Irish Famine potato salad or how about the Hola special?

What is it about Empire that the Brit’s don’t get? One of the Brexiters put up a tweet (in reaction to another one showing the EU top of the medal table at the Olympics) claim the British Empire “won” the Olympics. British need to understand that to some people this is the equivalent of going up to a Polish person and saying how much better they were under the third reich. There are only two occasions where bringing up the British Empire isn’t going to get you in trouble:
A) You’re Prince Philip (we sort of expect this stuff from him!)
B) At a memorial for the victims of a British empire massacre, explaining why it was so terrible


The joys of Hitchhiking

A French hitchiker in New Zealand went beserk this week after spending 4 days by the side of the road and not getting picked up. To be honest, I think if you are hitch-hiking, you need to have a better strategy. And in a remote area, you need to have a plan B in case you don’t get picked up, e.g. walk to where you want to go and if you don’t get picked up along they way, you’ll get there anyway. Or have a public transport option you can call on.

One of the issues I take with this story was how he was called “a spoilt millennial”. First of all, Millennials are really an invention of marketeers who like to segment people into neatly defined groups. An many of those qualities they ascribe to “millennials” don’t actually gel with the facts, as this Adam Conover video discusses. I teach a lot of “millennials” and I know of just as many who are spoilt selfie takers with a sense of some sort of god given entitlement, as I know similar people from previous generations. It certainly does not fit the description of the average Millennial I know. Indeed it was mostly baby boomers with there sense of entitlement who voted for Brexit, not millennial’s (whom the baby boomers screwed over).

Rio News


The Rio games, being held in a country still reeling from a defacto coup (by neo-liberals against a left wing President) and a depressed economy, isn’t quite going according to plan. From the diving pools turning green, sinks falling apart in the Olympic village, traffic and transport problems (they bused people from one venue to a metro station, only for it to shut by the time spectators arrived trapping them in the middle of no where!), etc. At least nobody’s come down with Zika thought…..yet!

And of course there’s also been several controversy’s about the running of the games. The road during the cycling proved to be dangerously slippy, doubly so when it started raining. One of the athletic heats had to be re-run (due to heavy rain, it was obvious that the initial run should have been called off). And more recently there have been some questionable disqualifications in both the men’s and women’s 10 km swim.

And of course this all before we talk about arguably the two major issues, the Russians and many empty seats. We’ll talk about the seats first. While the Rio organisers have tried to put a brave face on it, claiming the bulk of tickets were “sold”, anyone with a pair of eyes will have seen the large blocks of empty seats, even for events like the 100m final or the finals of the swimming events.

Now the IOC will probably argue that they are trying to introduce new sports to a different part of the world, there’s never been an Olympics in South America. However, I would question how it was that they could not do something, e.g. give tickets away to the sporting federations for these individual sports. Alternatively, just lower ticket prices to make them affordable to anyone, even if you have to charge just a penny (Ryanair style pricing), perhaps even give them away for free. Or maybe they fear the boys from the Favela’s getting in and holding up a medal ceremony!

One suspects the bulk of those empty seats are in fact corporate allocations . However, scared of the high crime rates and Zika, the hob nober set got given tickets, but then decided not to show up. In truth what these empty seats expose is how the decision to award the Olympics to Rio was a decision made in smoke filled rooms, with the aid of brown envelopes. It was never about the sport, no more than letting the Russians compete was about doping, but about politics and privilege. An opportunity for the elites to show off….and make a bit of money during the building of facilities (that will likely be empty and derelict in a few months time).


There are many theories about the Green pool. Mine is that one of the Russians just dropped their drugs in it. Of all the Russians to participate none was more controversial than Yulia Efimova (previously convicted of doping, recall that the Russian whistle blower was denied the opportunity to compete for this very reason). Her excuse? Oh why Michael Phelp’s has been caught taking drugs too. Which is true, he did once indulge in some hash (outside of competition)…..a known performance dis-enhancing drug.

Personally, I think any athlete who wins more than 4 medals should be required to smoke a spliff before competing in any event, to give the other athletes a chance! It would certainly make things interesting…..particularly when you consider what would happen in the dressage!

If there’s any group of Russians who we can be sure aren’t doping its their divers….who managed to both get zeromaybe they found Phelp’s secret stash? Jokes aside tho, if anyone thinks that doping begins and ends with the Russians, you are very naïve. And while I hate to be a party pooper, but of the events the UK is currently doing well in, rowing, cycling, the power events, these have been the very sports rife with doping in the past.

It worth keeping in mind that the amount a gold medal winning athlete can make is not small, there’s few gold medallists who won’t be millionaires (if they aren’t already) through prize money and product endorsements. With that much money at stake, not only is it no surprise that doping is going on, athletes should be practically throwing themselves over the line…..and funnily enough the 400m women’s race was won by an athlete diving across the line. And a little earlier another athlete qualified for the next round of an event by also throwing himself over the finish line.


I’ve seen this happen often enough at athletic events over the years, to believe its not a coincidence, its an attempt to gain unsportsman like advantage, while remaining within the letter of the law. And one has to note that if this is what’s going on its very dangerous. Runners can be going 30-40 kmph by the time they finish, crashing to the ground at those speeds is risky (I know cyclists who’ve ended up in hospital after falling at half that speed….and they had a helmet on!). Its just a matter of time before someone tries this and winds up splitting their skull open in front of a live TV audience.

So there is a need I’d argue for a rule change. That an athlete must be on their feet when they cross the line. There is a precedence here, many sports ban certain manoeuvres that could be dangerous (e.g. certain types of moves are banned in the fighting events as they could result in serious injury). In horse racing, the result is only considered official if the rider is still on the horse when it crosses the line. So a simple rule change would nip this trend in the bud.

Russia doping ban


And speaking of Russia, its worth mentioning the Russian doping ban of a few weeks ago. Now anybody who believes that doping is purely a Russian problem, is living in cloud cuckoo land (as Paul Kimmage’s recent article in the Irish Independent should hammer home). I mean least we forget that the Americans alone have seen Marion Jones, Tyson Gay, Lance Armstrong and Justin Gatlin to name but a few banned in the last few years. Similarly anyone who believes that all British athletes are clean (or French, or Irish, or Australian), well I’ve got some real bad news for you.

The reality of doping is that many have this image of it being the odd athlete sneaking a few pills in his water bottle in the locker room before a race. However in truth, its much more sophisticated, as the Lance Armstrong case shows. In truth is more akin to the training scene in Rocky IV. While the Russians will try to claim this was a few rogue athletes, the evidence is for a sophisticated state sponsored system, which would generally be more plausible. And its doubtful that any athlete could dope without Putin’s security services knowing about it.

The Russians of course claim that this is punishment for their actions in Ukraine or Syria. However, the fact is that this story first broke some time ago, so the timings don’t quite match the Russian rhetoric. Furthermore it is quite obvious that Putin began to use athletics as a political tool, much like the old soviet union in the past. Much like everything Putin, he pushed too far and his arrogance blinded him to the consequences of getting caught.

So is it overly harsh that Russia gets banned like this, when we ignore doping by athlete’s in other countries? Perhaps, however it was very difficult for either Wada or IAAF to ignore such blatant state sponsored doping on this scale. Had they not taken action, this would have all but amounted to de-facto legalisation of doping in sport.

I would argue that this scandal does mean there is a need to take a more serious look at the problem and I see only three options that will work.

The first says we maintain doping bans. In this case the penalties need to get harsher. No more slap on the wrist fines and two year bans. A minimum four year ban or ten years for serious offences, with the athlete automatically stripped of all medals won in their career to date, plus a fine equal to all sponsorship money and prize money repaid with interest, should be sufficiently severe to scare them all straight. Throw in a three strikes rule for all national teams (three athletes test positive within say a four year period, the entire team is banned for four years and all medals and resulted for the previous four revoked) and state sponsored doping will quickly be stopped. However, I don’t seem this being acceptable, because it would also mean practically every major athlete would retire for fear of getting caught, even those who haven’t been doping.

Option B is accept the fact that doping happens. That most of the recent athletic performances of the last few years have probably been as much triumph’s of chemistry as they are of sporting excellence. Just make athletes declare everything they are taking and test to ensure they aren’t overtly harming their health. We could even introduce some sort of handicap system, with athletes given a weighted belt to shave a few seconds off their time when competing against genuinely clean athletes. We could even get the drug companies to sponsor athletes. If the pharmaceuticals of Pfizer’s are going to power an athlete to success, the least we can do is acknowledge that and let them get a bit of publicity from it.

Option C is to do away with professional athletes altogether. Go back to the era of amateur athletes who run for the fun of in their time off. Perhaps a simple rule that athletes must be in full time employment, or better yet members of a university sports club (limiting any athletes career to the 3-5 years they are at college) and an active full time student. Such athletes would be a lot less inclined to dope, knowing that they would have nothing to gain financially from it and would merely be ruining their health and ability to earn in later life.

Clearly however the policy of only punishing those who get caught with a slap on the wrists is not going to work. Like a career criminal who sees prison as a risk that’s part of the job, athletes will continue to see being caught for doping as a rare but acceptable career risk.

Blogging catch up

Been a while since I’ve had a chance for any blogging, I thought it was time for a catch up.

Greek default
The Greeks are going bankrupt….like a Greek. I think this was the problem the Germans never anticipated. They assumed that if the Greeks did default, they’d default like a German, but of course that’s not going to happen.

Instead, we have Athens basically saying they need to sleep on it over the weekend, have a referendum and even then with it looking like talks are finished, they come back to the table. If the Eurocrats thought that this was going to go to any sort of plan, they were wrong. And the assumption that the Greeks, if they vote no, will quietly leave the Euro, is flat wrong also. That would be way too logical and organised.

Again, this goes back to the beginning of this whole saga, when a failure to tackle the crisis quickly, largely because of resistance from the Germans, let to it building from a minor issue into a full blown crisis. In the end the very thing the German’s resisted, Quantitative Easing, the ECB have been forced to bring in anyway. So while yes the Greeks have to take some of the blame for this crisis, so too does the rest of the EU. And if anyone things the Greeks are going to make things easy for them, they’ve got another thing coming.

An interesting piece here from the BBC about the long running saga of choosing the next airport for London. Would you believe that committee after committee has been debating this matter since the Roskill Commission in 1971. They recommended a new airport on a greenfield site in Buckinghamshire. Then, as now, the government rejected this proposal and fudged the issue. And successive governments have been fudging it ever since.

So with that in mind you can understand why this week’s Airports commission report went down like a lead balloon. The problem here is that politicians keeping asking for an answer to a simple question and then not liking the answer they get back.

Expansion of Gatwick or building a new airport in the Thames estuary comes with numerous difficulties, not least of those cost, but also the issue that such an airport will be in the wrong place. Any replacement for Heathrow will serve not just London but a large chuck of England, and the bulk of people in England live either north or west of the Thames, so an airport tucked away in the South East corner of the country will necessitate a change of trains in London, something that will automatically add 1-3 hours onto any journey time.

This is the whole reason why the Roskill commission picked a site north of the capital. The present Airports commission, perhaps recognising the impracticality of this option went for the next best thing, which was to expand Heathrow.

My own view is that instead of expanding Heathrow, just make sure its integrated into the HS2 network, as this will eliminate the need for commuter flights to Heathrow, freeing up capacity. Furthermore, as HS2 passes close to Manchester and Birmingham airports, it offers the alternative of expanding them instead and offering a fast connection time to London, Heathrow and the rest of the country. Its also worth remembering that much of Heathrow is given over to cargo. Do the parcels really care where they land? Can’t we just take one of a number of airfields near London (or take over Luton or Oxford airport), turn it into a dedicated cargo handling facility (again ensuring good connection to the rail network as well as the motorways) and redirect all the cargo flights away from Heathrow?

But, like I said, the problem is that no matter what answer they come up with, its going to be unpopular with someone. The Heathrow HS2 link for example has been killed off by the usual NIMBY-ish, indeed Gatwick expansion is also resisted by various NIMBY’s in that part of the country.

Ultimately the government needs to realise that part of their job is to make unpopular discussions. So either they need to disappoint someone by expanding Heathrow, or building a new airport to the South West of London. Or re-route HS2. Or do nothing and point out to anyone in London that wants to complain about how awkward air travel is in London, or that prices are so expensive and the airports so inaccessible, well we had plans to fix this, but you objected to it!

Railway cuts
The Tories promised billions to help upgrade railway lines in the UK, all as part of their election plans for a “northern power house”. Needless to say, that promise didn’t last very long. But I have to give the Tories credit. Most governments would at least go through the motions of pretending to keep their election promises, for a year or two anyway, then act shocked and surprised when the programme they’d badly managed and starved of funds failed.

Certainly it is true that there is a desperate need to upgrade the railway lines of Northern England. Taking a train in that part of the world is like going through a time warp. It takes so long to get from, say Liverpool to Sheffield or Leeds to Hull, you’d swear they still used steam trains. But any sort of meaningful upgrade of systems here was always going to be a major job, as big as HS2 itself.

But frankly anyone who honestly believed that the Tories, a party who have been screwing over northern England since the 1800’s, were going to spend tens of billions on the north, well I’ve got some magic beans you might want to buy! This was clearly an election ploy to steal a few lib dem seats.

Tax does have to be taxing
Another lie promise that the Tories made was not to cut working tax credits. Again, any meaningful reading of their election manifesto would lead to the conclusion that there spending plans simply did not add up without some major welfare spending cuts. And the only two line items in the welfare bill with enough zero’s behind them to make those numbers work are a) pensions or b) working tax credits.

And should anyone be in any doubt that working tax credits are going, look no further than the fact that the tabloids are already selling such a cut. They are claiming that migrants in receipt of working tax credits are sending them abroad. Again, this wrong on so many levels. Migrants are at most 13% of the work force, and if this is going on (no proof is offered), it probably only effects a tiny handful (indeed the tabloids seem to admit its a figure in the tens of thousands against recipients in the tens of millions).

And when did we have that vote to impose communism and let the government tell people what to do with their money? I have a bank account in Ireland and yes I push some money from my British account into it every now and then (I don’t receive any working tax credits, but no doubt if I did they would probably class this as “sending it abroad”), as this means I’ve money I can then withdraw in euro’s when I go on my hols. Are the Daily Mail saying the government should now regulate bank account transfers? If so let’s start with the non-dom’s, like the people who own them!

More crucially of course is that these tactics mirror those used prior to previous benefit cuts. Have the tabloids claim migrants or lazy scroungers are receiving them, propose cuts, etc. So working tax credits are likely to be go quicker than you can say “boy for sale”.

United Disgust
Fifa have enough problems as it is, but if you want a good example of the endemic corruption within the organisation, or its wasteful spending on very public vanity projects, look no further than the recently released film “united passions”.

I have yet to come across a film so universally panned by critics 😳 as this film. And probably for good reason, for a film that has taken in all of $200,000 since May….against an alleged budget in the tens of millions. The film’s director has already disowned it, while Tim Roth, who inexplicably plays Blatter :??:, has been making all sorts of excuses.

Of course the film glosses over a few details. Such as the fact that the only reason why we have a world cup was due to a Bernie Ecclestone-esque power struggle between then FIFA president Jules Rimet, the British and the IOC. The film also glosses over the decision to host the second world cup in Fascist Italy. Plus they were in talks with Germany about hosting the 1942 world cup, until Hitler’s little “excursion” into Poland. Then there’s the closeness of FIFA top brass to various shadowy figures, notably various South American dictators and corporate sponsors. Or how on behalf of said sponsors FIFA has put pressure on governments to pass various legislation.

If you want to see a blatant piece of ego massaging propaganda, might I recommend this instead. On the plus side, there are rumours that Ben Afleck and Mat Damon are planning to make a movie of the book House of Deceit about the recent FIFA scandal. Perhaps they can get Tim Roth to reprise his role?

Trump, you’re fired!
Donald Trump :crazy:, professional buffoon and ego manic, has announced his candidacy for the US president. A gift of comic gold dust to US late night comedians. For Trump is known for his habit of suffering from a condition known as “diarrhoea of the mouth”

He has also shown an inability to understand the concept of irony or get a joke, as his recent spat with Bill Maher demonstrates, or indeed his various spat’s with John Steward of the Daily Show. Of course any politician who can’t handle a few comedians is sort of screwed. After all, how does he plan on handling an interview with a serious journalist or a debate with someone like Hilary Clinton?

However in amongst the various comments he’s made since declaring, were a number of racist ones about Mexicans, something which has led to NBC firing him from his own show. Mexican TV have also pulled his shows and even Macy’s has cut its ties with him.

Trump’s problem is that he’s basically a spoiled little rich kid who has lived his life in a little yes man bubble where nobody around him dares to question him. Hence he doesn’t realise how bad what he’s saying sounds to anyone how lives in the real world. I mean even Glenn Beck, a man famous for suffering from Nazi Tourettes, has come out and called Trump crazy.

Battle flag of the racists
And speaking of racists we have the controversy over the Confederate battle flag in the US. After the Charleston killer was seen posing with it, there were calls for the flag to be removed from public buildings. A problem, because inexplicably it still hangs in front of the state capital of South Carolina and its incorporated into the state flag of Mississippi.

Now some will defend the flag and say it means different things. However as John Steward puts it, this is like neo-nazi’s waving swastika’s about and claiming that it means support for Germany’s tough anti-smoking policy. The problem is that the confederate flag has long been a symbol of racists and white supremacists in the US. And it is forever tainted with the legacy of slavery. Now if they people defending it were black or liberals, okay maybe we could believe its defenders, but unfortunately they are almost universally white, conservative, right wingers.

Backing down on climate
The Pope’s letter on climate change released a few weeks ago, which was basically one step removed from a papal bull, has put Republicans in a bit of a pickle. Basically, they can’t bring up climate change denial now, without running the risk of being ambushed by journalists with the line “the pope say’s its happening and its a sin, do you plan on going to hell?”. This is a particular problem for catholic candidates, particularly given their previous positions on issues such as gay marriage and stem cell research.

Traditionally, Republicans have campaigned on the four G’s. God, Guns, Gay’s and Global warming denial. Now they don’t dare mention the first or last G, as that raises the risk of them being ambushed with the other. So this means they’ll probably be focusing more on the two middle G’s from now on…..

Taking it back
….On which point we finish with the story of a US pastor (I’ll let you guess which church) who wants to take back the word “gay” and restore its original meaning.

I happen to agree with this one. I mean “gay” is a crucial word in the English language and we need it. Now thanks to the LGBT lot you can’t read aloud a William Worthsworth poem without someone sniggering at the thought of “feeling gay”.

So yes, let’s restore this word’s original meaning. Hence why I’ll be referring to all US Baptists and Tea party members as gay #babptistsaregay #teapartyaregay :))

Of course we need someone in the UK to front this campaign. So what about Farage? He’s always hanging out in pubs with a big gay grin on him? Maybe he can do it? #farageisgay ;D

Think it will work?

Blatter problems

In the wake of yet another serious corruption crisis, FIFA has re-elected as its president a Sepp Blatter :no:…whose name sounds like a serious urinary tract infection (I’m sorry sir, but you’ve got a Sepp Blatter, stay away from brown envelopes and women half your age for a few months :))).

To those Irish who don’t know much about “soccer”, this is a game that involves moving little brown envelopes stuffed with cash around the world without getting caught. The winner is the person who avoids doing twenty years to life in a US supermax prison ;D.

Seriously tho, we’ve been here before…and before…and before that…I recall a few years ago when the last crisis struck Blatter said that this would be his last term, he fought off the critics, etc. The guy isn’t going to go quietly. He’ll only go when he’s dragged off kicking and screaming. And keep in mind the standard procedure for the Fed’s is to arrest their way up the pyramid, start off with the minions of Mr Big, sweat’em down and see if they’ll testify to save their skin, then arrest the head honcho. So Blatter might well be arrested at some point in the future, which would not be good for the game.

Clearly we can’t wait for that hence why I would urge action now. Firstly, I’d call for a boycott of all of FIFA’s sponsors. Admittedly, given that I don’t have VISA credit card, nor that I use any of the other FIFA sponsors products much (the only think I’d use Bud for would be cleaning the loo!), its going to be easy for me to do that. But any sort of pressure like this will quickly bring pressure to bear on FIFA.

Secondly, I’d suggest that UEFA should make clear that they will not be participating in either the 2018 or 2022 world cup’s unless the bidding process is reopened. Instead a tournament will be held in Europe at the same time as the world cup, with qualifying starting for that instead of the FIFA world cup in the next few weeks. Select countries such as Brazil, Argentina, the US, Australia, Cameron, etc. will be invited to participate.

Such a move would render the TV rights to the world cup’s worthless. Nobody’s going to watch Boliva v’s Egypt when they can catch Germany v’s Italy on the other channel. FIFA would be driven to the brink of bankruptcy by such a policy and quickly brought to heel. However my fear is that instead we’ll get what always happens in these sort of situations, more kicking the can down the road and no serious action.

Blogging catch up

I’ve been off the radar for awhile, moving house, thought I would be time for a catch up.

Black and blue Friday
For a start there were those near riots where a lot of silly people, waited in the cold and rain for hours just for the opportunity to fight over a telly. I mean if you want to fight with some random stranger, just go a football derby match or take up rugby.

On the other hand if you really want a cheap TV, people do know you can get them over the internet? Or cheaper still, by going to an auction, either the online type or the real world alternative, or using charity shops. Of course there are risks to buy something at auction, the product may not be in the best of condition, particularly if its second hand. I’ve never been caught out, but then I’ve always checked out the goods prior to purchase or bought off reputable dealers. But I suspect a telly you’ve wrestled out of a scrum isn’t going to be in that much better condition either!

Needless too say the cops haven’t exactly been happy about this, having a go at the supermarkets for stirring up a hornets nest. But while the supermarkets do deserve some blame, I wonder if this is more a sign of how selfish and mercenary society is becoming. They say every society is two meals from revolution. I’d say we’re actually one I-Pod away.

Migrants cause traffic jams !?!
Nigel Farage has continued his policy of “dog whistle” politics, i.e. making racists comments, but in a coded way that doesn’t sound racist. His latest one is to blame being late for a meeting in Wales on migrants causing traffic jams :crazy: WTF?

“Foreign born” individuals (which captures both immigrants an a large number of naturalised British) represent only 13% of the population and while precise statistics aren’t available, as they tend to be on a lower income or younger they are a lot less likely to own a car than the remaining 87%. How can, at most 13% of the population (and probably more like 7-8% if we’re realistic) be responsible for traffic jams?

I mean I managed to get into a few horrendous jams recently, and they were often the result of an accident, or road works or in one case an accident at a section of road works. However I was big enough to accept that I was behind schedule due to improper planning, i.e. choosing the wrong route, not checking traffic reports before heading out. Perhaps Farage, not exactly known for being the brightest spark, should have done the same? Or taken the train or something?

As even UKIP’s founder has pointed out, the party is now little more than the domain of fruitcakes and closet racists and generally the sort of people who, unlike migrants, do represent a serious threat to this country.

Playing like Girls
Another thing Farage is famous for, aside from being a “dim witted racists” is that of a chauvinist. He’s recently been taking issue with women’s rights to breastfeed in public.

However recently a goal by Irish footballer Stephanie Roche was nominated for FIFA’s goal of the year. And if you watch the video you can see why. A couple more players like that, and Ireland could be in with a serious chance of winning something…..Of course Farage had his way, we’d probably go back to the days when women were banned from playing.

Russian drugs scandal
A less sporting story is that of a massive drugs scandal, which has been broken by the German media. If suggests that nearly all of Russia’s athletes at recent events have been systematically doping as part of an industrial scale doping system, of the sort we thought we’d seen the back of along with the collapse of the Warsaw pact. State officials it is claimed helped athletes dope as well as cover up any positive tests in return for a cut of their salary. Naturally this news must be hugely frustrating to athletes who were squeezed out of medal positions by these Russians athletes.

While the Russian’s deny everything (predictably), and of course given recent politics one has to question the timing of this story breaking. However the evidence produced by the Germans is certainly worrying, given that it includes actual confessions from several Russian athletes. Needless to say the IOC and IAAF are investigating. But given that they are both as corrupt as FIFA, I won’t hold my breath.

Of course, this is not to say that I believe that all Western athletes are as clean as glacier water. Indeed scandals such as the BALCO scandal, the Festina affair or Lance Armstrong, suggests that the only difference is that the Russians have been a bit more organised in how they conducted their doping.

I’ve long argued that the solution to these doping scandals is simple – return sports to the days of the amateur athlete, eliminating the financial motive to engage in doping.

Nice money if you can get it
The tabloids were fuming over the fact that building companies have recently been paying as much as £1000 a week for skilled brick layers and other tradesmen. The demand has been so great, they’ve been bringing in hordes of them from Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, they failed to ask the more crucial question, why?

Well the financial crisis led to mass unemployment in the building trade. Many of those who lost their jobs have, in the seven years since then, left the trade, retired or got a job doing something else. And the lack of opportunities has meant new apprentices haven’t been coming up the ranks since 2007. Hence, with the building industry now back in business again, companies are now seeing major labour shortages. Which is why they are being forced to look far and wide for skilled employees.

Its all well and good the tabloids pointing to the queues outside job centres and crying crocodile tears (given that they want to take away people’s benefits and have generally tried to argue that the unemployed are lazy). But unless you can find some way of uploading several years worth of skills and experience into their brains, there’s not much that can be done. They need the correct skills to match what the job market needs. Hence the need to promote skills and training, rather than the present Tory tactic of trying to push people into low paid jobs they are unsuited for, just to make the unemployment figures look better.

And restricting the movement of workers into the country won’t magically conjure up new jobs. It will simply mean companies leaving the UK to set up in countries where they can recruit more easily.

Nutcase boss
If you’re boss is a bit strict and bossy, well it could be worse. An executive in Korean Airlines is in trouble for throwing a tizzy over how she was served nuts on the plane by stewards (so you could say she literally went nuts! :##). She then made them knell and bow before here :crazy:, before ordering the plane back to the terminal (delaying the other few hundred people on the plane) so they could be put off the aircraft.

So next time you’re boss asks you do to a bit of photocopying, count yourself lucky!

Let it…not snow!
Its coming up on Christmas, carols and songs are being sung, many of which have titles such as “dreaming of a white Christmas” or “let it snow”. Only for a little snow to fall, alongside the threat of a big freeze to come, and everyone starts moaning about the inconvenience of a country blanketed in snow. Conclusion, people don’t know what they want.

Nepal Trekking Disaster

Freak weather in Nepal recently led to a rash of deaths on the slopes of the Annapurna circuit, a very popular long distance trek for tourists. Most of the deaths seem to have been due to a combination of exposure and avalanches in the region of the +5,000m Thorung La pass. With nearly 40 or more dead (and that only seems to include the westerners, not locals!) this is one of the worst mountaineering disasters in history. This comes on the back of a pervious accident where an avalanche swept away many Sherpa’s from the slopes of Everest, leading to the equivalent of industrial action on the slopes of Everest. This tragedy raises many worrying questions.

Firstly, obviously unseasonal weather does tend to hint at climate change as being a factor. While as always, one can’t tie climate change to any specific weather event (difference between climate and weather) but inevitably such events are going to become more common. There have been several similar freak weather events in the UK as well over the last twelve months.

Secondly based on survivor accounts it sounds like many were first led up the mountain in fairly appalling conditions. This violates normal mountaineering logic which says in such conditions you’re safer going down and waiting out the weather lower down. Then when it became obvious that staying put wasn’t an option, they started heading down in conditions neither they nor their guides were equipped to cope with. Indeed some stories tell of guides leaving essential safety gear behind to lighten their loads.

A key factor in the 1996 Everest disaster was the commercial pressure on two competing teams. The guides (both of whom perished) felt that as their clients were paying for the summit, they had an obligation to get them to the top. For example, one of the guides, Rob Hall, had a golden rule about turning around by 2 pm even if within spitting distance of the top (to ensure sufficient time to descend and avoiding the late afternoon thunderstorms that can occur on high mountains). On this one occasion he ignored this rule.

Also the client and guide relationship saw the clients abdicating a lot of their responsibilities onto the guides on the assumption that they were suitably equipped and able to get them down in an emergency. Jon Krakauer, writer of the infamous account of the disaster “into thin air” noted how one of the guides was not only climbing without oxygen (thus rendering himself too weak to aid clients effectively) but had jettisoned his rucksack too (obviously by climbing without oxygen he had to lighten his load) and thus had no rescue or emergency gear. So we can see similarities here with events in Annapurna.

In the UK there was a period where climbing accidents by university clubs was exceptionally high. The mountain rescue teams, in coalition with the McOS and BMC set a system of training for clubs which sought to redress this. Firstly by providing training in key skills such as navigation, winter climbing, avalanche awareness, etc. But also to help the clubs develop a safety conscious culture.

Having one leader leading a group of barely proficient (and potentially unfit) students up a hill isn’t a good idea. The safety of the group is entirely dependent on the skills of the leader (and in Annapurna the experience of guides can be patchy at best). Also, what if the leader is the one who has an accident?

Instead it’s better to have a group more evenly skilled party, such that the main role of the “leader” is more organisational (e.g. book the minibus and accommodation, work out the route, etc.) and the party isn’t solely dependent on him. After all I’m pretty experienced myself but I have been known to “explore alternative destinations” :DD and its handy to have someone therefore also looking at the map willing to step in and double check what I’m doing, or looking out for signs of danger I might have missed.

Crucially by ensuring everyone is suitably equipped and trained it means that if someone becomes separated from the party (fairly easy in a white out), they have a good chance of making it down by themselves safely, without any assistance. And it’s also important not to let people exceed their own ability. The main job of a party leader in a well-run club is often to say no to people and discourage them from going uphill if it’s obvious that they aren’t suitably equipped (e.g. the types who show up in jeans and trainers with no rain gear! :no:) or aren’t fit or experienced enough to handle the route.

These sorts of rules need to be applied in future to trekking routes such as Annapurna . Many in the mountaineering community are also calling for better communication, in particular of weather reports, standardised training of guides, high altitude shelters and as noted a more safety conscious attitude from the trekkers. This could mean guides having to disappoint clients, by preventing them going further when it’s obvious they aren’t suitably equipped or fit enough or where the weather conditions just don’t make it safe anymore.

While some will grumble and complain, in the end they paying for safety and need to be realistic about their own abilities. As they say the golden rule of mountaineering is:

“going to the top is optional, coming back down is compulsory”

Commonwealth Games

Glasgow is currently hosting what the locals call “the friendly games”. Glasgow seems to be rising to the challenge of the games pretty well, even the neds in the East end seem to be on best behaviour…on which point, a word to the wise, don’t go wandering down any side streets or off the beaten track away from venues in the East side of Glasgow. While most of the area is okay, there are some extremely dodgy spots, the sort of people/scum who thought Benefits Street was like TOWIE :)).

I’ve been to see a few things at the games this last week. Although not the sports I hoped to see. I was looking forward to seeing those traditional Glasgow sports included, such as the 100m dash with a TV. The pursuit (where you are chased by neds down a Glasgow street, or neds are chased by a copper). Or Glaswegian fencing (with broken bucky bottles). I was also led to believe that all the shooting competitions would include a drive-by version and that the diving competition would include pool bombing :DD.

The women’s Hockey was pretty lively. Good play by all teams with the play near constant, hardly any major breaks in play. I bring this up as it was a complete contrast to the World cup where every time the ball goes out of play they stop for a wee while. Or players taking swan lake dives and are being given the last rites over the slightest contact. The only time one of these hockey players went down was when one of the South African players took a ball straight in the face….and the major delay was when a cleaner had to come on with a sponge and bucket to clean away any blood from the nice new pitch!

In short if the players at the world cup had “played like girls” it might have been a good deal more exciting with less of the primadonna antics. Or perhaps such behaviour is inevitable when dealing with our overpaid and underworked professional footballers. And of course while the Hockey Federation has moved with the times (video umpire, measures taken to avoid breaks in play such as a 40 second countdown to any penalty and anyone arguing with the ref gets 5 minutes in the sin bin to think it over) FIFA is stuck with a fossil like Blatter and his cronies in charge.

Similarly the Rugby seven’s was very entertaining, even though rugby isn’t really my thing. The Wales against Australia match was thrilling, particularly the dying seconds where unfortunately Wales lost literally with the last kick of the game. That said, I would agree with those who say Rugby seven’s isn’t really the same game. The scrum’s for example don’t really work when you’ve got only six players in one. But still definitely one to watch next Olympics. And again no rolling on the ground and crying antics as we see in football.

Table tennis isn’t really my thing. But while it might be the sort of thing we play in youth centres or hostels in the UK, its a big sport in other countries, many players household names…tho I’ve not heard of any Chinese table tennis players wrapping their Ferrari around a lamppost while drunk or biting rival players!

The Marathon and athletics programme (so far) has been a bit of an anti-climax, largely due to the low attendance of many athletes who are probably afraid of over exerting themselves before the European Championships. It was still good personally, to go along to Hampden Park and see an Atlethics session, but I get the feeling I should have gone to the Diamond League meet a month ago in Hampden.

Unfortunately, all the rumours I’d heard about chaos at Hampden were true. The bus driver, after getting stuck in traffic dropped me off at the wrong end (not his fault, he assumed logic would dictate drop off at the Mt Florida gate end), but only one gate was open to the stadium (usual security paranoia, obviously someone committed to conduct a terrorist attack would never be so impolite as to just jump the fence!) at the opposite end of the stadium to public transport drop of. But there were no signs up saying which way to go to get around the stadium :??:. Lots of people blundering around lost, an huge queues trying to squeeze through the one entrance. While I got in before it started (but I’d arrive an hour beforehand!) people were still drifting in up to an hour after the start. I would note that the Diamond league event a few weeks ago had the same problems, so the organisers can’t say this was a bolt from the blue :no:.

I’d also argue that the games have exposed the bottle necks in Glasgow’s transport system. e.g. the only direct link between Glasgow’s train and subway system is at Partick, which also happens to be the main hub for several Northside lines (one half go through Queens street, the other via Central). The word I’ve been hearing is, avoid Partick until the games are over. A second hub on the South side would solve a lot of this. It would be easily accomplished as both sets of lines more or less cross nearby the existing West street subway station, as well as providing a major commuter hub on the south side taking pressure off Central.

Similarly some way of linking Central with Queen Street (other than via a long detour out to Partick) would solve a lot of problems. There is a shuttle bus, but it hardly ever gets used, largely due to arsy bus drivers who insist on querying everyone who tries to use the free ticket service for those with transfer tickets. Rather than argue with him many either walk, go to Partick or get a taxi….so sacking this driver (or just gag him) would solve a lot of problems.

I also took a day out from the games to climb a few hills up by Arrochar…when it rained (rather predictably!). Its been 25-30’C most days up here and the minute I decide to go for a jaunt in the hills, the heavens open. As I’ve finished all the munro’s I’m now on the Corbetts and anyone who tells you they are easier than the munro’s doesn’t know what they are talking about! Still all good fun!