Category Archives: Sports

Melbourne – my perfect city?

I listened to a podcast the other day asking why there is a cultural divide in Australia between art and sport. This came a couple of days after I had had a bit of a Melbourne love moment. I was in town, and had a coffee in Federation Square, the heart of Melbourne’s cultural quarter. I was killing time before heading to AAMI Park to watch some rugby league. I headed down from Fed Square to the river and took a photo of the boathouses with the backdrop of the Melbourne Arts Centre. As I was walking along the river bank, I heard some bells, so went to investigate. There’s a set of bells there, marking the centenary of Federation, and I found out that there’s a website where you can go to compose your own music for them. Here’s the competition winner

From the bells, I walked towards the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which if you are a cricket fan is one of the the great venues. As I walked over the bridge towards it, I realised that I could see all the outer courts of the Rod Laver Arena. So basically, you can come and watch the Australian Open for free (though I bet it gets crowded). As I was standing there, I heard singing so went to investigate that too. Turned out it was coming from the bridge itself, a project developed using voices from Commonwealth countries for the 2006 Commonwealth Games.  As I was googling links for this post, I found that the same people that did the bridge have been commissioned to do a soundscape for outside AAMI Park as well.

So this city has an incredible sporting precinct which it has filled with incredible public art.  I love that this city is so cultural – art, theatre, music, interesting films and *so many* festivals – there’s basically something going on all the time. And a sporting fan would never get tired – rugby union, rugby league, so much Aussie rules, basketball, a Grand Prix, a Grand Slam, the Melbourne Cup, The Boxing Day test…

I think I might have found my perfect city.

The sociology of sport

There are many things to love about Melbourne: its cultural activities, its coffee, its food, its parks. But one that I am going to really enjoy while I am here is its obsession, and that is the word, with sport. It proudly stakes its claim as the only city in the world to have both a Tennis Grand Slam and a Grand Prix. This weekend I went to a rugby union match on Friday, an Australian Rules football match on Sunday and I could have gone to Rugby League on the Saturday, if another Melbourne stalwart – incredibly changeable weather – hadn’t been threatening. The UCI track world championships were held here in 2012 and may be again next year, and there are two football teams. When you wander down Olympic Boulevard, you have the Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne Cricket Ground and AAMI Rectangular (Yes! Rectangular!) Stadium, all fantastic venues, within a few hundred metres of each other.

Given my own interest in sport – watching, not doing – it was good to combine it with my research interests today.  I was giving the first presentation of my graduate career, as part of my  elective course for this semester, which is called Mobility, Culture and Communication. The course is predominantly a sociological assessment of the what, how and why of mobility in the contemporary world and how that affects and is affected by issues of culture and communication. For the presentation, we have to choose a site and analyse it in terms of the themes of the course.

I took as my site the London 2012 Athletes’ Village which I had the privilege to work in during the 2012 Games. I was looking at how the athletes and National Olympic Committees (NOCs) bring a sense of identity to the village, and how the organising committee works to create a sense of community in that same space. Here’s the presentation on Slideshare.

What I found really interesting while researching the issues I wanted to cover was that almost nothing has been written about the sociology, or even the social science aspects, of Olympic Villages. Lots about environmental management, engineering etc, but next to nothing about the people that inhabit the space. There is more about the sociology of sport in general (searching Google Scholar for “gentrification of football” throws up quite a long list) but even then, given the cultural and social importance of sport in so many societies, especially the one I currently live in, you’d think it would be more of a thing. Have I discovered my niche?

Seeking Rugby-League-loving Eurogeeks

How’s this for a great position for some lucky Eurogeek that likes Rugby League? As a former season ticket holder at Quins RL, I’d jump at it if it were compatible with my current functions.

The Board of the Rugby League European Federation (RLEF) is seeking to appoint an Independent Director to assist the Board in the delivery of its Strategic Plan 2011 – 2017.
The RLEF has recently launched its eight-year strategy which is based upon the values of Empowerment, Dynamism and developing a Rugby League Culture. The strategy can be summed up in the phrase “getting more people, playing more Rugby League, more of the time”. Behind that phrase are significant operational plans which are being delivered by a 10-strong team of consultants placed across Europe.
The Board would like to receive applications from candidates with a strong background in any or all of the following disciplines:
• Marketing
• Public Relations
• Commerce
• European Government
• Finance

Successful candidates will be expected to attend Board Meetings, normally three per year, where they will provide help, guidance, advice and support to the Executive team, which is charged with the delivery of the strategy.
It would be an advantage to be able to speak more than one European language.
The position is a voluntary post but reasonable expenses will be met to assist in undertaking the duties. The successful candidate will be appointed initially until August 2012.
Applications should be made in writing, including a letter of application and a current CV, to the RLEF General Manager [if you’re interested, ask me for the contact details].
Closing date for applications is January 10th 2011


One Way Ticket?

There’s been a bit of grumbling about the putative ticketing policy for the 2010 [doh! that should of course be 2012] Olympics, with claims that tickets can’t be reserved for Londoners because of the EU’s competition policy. It’s kind of ironic, for several reasons.

1) The full ticketing policy hasn’t even been announced yet.

2) The EU policy being referred to is based on complaints from previous big sporting occasions around Europe, where fans, including from the UK, have complained that they were discriminated against buying tickets for events such as the European Championships, or the World Cup.

3) A number of tickets are reserved for “the Olympic family” whatever that means – a reservation that appears to have been 40% in Sydney. I think that and the issue of agencies buying up tickets will be a much bigger problem than Europe-wide rules on access – and in the case of the agencies, they’d get the tickets even if there were a UK-only allocation.

Reading the comments on the BBC article about this, some very good points are made about how exactly competition law would affect this. I’m checking out the validity of some of those points and will add something when I find that out.

I live in what will be an Olympic borough (Greenwich) and I look forward to going and watching archery and shooting and modern pentathlon and whatever else will be there, and I suspect that I won’t be fighting with hordes of people over from France or Portugal or wherever. Certainly my experience at the Rugby World Cup in France in 2007 was that the overwhelming majority of spectators were from France. But I really appreciated the fact that I could book my tickets from Belgium, with no problem.

I hope I’m wrong, but let’s remember this discussion if and when there are negative media stories about empty seats at Olympic events…

Could it be Magic

This is a bit after the event but whatever…

Over the Bank Holiday weekend I attended the Rugby League Magic Weekend. Marvellous time had by all etc etc and the longest I’ve spent in Edinburgh for years, thereby remind myself that it is a great city. In the programme for the 7 games of Rugby League we watched, they had a section about each team, and one of the catageories was “If they were a famous Scot, they would be…”. I thought some of them were funny enough to share. Knowledge of Rugby League teams not necessarily required.

Quins: Mary Queen of Scots – Posh relatives, but choosing to live by a different code.

Bradford Bulls: Former RBS boss Fred Goodwin – A rich and powerful major player recently fallen on hard times.

Wigan Warriors: Wet Wet Wet – By the mid-1990s, people tired of them being number one all the time.

St Helens: Gordon Brown – Top dog now, but for how much longer?

Huddersfield Giants: Colin Montgomerie – Often in the running, but just can’t seem to win a major trophy.

Castleford Tigers: Shrek – Not the most picturesque or glamorous of creatures, but much loved.

Catalan Dragons (my team and possibly my favourite one): JK Rowling – Not originally from round these parts, but now considered one of us.

Warrington Wolves: Rod Stewart – Big in the 1970s and still in the news, but it’s been ages since their last hit.

These are crazy crazy crazy crazy nights

Sorry it’s been so long, but the last few days have been a bit mad. On Thursday and Friday I was up in the North-East, representing the European Commission at an event for local authorities, universities and businesses in that region, to highlight possible sources of European funding and where to fgo for assistance and advice on policy areas of interest to them. I also took the opportunity to meet some of the regional press – it’s always good to make human contact with someone, and the regional press tend to have a strong interest in some issues that don’t make it into the national dailies, such as farming or some industrial issues, as well as the obvious regional funding aspects. I was at my friend Clare’s engagement party on Friday night, which was a lovely opportunity to catch up with some people I haven’t seen since my landlords left. On Sunday my friend Kathryn came round for lunch with her little boy Sam, who is a little sweetheart. That evening I containued my advantage-taking of London’s cultural scene by going to the Electric Proms (not the Oasis gig, but rather the Introducing… night featuring new bands. Headliners were the really-rather-good Pete and the Pirates.)

Monday started with a meeting at the London Development Agency, to plan an event in early December with the Regional Policy Commissioner. If Kissinger joked that he didn’t know who to call in Europe, he would enjoy talking to London people… I think three or 4 acronyms were chucked at us during the meeting!

Tuesday was CRAZY! Meglena Kuneva, the Consumer Affairs Commissioner was in London and we had set up visits to the Watchdog and You and Yours stdios. I had to meet her and her team at St. Pancras at 9.38. I left Balham at 8.30 and at 9-ish was sat at London Bridge. For quite a while. Just as I began to panic, the voice came over the intercom “Northern Line suspended, please seek alternative routes”. Oh and by the way the Victoria line was stuffed as well. (This was after taking 90 minutes to get to Camden from Balham on Sunday. I am so over the Northern Line).  So I went haring up the escalators, out onto Borough High Street, and jumped into a cab, which took 10 minutes to get from London Bridge to Bank! By this time I was getting seriously panicky about whether I was going to make the meeting at all. Luckily the cabbie tok pity on a fellow South-Londoner and hot-footed it up to Kings Cross, making it with 3 minutes to spare! then it was into the car and off to the BBC’s media centre. We had a really interesting hour or so with the Watchdog team in their shiny new studio and got a real insight into the work they do and how they organise themselves. then back in the car to Broadcasting House to visit the You and Yours Team. The Commissioner was interviewed for the programme, and then we headed over to the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, where she met the Minister. I then had to shake tail up to Emirates Stadium for a meeting of the Languages steering group, linked to the Double Club, a meeting I was over an hour late for, which I hate so much. we were in a box overlooking the pitch though, which was very cool! After that meeting, I went to meet Kate in their press office to talk about the Brussels visit, which is next week. I then got a call from the office asking if I could do an interview on Radio 5Live’s Richard Bacon programme, which would mean going into their studio at…wait for it…11.45 at night! I said I’d do it, because it was on a campaign that Sainsbury’s are doing to get us to drop rules on fruit and veg marketing standards which we’ve arelady said we’re going to do. So at half ten I headed over to the BBC, sat around for a while and then did the piece which lasted all of about 2 minutes! Then home again to bed. Crazy night, indeed.

So today has been my first proper day in the office for a week. I spent it sorting through e-mails and just getting organised – things really pile up when you’re out for so long. We had our weekly planning meeting today as welll, which is always good for getting our heads straight about what’s coming up. Off this evening to meet this year’s recipients of the One World Media Fellowships – looking forward to talking to the Fijian, in particular, as my parents lived there and I visited several times.

Oye como va

Pretty busy day today. It started with heading out to my old stamping ground of Notting Hill Gate (I lived there in my second year at LSE, which is not as glamorous as it sounds – there were four of us in a two-bedroomed flat, with no central heating and directly over the tube, so the whole place rattled loudly every time a train went by…). We were at the Spanish Consejeria de Educacion, to select the schools that are going to take part in the Double Club trip to Brussels in a few weeks. There were loads of applications and it was really encouraging to read how the project has taken root in schools and is fostering a real interest in languages, especially among boys, who traditionally don’t go for those subjects. If you don’t know what the Double Club is, you can click the tag to go to previous posts which explain it.

I also did an interview for the Food Programme on the labelling of ingredients in alcoholic drinks. Keeps you on your toes, this hopping from one subject to another.

I’ve ordered all the books for my Open University Spanish course, which starts on 1 November. I’m also doing a short course on the science side, so I hope I haven’t taken too much on. But the Spanish is a work thing really – sounds strange to say that it would help to learn Spanish now that I’ve moved to London, but we do a lot of work on languages here, and the Spanish are real movers in that area. Anyway, I feel you shouldn’t have to search too far to justify learning something new. As I found out with the science course last year. Maybe Barcelona (my dream city) will need a press officer in a few years time!

Back in the hotseat

Sorry it has been quiet for a bit. I was in Brussels Monday and Tuesday of last week for a meeting of the people who do my job in all our reps across Europe. It was great to meet them at last – most of them have been just voices across the ether or very small pixellated images on the daily press conference. They had a better idea of what I looked like, so it was a little disconcerting to be hailed as an old acquaintance by people I didn’t know I knew! We also had a meeting with press officers from the European Parliament, looking in particular at next year’s European Parliament elections. It was of course very useful to talk about what we had in common in our work and what is so different. We’ve had the press officer from our Romania delegation, who was saying that a visiting Director-General did several interviews – we can barely get people interested in Commissioners!

I stayed on a day in Brussels to catch up with what was going on in the different portfolios of the Commission and talk over some upcoming issues. I also took the time to catch up with my friends from the Potocnik Cabinet, which was of course as delightful as ever. I do miss them all alot, though not sure I miss the work that much!

On the Wednesday evening I went to Paris and then caught the night train to Tarbes, as my furniture was being delivered to the house in France. My parents and I worked really hard over the next few days, first cleaning the house, then dealing with the delivery and then getting things sorted. I don’t have a bed yet (the packers in Brussels broke the one I took down there) but otherwise the place is looking pretty good. We had Sunday lunch in the little hostellerie across the river from the house – mine host comes into the dining room every 15-20 minutes and regales the diners with jokes and stories. Great meal though, in a French country restaurant kind of way (which is totally fine by me).  I feel so happy about the decision to get a place down there. It’s lovely to keep that French link, which I have been missing since I left Brussels (even spoke to the Francophone guy in Thorntons this mornin in French!) and the place is just so wonderful – life moves at such a relaxed pace you can’t help slowing down yourself. Twice driving to the house we got caught in a traffic jam caused by herds of cows walking along the road!

Last night I went to see Tricky at the Barbican. Amazing. Words used in reviews I’ve seen were “feral” and “unique” and that’s pretty much on the money. It was a one-off experience, totally strange, but mesmerising. He didn’t even sing on all the tracks, but you can kind of see why because it was so involving and hypnotic when he did, it almost would have been too much to have that for over an hour. Really glad I went.

So it was back to work this morning: the Northern Line had packed up so the train was mobbed, just to remind me that I wasn’t in Kansas now, Toto. Most of the day has been spent in just trying to catch up after more than a week out of the office and handling the backlog of e-mails. Of course, I missed all the Mandelson fun while I was out, and the pile of press cuttings about that is its own backlog. Today was mercifully a lot quieter on the news front, but there’s still quite a bit to do for the Brussels trip of the Double Club, the Mock Council and of course, quite a few admin tasks, now that I’m in a management position! In fact, we did a recruitment interview – seems longer ago than this morning!

Off to the theatre tonight with Irina from the Eisenhower Fellowship. Will be lovely to see her again.

Off on my travels

After a few years of seeing the world with Janez (Japan and Russia on ITER, US for the world’s biggest science gathering, Prague for the Descartes Prize ceremony, Turkey and Macedonia to negotiate their entry to the EU’s science programme) I have come down to Earth with a bump. So now it’s Liverpool and Manchester that are my destinations. Not that it’s a bad thing – I had a great trip to Liverpool, as my own version of Mrs Trellis of North Wales will know, and man, I’m looking forward to going to Manchester. Because it’s for the Labour Party conference and can you think of a more exciting time for a political junkie to be at the gathering of the ruling party?! I’ll try to write from there and record the atmosphere. Looking for Europe debates on the fringe has been a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack, but there are a few, and somewhat presciently they tend to be about the global financial crisis, so should be pretty interesting.

Off to the South Bank now for the DancEUnion festival, which looks like being pretty well-received. I don’t think I’ll be able to stay for all of it, as I have to pack for 5 days away, which is a real shame, but J told me it’s sold out, so they don’t need me there anyway. How encouraging that there is such an audience for quality contemporary dance.

Best of luck to the Ryder Cup boys. It’s the only way I can bear to watch golf and it’s nice that there’s one sporting event out there with a European team!

And the last thing – Strictly starts this weekend!! I am so excited I can hardly think about it. Even if I will be watching the first one in a hotel room on my own, it’ll be GREAT!

First item on the 6 O’Clock News

Blimey, we’re top story on the BBC tonight! They decided to run our economic forecast as the top story, more because it suggests a UK recession than anything else I would suspect, but still pretty important. I don’t think I’ve ever seen EbS footage used by the BBC. Usually they insist on having their own shots done, and indeed won’t show on Tuesday anything they showed on Monday. I remember when I was covering trade during the summer of the “bra wars” a crew came every day, even when I made it very clear that I had nothing new to say compared to the day before. Strange… It was one of the fun things about doing the job I did in Brussels, and now: seeing how differently media operate across Europe. As I said, the British media needed fresh footage, if not fresh ideas; the swedes and French love their cutaways and you spend as long walking away from and towards the camera as you di giving the interview. A crew from pressTV the other day were very interested in filming my hands and they ended up in the final interview. Maybe I should have drawn a face on them like we did when we were kids and they could have given the interview instead!

I’ve also loved that the biggest global story of the day has been the switching on of the Large Hadron Collider. Science story? Yep. Showing the value of international collaboration? Yep. Risk of world ending? Hmmm… They even had a female scientist talking about it in the Beeb (though from the footage I saw of the control room, they must have had quite a time finding one).

Can’t get over the news about Lance Armstrong taking up cycling again.  I mean, why? He’s already won the world’s biggest cycle race so many times, what does he have to prove? Still, I’m hoping the Tour will go past my house in France again soon, and it would be great to see him, even if they do pass in a blur and whirr of wheels. I love the thought of sitting up on my little hillside sipping G&Ts while they whizz past!