Easter pic

Saint John’s church at the corner of Princes Street in Edinburgh, below the Castle, has appeared on here a number of times over the years because of the always interesting painting which the minister and some artists often put up on a board by the side of the church; often they comment on current events and morality and I always find it heartening to see them so prominently displayed so everyone travelling along Princes Street sees them. I was in town with Mel this afternoon when I noticed this one they had created for Easter; given the news today about the ceremony for the lighting of the Olympic torch it became doubly appropriate.

In case you missed it, as the head of the Beijing Olympic committee rose to make his speech at the traditional lighting of the Olympic torch before it is carried through various nations before going to China some pro-Tibet protestors got through the security. Sadly the television cameras rapidly panned away from the scene until they had been removed, which I consider to be utterly shameful, craven and cowardly. If China doesn’t like it, cobblers to them, but don’t censor such a broadcast to the rest of the world you spineless cretins. Further protests took part along the route as the first runner carried the torch, with local Greeks apparently being somewhat surprised and bemused by cries of Free Tibet, which strikes me as rather odd – considering Greece was under the dictatorial rule of the Ottoman Turks for centuries, fighting for its freedom you’d think the Greeks would have been applauding the pro-Tibetan supporters.

Personally I hope the progress of the torch around the globe continues to attract these kinds of protests – I’m tired of people making excuses about keeping politics out of this and how it detracts from the Games and from the symbol of the international spirit of co-operation and peace the torch symbolises. Let’s be honest, the minute it was decided it was okay to host the Games in a country with an appalling human rights record, a country which keeps down another culture by force, which restricts its own citizens, stifles freedom of speech (often with the help of major web companies, to their shame) and even harvests the organs of executed criminals (and in a state like China do you want to bet all those executed were vicious criminals or just people they wanted rid of?). A country who, when their leader visited London complained to the Prime Minister that people were ‘allowed’ to protest his country’s policies in public on his route in. Bollocks to them. Humiliate and embarrass the totalitarian sods at every single public venue while the world’s media eye is focussed on them. They wanted the Games for international recognition, they have to take the flipside of that which is increased visibility of the shortcomings of their country’s vicious policies too.

And if any Olympians are still whining about it all detracting from the games then to hell with them – human rights are more important than some numpty in shorts running round a track and rather than attacking demonstrators they should perhaps be questioning their own morality in taking part in games held in such a land.

British Olympic Association climbs down on censorship claim

There had been worries recently that the contract British athletes being included in the national team for the Bejing Olympics had been reworded to censor what those athletes may say publicly about the dire state of human rights or politics in the host nation China. The BOA has now apparently clarified this position saying that while it is normal Olympic practise to inform competing athletes that they cannot use the Games as a political platform neither is the BOA in the business of trying to censor what its athletes speak about – they can talk to journalists, answer questions and so on, just not decide to use their position at the Games to stage a protest or demonstration, something which comes from the International Olympic rules. The British Athletes Commission seems to accept this adding that it is the sport which is paramount and that they are going to compete, not to demonstrate.

Which is fair enough, as far as it goes, since that is indeed what they are supposed to do. But I can’t help but wonder if the Games weren’t being held in a nation with an appalling record in human rights abuses, lack of civil liberties, environmental pillaging and few freedoms then this wouldn’t be an issue to begin with. Part of the argument for having the Games there though is that somehow it will magically make the Chinese government more accountable, allowing more freedoms and liberties – the same argument is used by giant corporations like Google and Microsoft for working with the Chinese government, then self-censoring to suit that totalitarian regime and even, allegedly, giving access to web records to track down and silence those bloggers who post opinions considered ‘dissident’. Yay for the spread of freedom by example!!!

Its an old refrain of capitalism that it promotes freedom because those are the circumstances it flourishes best in and where political argument fails to persuade those in power money and successful business might. But that’s an experiment we’re still waiting to see a definitive result on – there may be some more freedoms in China today but equally there are a lot of repressive measures, so the jury is well out on how successfully the market and giving them the Games has worked – it may have helped a bit, but it certainly hasn’t transformed the country to a land of freedom. On the Olympians front though, if an athlete does feel very strongly that an international coming together of nations shouldn’t be staged in a country where the regime denies basic freedoms, liberties and human rights then perhaps they should consider if they should take part in the Games being held there?

Because I doubt the Games will magically make things better – we’re talking about a regime, after all, who when visiting London criticised their UK government hosts for ‘allowing’ people to protest their visit, that’s the attitude they have – they think democratic countries should muzzle free speech critical of them. So I am left wondering if athletics organisations saying that the staging of the Games in China will somehow help improve that country’s lamentable record is less wishful thinking than a fig leaf to their own conscience to justify going there – honest I am not just going because I want to take part in the Olympics regardless, I really believe being there will help the people of China. Honest. Okay, perhaps that is pretty cynical, but I find it is hard not to be cynical about the whole thing. (source: the BBC)

Olympics roundup

With the games of the 2004 Athens Olympiad well underway we at the Woolamaloo Gazette – official sponsor of the Marsupial Olympic Squad – thought it was time to update our readers on the state of play. Friday’s stunning opening ceremony set the stage for this return to the Game’s ancient homeland. Actors, musicians and dancers re-enacted many of the aspects of Greek culture, from the ancient period – sculpture, democracy, leaving unwanted babies to die on hillsides – through to more modern times, culminating in a bunch of paunchy, middle-aged men drinking five bottles of Ouzo then dancing on the tabletops to the strains of Zorba the Greek while seducing foolish and drunken British female tourists (Shirley Valentine, we’re talking about you, you slapper!).

As the Games get into their stride this week we realise our readers will want to know who the hot favourites are. As the other world media are already covering the major tournaments in great detail – especially the BBC with their ‘interactive’ coverage, which allows you to press the red button on your digital remote to check on the drugs testing of any contestant – we at the Gazette thought we would give you the low-down on some of the less well-known events.

Wednesday sees the Salted Herring Hurling heats. The previous world record for hurling a salted herring was set at the 1996 Olympics with Hauver Grundkinson of Bergen, Norway successfully throwing the herring some 23 metres. Nils Borgen of Denmark did manage a throw of 24 metres, but failed a drugs test afterwards when he was found to be sucking on a Fishermen’s Friend (an old sailor’s trick, popular with seamen) and was disqualified. This year’s Danish team is much weaker than before and it is thought that the only real challengers to the Norwegian’s attempts at herring Gold are the Icelanders. Meanwhile the Danish team are still thought to be the hot tip to win the Lego freestyle construction tournament. The Norwegians and Swedish teams will go head-to-head for the Raiding, Burning and Pillaging events, with most experts claiming it is too close to call this year.

The Haggis Hunt first became an Olympic sport ten games previously and has never been won by anyone other than the Scottish members of Team GB, although competition has been growing in recent Games. The wild Haggis is released over a form of steeplechase-like racetrack while the team of four hunters pursue it, stun it and capture it using only hand-woven netting made from thistles (most teams wear gloves, the Scots are too macho too do so, or perhaps just too tight to buy the gloves) and throwing heavy, shaped stones which evolved from Curling stones (this is another reason why the Scots are so good at this sport). Their main rivals this year are the Canadian team, who are also favourites for the 50-metre Otter Race.

The Spiff-smoking events are often the domain of the team from the Netherlands. With large government support for the sport in Holland the Netherlands team – Lurgen, Rolf and Papa Smurf – are easily the best equipped and trained team of tokers on the planet, although the US team’s Californian reefer merchants – Dude, Big Dave and Lili – may well surprise the complacent Dutch team. The Jamacian team are likely to be too stoned to turn up once more.

The tea-drinking championships this year are already underway with Team GB, China, India and Russia all through to the semi-finals. The French team were disqualified for drinking from bowls instead of regulation China cups and Team USA lost humiliatingly early in the tournament due to the fact that they simply don’t know how to make tea.

On the track and field front the kangaroos of the Marsupial team are hot favourites for the hop, skip and jump event and long jump event while the koalas should reach for Gold glory in the Climbing and Eating Leaves event. This may well humiliate the sports-loving Australians they share their continent with, but as they stole the marsupials land and kill many of them (giving rise to the KLF or Kangaroo Liberation Front) most of our pouched brethren will view this as a bonus and extra incentive to go for gold. We at the Gazette salute our marsupial cousins and wish their plucky team the best of luck, although realistically we don’t expect too much from the koalas in the javelin events. Still, they will likely do better than Team Antarctica; their plucky penguins may have taken gold at the belly-toboggan slide and the Orcas at the seal-tossing, but they are really more of a winter Olympics squad and will struggle in the blistering heat of Athens (most of the penguins have done little so far apart from sit around the pool in Hawaiian shirts drinking ice-cold margaritas.

And now a word from our sponsor, Renault:

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