Category Archives: Bernie Dowling

Bolts in with the name game

Olympic Rant #12 Fast men are gone in well under 10


THE power of words is more than a casual contribution to the living mythology that is Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt. He might not go Gaga on Twitter but he is the biggest name in Ol’ London Town as he defends his 100m Olympic title.

Usain Bolt sets the fastest 100m time ever 
in Berlin on  August 16 , 2009

Bolt is no good thing to win. It is three years since he set the extant world record of 9.58s. The field includes the second, third, fourth and seventh fastest men alive – Tyson Gay, U.S. 9.69s; Asafa Powell, Jamaica, 9.72s; Yohan Blake, Jamaica, 9.75s and Justin Gatlin, U.S, 9.80s.
Gatlin is a remarkable athlete who recovered from a four-year doping ban (2006-10) – innocent he says – to run his 9.80s on June 24 this year. Jamaican Blake also set his best time in June, while Gay ran his in 2009 and Powell set his PB in 2008.
Rank
Fastest time (s)
Wind (m/s)
Athlete
Country
Date
Location
1
9.58
+0.9
16 August 2009
2
9.69
+2.0It is three years since he
20 September 2009
3
9.72
+0.2
2 September 2008
4
9.75
+1.1
29 June 2012
5
9.78
+0.9
29 August 2010
6
9.79
+0.1
16 June 1999
7
9.80
+1.3
4 June 2011
9.80
+1.8
24 June 2012
9
9.84
+0.7
27 July 1996
+0.2
22 August 1999

Asafa Powell is a mellifluous name befitting the world’s fastest man from 2005-2008.
Asafa Powell: 3rd fastest time and 2nd best name

Then along came Usain St Leo Bolt. On May 31, 2008, fellow Jamaican Usain Boly  ran a time of 9.72s at the Reebok Grand Prix in New York City. Bolt not only had a better time but also a better name.
Usain Bolt sounds like it burst from the pages of a private-detective thriller, but it is his real moniker. I believe the name has added zest to his performance in the track. Coupled with his playful warm-up antics, the name Usain Bolt, the Thor of our times, is revered around the world.
The concept of the fastest man alive helps, as well. It is something of a misnomer in that Bolt would have to be faster than all the dead man, too.
I achieved my only gold medal at the final Goodwill Games in Brisbane in 2001. It was through the then Fastest Man Alive, Maurice Greene. Injury prevented star attraction Greene from competing but he was an ambassador.
He gave a media conference and I asked a question which led to my gold medal. I maintain to this day it was a good question. Before me was the fastest man alive, a man with an English surname and a French first name.
I knew Kansas had French settlers before and after the United States acquired most of the territory through the Louisiana Purchase. One Frenchman Ernest Valeton de Boissière was a fascinating homme who came to the U. S. in 1852.
Although he was a former French army engineer, he was of an idealistic bent and, in 1870, set up what he hoped would be a utopian commune in Kansas. He called it Silkville, planted mulberry trees and produced high quality silk. The enterprise hummed along sweetly and Silkville soon had a school, winery, silk factory and a three-story 60-room housing complex.
Cheap overseas silk imports and community members re-joining the rat-race took its toll financially Sticking resolutely to his dream, de Boissiere and his communards diversified into dairy cattle and livestock , but with little success. In 1892, de Boissiere, gave the property to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and he sailed back to France, where he died in 1894.
Some might say he wasted the last had 25 years of his life but the utopian commune survived for 22 years. By most comparisons with  similar ventures, the Frenchman did well.
In 1972,  the extant  buildings of the ghost town of Silkville  were added to the National Register of Historic Places. If you are in the area of Williamsburg Township, Franklin County, Kansas, you can  pay Silkville  a visit.
Why Maurice  Greene was given a French name might not be as fascinating as the saga of Silkville. But we would never know unless someone asked. So, at an international media conference, I asked the  fastest man alive how he got the name Maurice. ‘My mother gave me that name,’ Maurice Greene replied. It was not the answer I was looking for, though it seemed to please my media colleagues who laughed heartily.
Six months later, an anniversary of the Games was held in the swank Brisbane Polo Club, a place no one had thought to invite me to, before.
I was presented with a gold medal. I do not remember what the event I won was officially called but it was little doubt it was meant to be for the dumbest question of the final Goodwill Games anywhere in the world. I still maintain it was a good question and a lot better than Greene’s answer which sank my credibility.
After all my years in journalism I have only two small pieces of advice for novices: it is not a popularity contest and never be afraid to ask what you think could be a dumb question; you might win a gold medal from it.
So who will win the gold in the 100m.? Like most of the world, I would like to see Usain Bolt win. But I think the gold will go to Yohan Blake. As soon as I post this rant, I will contact my internet bookie to have a modest wager on Blake.
Yohan Blakei looks for gold 

If I am wrong, that’s alright. You have to back your judgement in life, or wait for others to tell you what you think.

Bernie Dowling, August 5, 2012 

Games people play

Olympic Rant #11 Games reputation on the chopping block

WHEN I heard the IOC had booted out a referee and the coppers had lumbered an Olympic tweeter, I thought it best to turn my attention to an alternative spectacular, the annual Pine Rivers Show.
No axes in the back at the Pine Rivers Show
In the noble sport of bashing, referee Ishanguly Meretnyyazov of Turkmenistan was punted from the London games after he failed to stop a match despite a fighter from Azerbaijan being knocked to the canvas six times.
Amazingly, judges awarded the fight to the Azerbaijani Magomed Abdulhamidov, but that decision was soon reversed amid allegations of a $2 million bribe by Azerbaijan. Wow, who would have thought bribery and match fixing would have crept into the pristine sport of bashing?
Outside the bashing ring, police arrested a 17-year-old for tweeting “negative messages” with reference to Olympic diver Tom Daley’s dead father. Wow, who would have thought an offensive message would be posted on Twitter? Police throughout the world are now investigating 45, 762, 811 people over possible similar offences.
Some journos have taken to referring to these London Olympics as the Twitter Games. In my day job, I tweet a bit about the Olympics among posts on more pressing local matters. (I work for what used to be called a suburban newspaper but we have rebadged ourself as a community newspaper.) In these rants, I have quoted a couple of people’s tweets. I am far from an astronaut in the tweet universe but I am not a black hole, either.
On our papers Facebook pages, I posted the discussion point of whether the gun Chinese swimmer was Ye Shiwen or Shiwen Ye. The topic was bubbling nicely when my posts and its attached comments disappeared. Our IT guru assured me the posts were there on the Faceboook page but nobody could see them. This seemed like a great metaphysical conundrum along the lines of “if a tree falls in the forest…” But it curtailed one of my more promising social-media adventures.
One positive thing I will say about my Twitter universe is all the stars in it are rarely negative or insulting. I will just check my Twitter account to see how many stars there are.  I have 22 followers and I follow 30 people. I try to keep parity between followers and followees, but it seems I have slipped up a bit lately.
I read everything I can lay my screen on about social-media strategy. Bent Banana Books is a professional publisher, after all. We need to go into the marketplace and kick arse, ass in America, though I do not get the metaphor of booting a donkey, in the bum, or anyone else, for that matter. I vow to follow hundreds of people hoping some will reciprocate.  But I find it a bit contrived. Then I start getting picky about whom to follow. Those I choose do not follow me back. It’s a mess. One woman – not one of my stars – tweeted anyone with fewer than 100 followers –she actually tweeted less than 100 but I have cleaned her grammar for her – was a cyber stalker. For some reason, her tweet made me feel better.
I believe I should have 2000 followers because what I tweet is really really relevant. Others seem to disagree. They could be right.
After reading depressing reports from the London Olympics, I decided to go to the Pine Rivers Show.

Pine Rivers is a district north of Brisbane. This is its 108th show and the showground is just across the road from where I live.
Pine Rivers has a population of about 130, 000. More than 30,000 people attend the show each year. Per capita, the Pine Rivers Show is far more popular than the London Olympics. No-one watches the show on TV, but.
I tweeted and Facebooked some of my observations to our newspaper accounts. It is my day off, but what the heck, what are a few lousy tweets between friends. I will share some of the tweets and posts, but only the ones which set the scene or demonstrate how wily I am in linking the Pine Rivers Show to the London Olympics.

1. #pineriversshow This is shaping as the best Pine Rivers Show ever. If you like leisurely strolls head down in the next few hours before the burst of the late afternoon crowds.

#pineriversshow Check out 3-month-old alpaca named Short Circuit and 10-month-old miniature long-hair goat Twiggy. They are in the farmyard.

Ugandan drummer Joseph Matovu is conducting free drumming workshops. The kids from Pine Rivers Special School (for disabled students) really pounded out the beat for Old McDonald Had a Farm. “They are fantastic,” Joseph said of the kids. Joseph is fantastic, too.

The variety of food is amazing. You have the old standards of Dagwood Dogs, burgers and chips, as well as the scouts’ sausage sizzle and the Rotary sangers. But there are also wood-fired pizzas, American-style burgers, Teppanyati noodles, Turkish gozleme which is beef cheese and spinach on pita bread and yakitori, Japanese chicken skewers. From the Taste of Greece stall I bought the spanakopita (spinach and feta pie) Yum-eee! The vendor said I pronounced spanakopita so well, he gave me an extra pie free.

#pineriversshow I don’t know what school it was but props for the kids who waited patiently in a 50-metre line to get into the show. They spent the waiting time pointing out to one another all the wonders inside.
                                                     
Pine Rivers was only settled by the White invaders in the mid-1880s and the district only began to become (sub)urbanised 30 or so years ago.  (In 1966 the population was fewer than 14,000). It has nowhere near the rich cultural history of the London and the local council refuses to heritage-list significant sites and buildings in Pine Rivers district. Yet Pine Rivers can host a friendly show of competitions – cooking, horticulture, beef cattle, poultry, arts & crafts, photography, wood-chopping, needlework, school work, colouring-in, show jumping, a rodeo and some I cannot recall – as well as exhibitions and entertainments, many with an international flavour.
I loved it when the Greek man gave me an extra pie for showing the respect to try to pronounce one of his national dishes as best I could.
On that positive message, let’s play the Australian National Anthem for London 2012.

Bernie Dowling, August 3, 2012

Badminton should be good mittens one of my favourite things

Illympic Rant #10 Do those Commie bastards!!!

IN an earlier rant I portrayed the efficiently murderous missiles being developed by a  Russian-Indian partnership as shuttlecocks for the impending Illympic sport of water badminton. Little did I know that badminton would become the focus of a Sino-West showdown at the London Games.
Life follows art in the world of badmimton

These shockin’ awful Illympic Games have become a political nightmare with China accused of progressing from drug cheats to all-round cheats.
It is as if the final medal count between China and the U.S. will be reflective of whether the American or Sino economy rules the world.
Great American author/ essayist/ polemicist/ all-round wordsmith Gore Vidal invariably showed impeccable timing throughout his lifetime. Vidal did not help matters by dying during what will become known as the Chinese Badminton Crisis, named after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Vidal scandalised the U.S by suggesting China would become the new Superpower, sending care packages to Washington, New York and San Francisco. He had the temerity to die in the midst of the crisis, reminding everyone of his prediction.
China was one of the four Asian teams disqualified from the badminton competition. Their transgressions were gloriously oxymoronic: they were losing games in order to win medals. Cheating it was, according to OIC officials.
Now, in most sporting contests, losing to win is a futile exercise. After preliminary contests, the best performing sides are seeded against the worst performing sides. Apparently this is not the case with Illympic badminton and one Chinese side had to throw a game in order to be in the medal fight with another Chinese side.
A casual observer such as me might think the structure of the sport is wrong.
Not so according to the esteemed English popular newspaper the Daily Mail. It’s simply the Chinese are cheats and they have been at it for a long time.

 Chinese players had been scheduled to meet 99 times in 2011: on 20 occasions the game was either not played, or not completed. When China played China, 19.8 per cent of games did not reach a conclusion.

In case you do no get it, 20 out of 99 = 19.8 per cent

Now I suspect, for many badminton competitions, this is the way to work your way through a flawed system when you want to win,
Apparently, the Daily Mail thought it was nefarious, which is obviously evil, being a multisyllabic word you reluctantly have to put in your paper.
China were expected to win every gold medal at the London Olympic Games and all reasonable evidence suggested that the athletes and coaches at the pinnacle of the sport were behaving in a nefarious manner. Instead, a blind eye was turned. Today, the reputation of badminton is in tatters.

I believe that should have read “China was expected to win” but the image of invading red hordes was better conveyed by “were”.
Other reports likened the Chinese selection and training processes to human rights abuse. The best of them have the Buddhist/ Daoist/ Communist medal winners being downright unchristian.

Welcome to the Brave new world of Illympic Games.
Bernie Dowling August 2, 2012.

Pay a wet tribute to Phelps

Olympic Rant #9 Give the pool cleaner a medal
ONE important thing which sets sporting champions apart from the rest of us is they hat3e to lose.
That also sets sociopaths apart from us too, but Michael Phelps is no sociopath.

The Human Medal Detector
Few of us ever have a close relationship with a sporting champ, though we have all worked with a sociopath or three. The one in the corner office is the biggest worry.
Phelps won his record 19th Olympic medal anchoring the men’s 200-freestyle relay. . Fifteen of those medals were of the golden persuasion, including eight gold at the 2008 Beijing Games.
Some journos intent on enticing tweets asked if he was the best Olympian ever. Of course it is impossible to compare disparate sports and sportspeople. But 19 m4edals are more than anyone else has won. On that objective measure, Phelps is the best ever.
It says something about American hegemony – is that word still in the dictionary – that the previous holder of mist Olympic medals Russian gymnast, Larissa Latynina hardly raised a beep on the heart monitor of popular culture. It is not a case of how quickly we forget because most of us never consciously knew.
Best play the American London Games 2012 National Anthem before we forget that. The vid is not that clear and mostly zoomless but it was recorded en el Elstadio Olimpico de Barcelona el 17 de Mayo de 2012’. If you have to go to Google Translate to decipher the afore typed, you might want to relinquish that dream of learning another language.)

Swimming is a funny sport. In other games such as football or snooker, you can trade physical acumen for guile and experience and play into your 30s or 40s. On swimming once old age of say 27 or 28, you have pretty much had it. It is also a sport which requires inordinate amounts of training from a young.
Australian Olympic swimmer Jessicah Schipper wrote the forward for my collection of earlier rants, 7 Shouts (available from Google eBooks, Amazon and their affiliates: first and last commercial on these otherwise public-broadcast rants).
Jess wrote: ‘I am also guessing he (me) would have been pretty horrified to learn I woke up at 3.45am to go to swimming training and I did that five times a week, as well as training five afternoons a week.’ Horrified, flabbergasted, disbelieving; they were three of the seven stages of gobsmacked I recall going through. I never made it to acceptance.
When I was a young man I was somewhat adept at snooker and pool in a careless wasted-youth, sort of way. I used to frequent a snooker hall owned by a pro. He would spend four hours sinking the colours, in order, yellow to black from the shooting position half-way along the diameter of the semi-circle. I should explain it took him four hours not because age had made him hopeless. It was just that he would do it again and again and again, for four hours. You have probably heard that smashing your head against a brick wall is not madness; failing to stop doing it is. That might be wise advice to live by in many endeavours, but definitely not in sport.
This brings us to the people Phelps must, in all honesty and fairness, share his 19 medals with. There are his support network of family and friends, his coaches and sports managers, all his opponents and even the pool cleaners.
Esteemed Australian author Thomas Keneally (The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith) Schindler’s List) modestly declared himself a journeyman, helping to clear the field of literature for creative geniuses to pass through. Jess Schipper will finish her Olympic career with two gold and two bronze as she goes home empty handed from London. Yet, just like Phelps, she is a true champion. I was privileged to see a teenaged Schipper rise from a journeywoman age swimmer in Australia to winning World Championship gold five times.
In between all that swimming and training, she would always give her time to worthy causes in her community.
Jess became a world champ with an iron will embedded in the sweetest of personalities.
Michael Phelps, Jess Schipper and all the journey athletes of the world, we salute you.
Because I have been so nice in this rant, I now have to punish readers with a tribute to the POOs – parents of Olympians. This is the most cloyingly nauseous song I can come up with. Enjoy.

Bernie Dowling, August 1, 2012

How the West has lost

              Olympic Rant #7 More surprises than at a Tea Party Geography Quiz

UPSETS are the order of the first daze of the 2012 Games.
Super swimmer  Michael Phelps set the tone when he was unplaced in his first final, the 400m individual motley.
Some thought Michael Phelps swam in a dinner suit

Phelps made amends, of sorts when he able to rub his 17thOlympic medal, but it was only a silver  when the Americans were swum down by the French  in the freestyle relay.   The French? Sure we know they can speak incomprehensible philosophy under water but who knew they could move so fast on top of it. The favourites, the Aussies, came an unimpressive fourth.
In the sabre version of poking-holes-in-people, Hungarian Aron  Szilagyi, ranked only sixth in the world,won the gold.
The victory took those of us with long memories or fertile imaginations back to the glorious 1912 Summer Olympics  in Stockholm.
The 1912 Hungarian poking-holes-in-people team.

The final eight in the sabre poking-holes-in-people were seven Hungarians and one Italian.
Nedo Nadi really took it to the Hungarians and the plucky Italian finished sixth. Jeno Fuchs overcame ridicule, in primary school because of his name, to take the gold.
Jeno and his fellow six finalists as well as Aron, we salute you, although we leave  our sabres in their scabbard.

If these upsets keep up, they will feed the families of sundry academics for generations. Psychologists, social scientists, sports medicos, politico types  and economists will argue whether the upsets mean the decline of the West.
The Tea Party will blame Barack Obama who fixed the Games  to support an African nation. Most Tea Party members know where the country is because they saw a doco on Hungary Africa.
Bernie Dowling July 30, 2012

Mad Mayor forgets it is all Greek

Olympic Rant #2: The London Games Anthem

WE all might worry about the London Lord Mayor’s insistence on an Olympic anthem in the style of an ancient Greek ode if we did not know Boris Johnson is a total loop-de-loop.

Johnson delivered his first over-the-top serving of a  of a Pindaric Ode for the London Games  — in ancient Greek, no less — at an Olympic shebang at the Royal Opera House  in Covent Garden on Monday night.

Pindar was an ancient Greek lyric poet who dished out Olympic victory odes.

An early Pindaric effort set the theme: ‘Let us not proclaim any contest greater than Olympia. From there glorious song enfolds the wisdom of poets.’

Conservative Johnson and I have little in common but we do make a living through the use of words.

The Mayor moonlights as a columnist for The Daily Telegraph. I am moonlighting, after my day job as a reporter, on these election rants from the edge of the city and the jaws of hell.

In a July 2009 interview Johnson referred to his Tele salary as “chicken-feed’’. His poultry payment each year was 250,000 GBP. That is 320,000 euro, 387, 000 USD and 376, 000 AUD.

In 2009, in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis, Boris Johnson, future Olympic Hero, declared such sums chicken feed.

For these rants I receive 0 GBP, 0 euro, 0 ISD and 0 AUD and I have a retired racing pigeon to feed. Several months back, the pigeon landed on our back veranda, with indecipherable plastic identification tags on its lower legs and sought asylum from competitive sports. Racing pigeons – even retired ones – do not live on chicken feed. Compounding the expense, the bird, having shunned competition, now allows, without any fuss, wild birds to share its food, my food, actually.

At first I thought the pigeon – which we named Pigeon, with Birdie as its nickname – had turned Buddhist. I was quickly disabused of this notion when I brought home a copy of one of the two newspapers from which I earn my living. I started to read the paper when Pigeon viciously clawed the open pages with both feet. I looked down to see Birdie’s food bowl was empty. Pigeon has done a similar thing on other occasions when I read one of our papers. It is official: I am working for pigeon feed.

I am not saying I am as good a journo as Boris Johnson but I wish I had lucked into his lark of Pindaric verse rather than sharing his unruly hairstyle.

What I have in common with Johnson are  journalism and unruly hair.

The Opera House punters broke into rapturous applause when Johnson spruiked in ancient Greek accompanied by English translation on computerised screens. The neo-ode starts

This new Olympic flame behold,
that once burned bright in Greece of old;
with happy hearts receive once more
these Games revived on London's shore.

Who knew you could garner kudos from doggerel if you tied it to the classics. Me, I am more into the Clash than the classics and every daughter and son of Heroic London must join me there. The Clash provides the English National Games Anthem.

Whenever an English athlete wins a medal, the anthem must be played. Tech-heads will synchronise it with their internet coverage of the Games. I am hoping the most sophisticated will be able to tap into that other British antthem and replace it after a couple of bars. God Save the Queen is fine for hundreds of other occasions but the London Olympics 2012 deserve something special.

London becomes the first city to host three Olympic Games. I am hoping the head of the IOC will introduce London 2012 as the Greedy Games in honour of the thousands of cities which have never hosted one. I suspect it will not happen so I will have to be content with the special games anthem.

 Little Known Olympic Fact #1

The first Asian Summer Olympic Games were to be held in Tokyo in 1940.

They were called off because the world was at war.

Norwegian athlete William Risterspyd and his supporters declared the Tokyo Games should go ahead with the neutral countries competing.

The authorities quickly decided this proposal was absurd but the stubborn. Risterspyd, a discus thrower, was adamant. He and his supporters set up a tent in Helsinki’s Market Square for the entire period the Tokyo Summer Games were scheduled for. It did not matter that it was winter in Norway.

Every few hours, Risterspyd supporters cleared people from the centre of the squares so the athlete could show off his discus prowess.

A jubilant Risterspyd linked his protest to the Summer Games when he gave a press conference to international reporters who flocked to the square on the third day of the protest.

‘Now is the winter of our discustent made glorious summer,’ he said.

Bernie Dowling, July 24, 2012.

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