London Calling


A games miscellany compiled by MARY HANNIGAN

Written off: US media call Father Time on Phelps

So then, did the American media respond sympathetically to Michael Phelps’ struggles in Saturday’s 400-metre individual medley final when he finished fourth? Well, in the case of the New York Post . . . not really: “Phlop! Flying fish smoked on the water,” as their headline put it, “Slow Behold” the caption on a photo of Phelps after the race.

In his report, Mark Cannizzaro reminded us, lest we’d forgotten, Phelps had been “photographed with a marijuana pipe at a college party in the fall of 2008”, so that, it seems, might have explained why it all went wrong on Saturday.

A lack of discipline and commitment, he hinted. We’re talking a serious case of “from hero to zero” here.

Cannizzaro’s colleague Mike Vaccaro had a different theory: “Father Time” had simply caught up with the swimmer.

“Time is undefeated. It’s relentless. It’s the most incorrigible opponent. Crosby was overtaken by Sinatra, who yielded to Elvis, who handed off to Lennon, who was ceded to Springsteen . . . Phelps learned the harsh lesson that everyone receives sooner or later . . . time will catch you from behind. Always.”

Ryan Lochte, then, is Bruce Springsteen, Phelps a deceased Beatle.

One day Babe Ruth couldn’t get his 48-ounce bat around on fastballs. One day Michael Jordan couldn’t fly anymore. One day Brett Favre couldn’t stop throwing footballs to the wrong jerseys. Time is undefeated.”

If Phelps endured a spot of derision from his own media it’s nothing compared to the criticism NBC has been receiving over its coverage of the Games so far, notably the swimming finals on Saturday.

Despite paying $1.18 billion for exclusive rights to the Olympics, and having six channels on which to show the events, NBC opted not to air Phelps’ final live, instead broadcasting a recording of him losing in the heats earlier in the day while the final was actually taking place.

Burley bile: NHS tribute irks some

While Friday’s opening ceremony in London was generally well received , Conservative MP Aidan Burley tweeted it was a pile of “leftie multi-cultural crap, the most leftie opening ceremony I have ever seen – more than Beijing, the capital of a communist state! Welfare tribute next?”

Burley – who was sacked as parliamentary private secretary to the Transport Secretary by Prime Minister David Cameron last year after he was photographed at a Nazi-themed stag party – was particularly unimpressed by the tribute to Britain’s National Health Service.

His irritation was nothing compared to that of Daily Mail columnist Rick Dewsbury, though, who wrote a rather eye-popping piece on the ceremony under the heading “The NHS did not deserve to be so disgracefully glorified in this bonanza of left-wing propaganda”. Are you sitting comfortably?

“How long did this shameful propaganda last for? A whole 15 minutes at the top of proceedings before viewers dozed off to the procession of banana republics and far-flung destinations nobody has ever heard of or even cares for . . . it was the absurdly unrealistic scene . . . showing a mixed-race middle-class family in a detached new-build suburban home, which was most symptomatic of the politically correct agenda in modern Britain. This was supposed to be a representation of modern life in England but it is likely to be a challenge for the organisers to find an educated white middle-aged mother and black father living together with a happy family in such a set-up.” What a charmer.

Weighty matters: Sun's set on Jones

The Melbourne Herald Sun is receiving a bit of heat for their piece on Australian swimmer Leisel Jones (right) who, they claim, is overweight going in to her fourth Olympic Games and is only in London for a holiday.

The paper suggested the 26-year-old, who won three gold medals in Beijing, doesn’t fit in to her swimsuit in quite the same manner as she did four years ago, publishing photos from then and now to make their point.

“The Olympic veteran’s figure is in stark contrast to that of 2008,” they said, before inviting readers to vote in a poll on whether she is fit enough to compete.

Australia’s Olympic team chief Nick Green described the paper’s comments as “disgraceful”, others asking is it any wonder young women have “body image” issues.

Jones, though, made good use of the uproar.

“It’s the best thing that could ever happen to me,” she said, “I have never had so much support in my life.

“So thanks to the journalist who decided to write not so nice comments about me because you have never made me feel so loved in my life.

“I’m one of those people who if you put me under pressure, I’ll show you what I can do. I did one of my best sessions ever after I read the comments.”

Retiring type: Russian coach lets fly

“We had a lousy game to be fair. . . I think some of our players should think about retiring from sport. – Evgeny Trefilov, coach of the Russian women’s basketball team after their game against Canada. Which, incidentally, Russia won.

“How can any man possibly lift 168kg? I believe the great Kim Jong-il looked over me.” – North Korean weightlifter Om Yun Chol crediting his late leader after he equalled the world record in the clean and jerk element of the men’s 56kg – becoming only the fifth man in history to lift triple his own body weight.

“Watching London’s opening ceremonies. Hard to believe my ancestors were conquered by theirs.” – American chat-show host Conan O’Brien’s tweet on Friday. He was probably talking about his Irish ancestors too.

“You need the endurance of a Siberian husky, the strength of a cage fighter, and the reactions of a fighter pilot – although I wouldn’t rate my chances against a cage fighter.” – American national champion Timmy Duggan on what it takes to be a half decent road race cyclist.

“We got ding-donged by Big Ben during practice. That was fantastic.” – Czech beach volleyball player Petr Benes getting in to the London swing of things.


British/Australian rivalry rarely fails to amuse during Olympic Games, so when Mark Cavendish blamed the negative tactics of the Australian team, among others, for his failure to medal in the cycling road race you suspected there might be a response from Down Under. Over to you Anthony Sharwood of: The Punch

“Well, that didn’t take long. There are 19 nations on the medal table after the first full day of Olympic competition, and none of them is Great Britain. To compensate for this, the Poms have started whingeing . . . along comes Mark Cavendish and friends from Team GB cycling, accusing Australia and the rest of the field for conspiring against his team. Oh, the poor sweetheart. Was the porridge too hot in the Olympic village this morning, Cav?”

This one, you have to assume, will run and run.

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