For much of the British public professional cycle racing is a foreign sport. And this is largely true when you consider how many races are held in mainland Europe each year and how few in Britain. So it really is remarkable that all the races that make up the European Grand Tour trilogy have been won this year not just by a British athlete but by three different British athletes.
To put these results into some sort of perspective the situation in 2011 was that no British cyclist had ever won a Grand Tour. And Grandad was starting to think that it would never happen. Then everything changed as Team Sky got the funding and talent together for a serious attack despite the challenges faced. Now six of the last seven Tours de France have been won by British riders backed by Team Sky. And this year saw Team Sky win the Tour of Italy for the first time and so set-up the chance to take this unique triple victory in 2018.
Everyone who cares is already fully aware of what happened last night. And there are more than enough comments and opinions flying around to render anything extra from Grandad superfluous. So just adding our bit to the chorus of thanks for a great effort by everyone involved.
Looking forward there is still that play-off for third place but that can only be an anti-climax after the earlier rounds.
And as the football euphoria dies down we have the prospect of witnessing some dangerous games being played by politicians of all parties on both sides of the Channel. A wrong move here would mean that we will all suffer – and for well beyond the 2022 World Cup …
England is enjoying that rare situation of having a football team still in the FIFA World Cup and a continuous spell of dry, sunny weather. A combination that is both exceptional and one that puts a strain on the nation’s drinks supplies. Clearly a situation that the beer and soft drinks suppliers did not allow for in their sales projections … even though closures at the carbon dioxide suppliers may have contributed to the threatened shortages.
At the football England’s progress has been made that much sweeter by a degree of schadenfreude at the early departures of Germany, Argentina and Portugal. However tonight’s game against Colombia may be too tough a barrier to England’s hopes of a quarter final place. But a win tonight – along with forecasts of continued warm weather – could clear out the remaining stocks of drinks Chez Grandad well before the weekend.
It’s More Than A Game – Two games into the FIFA World Cup and England have already scored eight, yes eight, goals. Even though this is already old news for millions, Grandads supporting England just had to register it here. It might never happen again in a life time!
Model Solution – After our posting about hydrogen powered trains comes the news that Cadent have speculative plans to build a hydrogen gas plant somewhere on Merseyside. Cadent have floated the £900m HyNet project – with claims it could reduce environmentally-harmful emissions and could create or secure thousands of jobs over 30 years.
However this scheme does not produce hydrogen cleanly from water and electricity but rather through breaking down natural gas into, mainly, carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen. Essentially producing much the same quantity of harmful CO2 as would burning gas in the conventional way. It is a scheme totally dependent on a method of safely storing all the CO2 produced. Cadent claim that this can be done by pumping it into the gas fields under the Irish Sea that are due to be decommissioned soon.
Many doubt that this scheme will get tax-payer funding since domestic gas heating is scheduled to be culled by 2030 – and that’s just twelve years away. However Merseyside industry may see this as a way to get around their own restrictions on burning natural gas – especially if funded by the tax-payer.
Today the Grandads Technology Centre (GTC) received its latest upgrade. A DVD player with the ability to play Ultra High Definition (UHD) blu-ray discs and Super-Audio CDs via its sole UHD television.
This technological advance at the GTC comes at the same time as the BBC are streaming UHD versions of some FIFA football matches from Russia. And have just announced that much of this year’s Wimbledon tennis championships will be shot in UHD (2160 pixels high) with access via iPlayer.
However this technological advance only serves to show the weaknesses rather than the strengths of the world’s largest broadcaster. Most UK broadcast channels are transmitted as standard definition (576 pixels high) and even though the BBC’s (and ITV’s) main channels are available in HD (up to 1080 pixels high) the vast majority of the channels on Freeview are not; including those part owned by the BBC. Worse still some of the programmes, for example the never-ending repeats of Dad’s Army, are so old that they are in the square format used in the days of analogue television.
The problem for the BBC is its scale and scope. At one extreme it is using the latest technology – for a very limited audience – while at the other extreme it is providing most tax-payers with broadcasts using standards that are long past their best. Low-tech may be justified for transmissions to distant countries – but not within the UK.
For example, to enjoy the optimum experience of Wimbledon in UHD the BBC says audiences need a 40 megabit per second Internet connection. A speed much beyond what is actually available for most UK viewers at present. And sadly the UK seems extremely unlikely to have a powerful enough broadband network able to provide the capacity needed for everyone to watch Eastenders or Corrie in UHD at 40mps in the foreseeable future.
So for now getting something new and appealing, that will test our 4K TV, will have to be sourced via UHD blu-ray discs – despite them retailing for around £20 each. At least then we can repeat some new material rather than shows that have already been repeated ad nauseam on TV.
As the 2018 football world cup competition starts in Russia many Grandads must be experiencing a mixture of hope and resignation. Coming from a generation that saw England’s only victory the intervening twelve competitions seem a long series of anti-climaxes much worse than even the annual Eurovision Song Contest put-downs.
Despite this the World Cup does provide the prospect of a national event that even extreme activists will not be able to link to Brexit or climate change. So let’s hope for a degree of success for the England team since many of us just need a break from a growing frustration with our weak and ineffective politicians. Many other sports have made big strides on the world stage – can this year be the time for British football to get back to the top?
Beers and TV remotes at the ready for 4pm today and then through the other games that build-up to England v Tunisia at 7pm on Monday.
No more mentions of Brexit here as long as England are still in with a chance! And if they win – who will be worried about a EU-free future?
It’s just three months since the fresh start at FIFA HQ but already the signs are not good. First came a leaked document, in the haul from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, linking New Broom President Infantino with improperly selling 2006 Champions League football broadcast rights in Ecuador. The claim being that these rights were sold to two South American front men who then immediately re-sold them for almost three times the price. A common ploy, apparently, for paying disguised bribes and kickbacks.
Then this month FIFA appointed its first female secretary general to replace the banned Jerome Valkcke. Good move. And who was the high-profile appointee to this critical post? The head of womens football in, say, Germany? A former international player or even a football club owner – like Norwich City’s Delia Smith?
No. It was a Ms Fatma Samoura, a UN official who has represented six different African countries during her 21 years there. But lacking any apparent experience of football or indeed any form of sports administration. Needless to say the reaction amongst football fans was one of incredulity.
Just one day later came the news that FIFA Audit and Compliance Chairman Domenico Scala had resigned in protest against a power grab by President Gianni Infantino over control of independent panels that monitor the governing body.
Then this week saw FIFA dismiss its Deputy Secretary General (Markus Kattner) with immediate effect. The reason – he is accused of paying himself bonuses totaling millions of euros during the time he was Director of Finance.
So FIFA’s tattered reputation is still on the way down – and that’s before all the court cases relating to former officials get started …
Olympic Build Up – Yesterday the Rio Olympics organisers announced that the delayed track cycling test event had now been canceled entirely due to more delays and problems at the velodrome. However Brazil does not have an alternative venue to fall back on – so the new track just has to be fully functional by August.
You Know It Makes Sense – This week came reports that customers at a Sainsbury’s cafe were being stopped from having black pudding with their full English breakfasts – due to the religious beliefs of the chef … It seems that truth really is stranger than fiction.
A Message From Europe – With Brussels being the latest city to suffer at the hands of suicidal religious fanatics the whole concept of a unified European state with free movement and common values is again called into question.
The differences between the many regional, ethnic and religious groups – even in western Europe – are deep seated and strongly held. But, even with these atrocities on their very doorstep, dedicated eurocrats have already been pushing for more money and more integration as solutions to the latest security breakdown.
Despite so many citizens wanting to stick to their traditions, religions and regional locations the message from the top remains – more power for us. And for you – Stop moaning. Keep paying. There is no way out.
Today sees the start of the World Track Cycling Championships at the site of the 2012 Olympics in London. Many competitors there will be hoping to show selectors that they are on track for winning medals at the next Olympics in Rio. Certainly Team GB will have their best opportunity yet to shine in front of a home crowd before August comes around. Many other sports will have the same objectives in mind during the build up . And even the media will start to pick up its coverage of less popular sports as the Games draw nearer.
Historically Britain’s medal winning improvements in cycling have their roots in the move of sport’s administration and potential team members to new facilities in Manchester. However the results in Rio are unlikely to be so full of gold as they were up to 2012. Other countries have followed the British example, developed new sports science facilities and lifted their game to the same level – and beyond. Other sports are at different points in their cycle of relative performances. And this time swimming and athletics could be on the up but team sports could be down. The sheer scale of the global sports industry in 2016 means that vast sums can be made and spent winning the biggest prizes – with the Olympics being right there at the top.
Meanwhile on the ground in Rio the actual construction of the new Olympic velodrome is running late – to the extent that the test event planned for late March has now been moved out to 30 April. That will leave just three months before the Games opening – not much time to correct any snags or design faults. But even without any venue problems – and nasty mosquitoes – winning gold in Rio is going to be that bit harder than ever before …