All posts tagged 'Olympics'

Olympic struggle to buy Games Makers CD

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Friday, January 4 2013

Keen to support the choral efforts of my fellow London 2012 Games Makers, I visited HMV to ask for a copy of their Christmas single “I Wish for You the World.”
But after some scrabbling around, I was told it was a download only.
As one of the few ancients who prefer physical CDs - and even vinyl - to MP3 downloads, I left unimpressed and empty-handed.
No doubt it was cheaper for the choir to do it this way, although the Hillsborough disaster single that topped the charts was released in physical form. 
A few days later, we heard from the BPI that downloads have risen by more than 20% as sales of physical CDs, games etc  slumped by nearly 13%.
No wonder HMV is struggling on the High Street, even if queues stretched around the shop in the run-up to Christmas.
But how sad it this last man standing of big-name record shops finally succombs to the market. It suffered huge losses in 2012 and, after the demise of Comet, can it be far behind? It is important for the industry to prop it up as long as possible because where else will it have a shop window for back catalogue? Supermarkets are only good for the latest pop-boilers. I also worry about Waterstone’s after the Christmas rush has subsided.
For much of my life, it has been a delight to browse in record and book shops. Even electrical shops like Comet.
Browsing uncovers all sorts of hidden treasures and broadens understanding by touch and physical presence.
While great for a specific item, the internet is hopeless for browsing. I have never visited Amazon’s vast warehouse the size of umpteen football pitches, but can only be impressed by its rapid service facilitated by an efficient hi-tech factory-style operation, and good prices.
But it’s useless at serendipity.
Part of my reason for asking HMV for the Games Maker single was to show by support for this wounded retail animal. I wanted to buy something. I even asked for a CD reviewed as the best pop album of the year. But it was out of stock.
Amazon told me it was available and could be sent to me for next to nothing in a couple of days. How can HMV compete with that?
I sought a book in Waterstone’s - they had it but it was the last copy and torn. I was offered 10% off,  but it was still £18. I turned down the offer.
On Amazon, it was £8.86.
This is all worrying. Thankfully, a few independent booksellers and record shops remain, with the social interaction and helpful service they provide. But hundreds have sadly disappeared.
I fear my browsing days are numbered. The high street faces up to huge change, with the loss of record shops where customers once entered a booth, donned headphones and listened with mounting excitement to the latest Beatles or Stones’ album.
Amazon cannot match the thrill of a bookshop. A download or online order is just not the same.
I only hope that HMV, Waterstone’s and those valiant independents make it through to New Year’s Day 2014.

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Categories: parish council

Paralympians redefine the word 'ability'

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Tuesday, September 4 2012

I am off to watch athletics at the Olympic Stadium on Friday and I couldn’t be more excited.

I didn’t manage to get tickets for the Olympics despite numerous attempts and countless minutes spent watching the little clock go round on the website.

We ended up going to watch the men’s walking race in The Mall, which was fantastic, but I still wanted to see more.

To be honest, I hadn’t even thought about Paralympic tickets until the day after the Olympic opening ceremony.

Determined to get into the stadium somehow, we checked out the Paralympic site.

I’m so glad we did, not just because we’ll be visiting the Olympic Park, but because I’ve finally got the Paralympic buzz.

To have the chance to watch some of the world’s greatest athletes compete in London 2012 will never happen again and Olympic or Paralympic makes no difference to me.

I’ve never really paid much attention to the Paralympics before but this time I’ve tuned into as much as I can. I’ve watched some judo, wheelchair basketball, numerous track events, and all have been gripping stuff.

Actor and director Simon Pegg tweeted earlier this week: “Watching the Paralympics, you realise what an utterly stupid term “disabled” is.” – And he’s right.

Look up the word “disabled” and it means someone who has an impairment or a limitation.

An impairment? Maybe. A limitation? It’s hard to believe that when you watch these men and women compete. They have taken what life has dealt them and decided it will spur them on.

I read an interview with one Paralympian who said his disability was the best thing that had ever happened to him. Without it, he would be living a perfectly ordinary life in a perfectly ordinary job. Instead, he was now competing at the highest level and travelling the world.

By the end of these Paralympics, the words brave and disability will have taken on a whole new definition.

We’d be wrong if we weren’t moved by some of the stories, but when they’re crossing the finishing line, it will be their ability, not their disability, that will shine through.

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Categories: Olympics

We should have left Boris dangling from his wire

by The Codgers' Club Friday, August 24 2012

by Peter Cook

The enduring image I shall retain from the Olympics is that of the buffoon Boris Johnson dangling from a rope attached to a zip wire.

Why on earth did anyone take the trouble to get him down?

If I was an entrepreneur, I would have dangling Boris toys made for traders to sell in the street markets of Old London Town. “Roll up, roll up. Get yer mayor on a string.”

They could be constructed like those toy clowns where you pull a string and both arms and legs fly out and up as if they were doing star jumps. Consideration would have to be given as to where the string should be attached.

I was dismayed to hear that Boris got a cheer from the crowd during that interminable closing ceremony. I do hope the cheers were ironic.

Now he wants the success of Team GB to be somehow harnessed to the economy, to get Britain going again. It isn’t going to happen.

The Olympics was a great party. There were lots of games and some people won prizes. But have you ever been to a party that ended up with people saying: “Right we’ve had a smashing time, now let’s get back to work and get that old economy moving?”

Of course not. And how is Boris going to get the country going again?

By supporting deeply discredited City institutions that in large part are responsible for wrecking the economy in the first place.

And by building a floating airport in the Thames Estuary that would cost unimaginable sums of money, and that nobody really wants.


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Categories: Moans and groans | Olympics

Where's the Olympics inspiration?

by The Codgers' Club Friday, August 17 2012

by Alan Watkins

There was no way I would waste my time watching the Olympics. Over-priced, with loud-mouthed sports personalities - watch that debt-laden programme? Never!

I did report on the torch relay, but that was by instruction, rather than by choice.

Hand-ball? - much prefer rugby.

BMX racing? - a game for primary school children seeking a thrill.

Women’s boxing? - bound to be handbagging and hair-pulling.

Equestrians? - over-rich titled twits (and that’s just their horses).

Football? - show ‘em the penalty spot and it’s game over.

What else is there to watch? - Brits getting beat, that’s what. Except....

Despite all my doubts before the first chimney appeared on the athletics stadium floor, somehow I became embroiled in the whole thing.

I thrilled as the imperious Usain Bolt broke all the perceived rules for focused champions, and still won golds.

I winced as women belted each other and still grinned.

I roared as the BMX riders smashed into (and through) each other, wondered how Jessica Ennis could still smile so softly as she broke records - and her opponents - and felt for the marksmen as they tried to win more than a single medal.

Fortunately, my scepticism about the whole event was secured by the football team. I told you: point at the penalty spot and it’s game over for the Brits.

Now it’s Games Over. We all await the Paralympics, and the long-term legacy of inspiring a generation.

Well, I wonder whether the Games inspired the generation loitering around the High Streets in Chatham and Gillingham?

I talked to a number of teenagers in Dartford a couple of weeks ago.

The town had hosted the British judo team, and the beaming 100 metres runner, Adam Gemili, is a local schoolboy. This, surely, was added inspiration.

Unfortunately, such aspirations were swiftly dented. It wasn’t a scientific exploration of youth minds - more a straw poll.

Not one of them was inspired by the Games. Some were quite articulate, and said the £11 billion reportedly spent on the Games should have been used for getting younger people ready for a work environment. Another said the health service should get the money.

One young lady named Natasha said: “Me watch the Olympics? No. It’s boring.”

I have to admit, I would never have described the Olympics as boring, but in at least one town Seb Coe and his crowd of motivators may not have inspired the generation they promised to.

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Categories: Moans and groans | Olympics

Cheers and tears – it’s been amazing

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Wednesday, August 15 2012

So that’s it. The greatest show on earth is over - for London, at least.

What are we going to do now? No more wasting time on computers for minutes on end, watching a little clock go round and knowing the tickets for tomorrow’s events will have gone. Again.

No more staying up until stupid o’clock to find out which obscure country won a medal in a sport you knew nothing about a fortnight ago.

No more wondering why the sofa in the BBC studio is so high, hardly anybody could touch the floor and needed a wooden box to get up onto it.

How terribly sad. I’m feeling blue already.

I did manage to watch an Olympic event – the men’s walking race. Well, I say watch; I was in a crowd five deep and managed to see the heads of a couple of dozen athletes bob up and down as they rushed past.

I only knew they were on their way because people much nearer the front started cheering.

But I loved every second of it. I loved the buzz in London and we also spent Super Saturday in Hyde Park, watching the action on the live screens and cheering Bradley Wiggins when he appeared on stage. What an atmosphere that was.

But let’s not forget the Paralympics. I certainly won’t be, because I’m off to the Olympic Stadium in a couple of weeks to watch an evening of sprinting.

I can’t wait. I’ve enjoyed learning a bit more about things such as handball, judo and water polo. Now I’m looking forward to getting to know a whole new group of athletes.

My husband is both relishing and dreading our trip in equal measure – relishing a night of athletics, dreading the fact that he knows I’m going to be in tears the moment they appear on to the track.

Inspiration always overwhelms me – I only have to hear Elbow’s Olympic anthem at the moment and I start welling up. I found myself crying at a set of traffic lights the other day when it came on the radio.

So I’m not taking my Union flags down from my house just yet – Team GB still has plenty more medals to aim for.

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Categories: Olympics

Shipping out to Boston...

by Tuned In, with kmfm DJ Andy Walker Monday, August 13 2012

kmfm Drivetime broadcast from Boston last week. What a city. Beautiful parks, historic and some of the friendliest people.

A policeman – sorry, a cop – was chatty when we wanted to know directions. He even talked about the Olympics.

“You’ve left London to come here whilst the Olympics are on?"

“We watched the opening ceremony” was our response. I found them to be very patrotic. One man I overheard at a breakfast bar even said that he had recorded eight hours of the Games and watched them back when he got home from work. That is quite a dedication.

The reason we were in the States was for our massive kmfm competition – Live in Boston. We gave you the chance to see Coldplay at the famous TD Gardens.

Winner Harry Blackley, from Sevenoaks, was listening at work when he texted in. He never thought in a million years that he would win, so when I called him back he was more than shocked. He brought his dad Nick with him and both loved their time in the city.

Coldplay were amazing. Stunning to watch live.

Every song had the crowd on their feet - singing, dancing, cheering, clapping and at times emotional, especially during Fix You. I interviewed a few fans after the show and the overall opinion was that track brought a tear to the eyes.

If you ever get the opportunity, visit Boston. You will love it. You should take a Duck Tour which is a land and sea Second World War amphibious vehicle, which takes you through the streets and into the river.

Along the way, you learn about Boston and are encouraged to randomly quack at passing pedestrians. Duck Tour – quack? It is well thought out.

For dinner I recommend the Cheesecake Factory. These are all over America and serve the biggest portions that I have ever, ever seen. Wow. One really needs to visit to experience the cheesecake deserts. Every mouthful makes you “mmm” and “ahhh”.

My personal favourite is the banana cheesecake. Yum.

On our last day in Boston we had to watch a Red Sox game. Baseball is America’s No1 sport – as huge as football. It seems that one in every 10 people you walk past is wearing a Red Sox cap or T-shirt. It was brilliant fun with the whole stadium clapping and cheering on their players.

I was looking up some of the local lingo in Boston. Ba ghan means you have bought a bargain from a basement store. A skidder is someone who borrows money from friends and can you guess what a grinder is?

If you do, email me at - I would be interested to know.

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Categories: kmfm

World smiles as Boris is left dangling

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Tuesday, August 7 2012

Poor Boris, you’ve got to laugh.

There he is, enjoying a day out and grabs the opportunity for a trip down a zipwire. “It’ll make great pictures,” he thought, “and show everyone what a fun guy I am.”

Or maybe he was thinking about the airport he wants to build on our doorstep, and thought that taking flight would help him .

Well, it certainly had us laughing when the London Mayor was left hanging in mid air after the zipwire got stuck.

Not only is the video clip a YouTube sensation, but now a whole series of spoof pictures have emerged with Boris “dangling”.

Pictures of him strapped into a harness and wearing a crash helmet are now all over the internet, riding the zipwire into a shark’s mouth, over the dome at Greenwich, lost in space, stuck in a giraffe’s mouth, bouncing in a doorway like a baby, making a guest appearance in the Olympic opening ceremony, hanging like a charm from a rear view mirror, or being used as a game of conkers for the kids.

It may not have been quite the publicity he was after, but it could be worse and let’s face it, we’ve all found ourselves in embarrassing situations.

I once got myself stuck in a £150 cocktail dress in a ladies’ changing room. I don’t even know why I was trying it on; I couldn’t afford it and certainly wasn’t going anywhere where I’d need to wear it.

It was a bit of a whim. It was there, it was beautiful, I just wanted to see what it looked like on.

But after five minutes of trying to undo the zip, I had to call for an assistant. She tried, and failed, to unzip it, as did her colleague.

They called their manager. After 15 minutes of huffing and puffing, the manager admitted the zip had stuck on other dresses, and she was going to have to cut me out.

It didn’t put me off shopping, but it could explain why I get clammy whenever I go into a changing room.

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Olympics shows love for NHS runs deep

by The Codgers' Club Friday, August 3 2012

by Peter Cook

I turned on the telly last Friday night fully expecting to be bored stiff by all the Olympic ballyhoo.

Instead I was completely blown away by the opening ceremony. Weren’t we all? It was a truly magnificent spectacle.

Greater minds than mine, if any such there be, have analysed the show. But too much analysis destroys the magic. It’s best to be swept along on a tide of Danny Boyle wonder.

Reaction from overseas has been mostly positive, although parts of the extravaganza must have been baffling to alien minds.

For example, a Los Angeles Times correspondent could not understand the National Health Service sequence, claiming it was equivalent to eulogising some well-known American healthcare company.

This, more than anything else I have read, demonstrated the gulf between our attitude to healthcare and that of right wing Americans, or even right wing British.

OK, the NHS frequently lets us down. We can all quote stories of when it has not lived up to expectations.

Most of the time, however, it works well. And who has not been glad and grateful for its existence in times of emergency?

But it’s Bevin’s central principle of providing free healthcare for everyone that is so important. Just think how much worry that removes from those of us who would otherwise be plunged into poverty.

OK, you can buy health insurance. But if healthcare is paid for out of general taxation, it means the well-off pay that little bit more, helping out those on smaller incomes. You would need to be utterly selfish not to see that as a reasonable ideal.

Since 1947, we in this country have taken free-at-the-point-of-access healthcare pretty much for granted. We often forget that in many countries if you can’t pay you die.

The NHS has become a sort of quasi-religion in Britain. It goes to the very roots of our belief in fairness and equality.

What Danny Boyle achieved with his NHS sequence was to demonstrate just how deeply felt is our love and affection for the healthcare system in this country, despite its many imperfections.

Politicians who monkey about with it will do so at their peril.

What we need to do now is to build a social care system that works as well as the NHS.

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Categories: Moans and groans | Olympics

It's sport with no navy blue knickers

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Tuesday, July 31 2012

And so the Games have begun. I’ve set my digibox up to record all the bits I don’t want to miss, got my Union Jack bunting out again in the front garden and am praying at some point I win some tickets to see some Olympic action. Anything will do.

I’m not sure why I’m so excited. I was never very good at any of the Olympic sports you learn at school, especially athletics, or at least I wasn’t one of the best which meant I found the whole sports day thing rather frustrating.

I always did my best to believe it was the taking part the counts but, let’s be honest, when you’re 14 and trying to prove yourself in life, it’s the winning that really matters.

I wasn’t really a sprinter (I think it took me so long to run 100 metres, people had wandered off by the time I crossed the finish line – I was never likely to challenge Usain Bolt), and with short legs like mine, the long jump wasn’t even worth considering.

I usually found myself running hurdles, middle distance and throwing the javelin. I was never sure if I ended up the class choice because I was good at it, or because all the better athletes were concentrating on the sexier stuff.

I tried the discus once but nearly took out a line of classmates, so that was a short lesson.

If I’m really honest, the thing I hated most about athletics was having to run around in my knickers. No shorts for us – when I was at Fort Pitt, the athletics kit was a pale blue shirt and navy blue sports knickers.

It was bad enough running around a field in front of a load of girls; the cross-country runs that took us past the boys at Mid Kent College when it was in Rochester’s City Way were definitely not a highlight of my week.

Needless to say I preferred tennis (white skirt), netball (blue skirt) and hockey (same blue skirt). Anything that covered me up was all right by me.

But for the next few weeks I’ll be cheering Team GB on and trying to forget those memories of navy blue knickers.

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Opening ceremony will be a stunning show

by The Business Blog, with Trevor Sturgess Friday, July 27 2012

After 84 months of waiting and planning, it’s Olympic bonanza time.

At least it’s a bonanza for most. Sponsors, athletes, spectators, Danny Boyle, outlets selling fish and chips for £8.50 and a 175ml glass of wine for £5.20, a pint of lager at £4.60 and a bag of Cadbury’s (the official Treat supplier) chocolate sweets for £1 - £3.

It’s been good too for the University of Kent, which expects to make £1.3m from Olympic-related hospitality. Eurostar will be bringing thousands of spectators from the continent to make up for the dip in business travel.

Soldiers drafted in to cover for the G4S fiasco (will they ever win any more government contracts?) may not be so happy. And motorists held up by Zil lane BMWs (they have sensors that automatically change traffic lights from red to green) will be fuming.

But tonight’s opening ceremony will be a great advert for Britain. I saw it in rehearsal earlier in the week and it’s stunning. For all the cynicism and allegations of left-wing bias, it’s a great show, an amazing blend of rural idyll, with cricket as well as sheep on show, and some amazing images depicting the Industrial Revolution.

And, of course, there’s the customary modern dance sequence that aims to show off Cool Britannia. A complex show involving thousands shows that it’s not only the Chinese that can do great opening sequences.

It’s easy to be critical of Locog political correctness and decisions that seem taken straight from a Twenty Twelve script. But let’s face it, the “deliverance” body (ODA), the architects, construction companies and suppliers that make it possible have done a fantastic job.

What a shame that all those Kent firms that won Olympic contracts have not been allowed to promote the fact. Hugh Robertson, Olympic minister and Kent MP, estimates that the Games have been worth more than £30m to our county’s businesses. They should be allowed to talk about it without fear of the brand police.

It’s been a great feat of organisation and leadership, especially by Sebastian Coe. What a Boys Own Hero. What a case study for business inspiration.

Despite the G4S debacle and the odd glitch over the wrong North Korean flag - didn’t the Twenty Twelve scriptwriters think of that one? - it looks as though it’s going to be alright on the night.

The security at the Olympic Park was just like Heathrow, but with plenty of military people and volunteer Games Makers around, it was reasonably quick. Let’s hope there are no incidents over the next few weeks.

The park complex is a fine transformation of derelict land - a great example of regeneration.

But let’s hear it for the volunteers. They were all smiles and eagerness to help. 70,000 are giving up their time, a lot of expense and annual leave to do it. I spoke to some of them at the rehearsal and they were so keen. They also knew the answers to questions from the public. Along with the remarkable Torchbearers (the relay was a great show too that enthused a nation), they are the real heroes of these Games.

I hope I can live up to their example when I’m a Games Maker at the Paralympic Games.

Let the show begin - and savour the next few weeks of sporting achievement that most of us will never see on our doorstep again. And, if it helps tourism and encourages inward investment, as David Cameron desperately hopes, it’s all good for GB Plc and its dynamic Kent subsidiary.

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Categories: Olympics

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