I have failed in my responsibility to deliver fresh new reading material in the past week to my loyal readers (friends and family), and in a desperate attempt to regain your trust and readership I have prepared for you some fascinating trivia about the Olympics, which I will come to later.
My plan was to write a review about Channel 4′s documentary Make Bradford British. Alas, due to time constraints and a busy work schedule, I have not been able to achieve this to a satisfactory standard (I’m going skiing tomorrow and I’m yet to pack, order ski pass, hire equipment or pay for insurance…). So, here are my views on the programme in a few short words.
The documentary was the most interesting social experiment seen on our screens since Big Brother launched over 10 years ago. It was set in Bradford because it is culturally diverse and it asked the following questions;
- Are we better remaining segregated in our own communities or should we make an effort to integrate ourselves and learn about other beliefs?
- What does it mean to be ‘British’?
Well, we may all agree with one aspect of the programme; the ending was cringe-worthy. Each participant wandered off into the sunset smiling, laughing and enjoying each others’ company while the counsellors admired their handy work. I mean, as if the sun ever comes out in Bradford. Opinion will be divided on every other aspect though and it will be one of the most discussed programmes ever shown on our screens.
In all but one case it emerged we should make a concerted effort to learn about our neighbours, regardless of their skin colour, their religion or their political leanings. It was hardly surprising that Mohammed, a taxi driver whose opinion of British people is dampened by intoxicated youngsters clambering into the back of his cab every night at 2am, was the only participant to throw in the towel when he was forced to lay the table and wash up by Maura, a former magistrate and self-styled liberal.
As for the second question, this was always going to be harder to answer. According to the rest of the cast, their voyage of discovery to places they would never dream of being seen in provided them with the following conclusions about what constitutes being ‘British’; we can be and should be friends with anyone, we should put family first, we must always be willing to make a naked calendar to raise money for community projects (or any other strange tradition) and we must, above all else, avoid judging people by stereotype, even if the documentary-makers did exactly that with their cast.
By all means, make your own minds up but I suggest watching it if you haven’t already. It could be the most important television programme that’s been made for a long time.
Talking of British, you may have noticed we have 20 weeks until the Olympic Games start in London. Admittedly, the following was a research task that was set for me during my work experience placement this week at a local paper, but seeing as I found them all on the internet I don’t see why I cannot share them with you today. Here are my top ten facts you may wish to amaze your friends with this weekend;
- The Olympic flag contains five interconnected rings on a white background. The five rings symbolize the five significant continents and are interconnected to symbolize the friendship to be gained from these international competitions. The rings, from left to right, are blue, yellow, black, green, and red. The colours were chosen because at least one of them appeared on the flag of every country in the world.
- American Myer Prinstein finished runner-up in the 1900 Olympic long jump in Paris, despite not even showing up for the finals. Prinstein, a Syracuse university student, was instructed not to participate in the finals on Sunday, the Christian Sabbath. Qualifying jumps counted back then so he took second on the basis of those. As legend has it, he was so angry at eventual gold-medal winning jumper Alvin Kraenzlein for competing in the finals that he punched him in the face.
- Stella the Fella’ (Poland’s Stella Walsh (Stanislawa Walasiewicz)) won the women’s 100-metre race at the 1932 Olympics in Los Angeles, becoming the first woman to break the 12-second barrier. When she was killed in 1980 as an innocent victim in a robbery attempt, an autopsy declared her to be a male.
- In the 1908 London Games, Italian marathon runner Dorando Pietri finished first in the race but was disqualified. Upon entering the crowded Olympic stadium, he took a wrong turn and when umpires redirected him, he fell down for the first time. He fell a further 4 times, eventually crossing the line with the umpires help after suffering from extreme fatigue and dehydration. Although the final 350 metres took Pietri 10 minutes, American Johnny Haynes took gold as Pietri was disqualified for using the umpires’ aid. He was presented with a silver cup by Queen Alexandra for his exploits, an award proposed by writer Arthur Conan Doyle.
- Gandhi once covered the Olympics as a newspaper reporter in 1932 in Los Angeles.
- No white athlete has ever run the 100 metres in under 10 seconds. The closest sprinter to achieving this feat was Poland’s Marian Woronin, who ran it in 10 seconds flat 44 years ago.
- The first Olympic drug suspension wasn’t until 1968 when Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall, a Swedish pentathlete, tested positive for Alcohol. He drank several beers before the event, which was against the rules.
- At the 1900 Olympics, held in France, winners got paintings instead of gold medals because the French believed paintings were more valuable. It wasn’t until 1904 when gold, silver and bronze medals were introduced.
- Black athletes didn’t win the marathon until 1960 when Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia won gold. He ran the race bare-footed.
- In the 1976 Montreal Olympics, a young Romanian gymnast became the first person to get perfect 10s from each judge despite being only 14 years old. In doing so, Nadia Comaneci won 3 gold medals, 2 silvers and a bronze. She also cleared a remarkable 20 feet in the pole vaulting, even though this was not her event of choice. While competing in the parallel bars, she fell and broke her arm but still managed to carry on regardless.