Friday, February 03, 2006

Chasing nymphs around a pool

Today's House Points column from Liberal Democrat News. You may detect echoes of this posting about Bolsover Castle and of half a dozen columns where I have moaned about the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

Olympic dreams

After our recent alarums and excursions, there is something reassuring about questions on culture, media and sport. You know they are going to be a waste of time.

Two Labour backbenchers stood out even amongst Monday’s festival of dross: Natascha Engel and Derek Wyatt. The former has flown beneath the radar of this column up to now. The latter has been one of our heroes because he used to play rugby for England.

Engel asked the question provincial MPs always ask. How will my constituency benefit from the 2012 London Olympics? More precisely, she wanted an Olympic-size swimming pool built in her North-East Derbyshire seat “or perhaps in Bolsover”.

Don’t laugh. There is nothing funny about Bolsover. Life there is not all slagheaps and Dennis Skinner. Before the mines opened at the end of the nineteenth century that part of the East Midlands was an aristocratic playground. And Bolsover Castle, a seventeenth century pleasure-dome, is particularly worth a visit. You could certainly imagine one of the Cavendish family chasing nymphs around a pool.

But nowhere outside London will see much benefit from the Olympics. Security considerations meant all the bidders emphasised how compact their venues were. So Scotland will host no more than a few football matches at Hampden Park and lose anything up to £40m of Lottery sports funding for the privilege.

And Derek Wyatt? He recalled the happy days before fall of Communism when East Germany and the Soviet Union dominated the medals table. “One reason for that was that they tested their young children at school at the ages of seven and 11.” Couldn’t we add heart tests and hand-eye co-ordination tests to children’s new health MOTs and identify future champions?

I have always thought Liberals should worry more about public health policies that we generally do. If they are to be used to pack children off to some New Labour version of East Germany without the steroids, we should be very worried indeed.

Meanwhile, behind the gloss of the Olympics and the funding for elite athletes, things look less healthy. Tessa Jowell boasted that “we have school sport for two hours a week in 64 per cent of our schools”. The more you look at that statistic, the less impressive it becomes.

1 comment:

Tristan said...

I live in the borough next door to Stratford...
What is the Olympics bringing us? A waste of money on 'performance arts spaces' and artists workshops which will not benefit the local community.
The council wants us to be 'The Cultural Fringe' of the Olympics. This means instead of spending money on actually improving services for the local community such as stopping cutbacks in the mental health service or care of the elderly, or perhaps simply cutting our very high council tax.
Unfortunately someone probably mentioned 'big project' to the council leadership. They can't resist them, no matter how much local people don't want them, they must to them because it gives them (sorry, the borough) prestige.