Rob Minto

Sport, data, ideas and miscellany

Sport Geek #12: no snow, drugs aplenty, and a ten-year dirty protest

Reasons to be down: Athletics doping, Beijing 2022. Reasons to be cheerful: The Ashes, not much else. Reasons to laugh: Norwegian golf course dirty protests. Sport Geek’s take on the week is below. Please feel free to share and spread the word.

OLYMPICS
Beijing will be the first city to host the summer and winter Olympics. That in itself should have been a big enough clue: there’s no snow. Of course, that isn’t the real problem: it’s the cost, not the climate. Plus human rights, of course. Although China’s pretty happy.

So the IOC will simplify the bidding process to prevent all these pull-outs in future. But while they are at it, why not scrap the hosting concept all together? Or just hand it to LA every time?

Meanwhile, don’t go into the Rio waters. And don’t start humming ‘Let it go‘ in China.

CRICKET
Is this the strangest Ashes ever? Perhaps: the numbers suggest that it’s a contest between two very jittery teams. The momentum, if any side has had it, has been more like a ping pong ball than a boulder.

Player watch: Steven Finn‘s path back to glory; Stuart Broad is wonderfully annoying; Michael Clark‘s career is over?

It may make for great entertainment – but short Tests can be a financial disaster.

Tactics watch: It’s all about selecting players. Those players must learn how to leave the ball again. Is it all about batting first? And Kevin Pietersen suggests attack attack attack. Surprise.

ATHLETICS
It is utterly depressing, but not surprising, that so many athletes have suspicious blood readings. The scandal is that so little is being done. At least Bolt and Farah emerge clean. Apparently, it’s easy to spot the cheats.

The dirtiest race ever (1988 Seoul 100m final) now has some competition.

A reminder of the drugs effect: Sprinters don’t improve after 30, unless your name is Justin Gatlin.

ENDURANCE
Running the Great Wall of China Marathon sounds very tough.

STATS
Breakthrough! Proof of the ‘hot hand’ theory. Annoyingly small effect, though.

MEDIA
Sir Peter O’Sullevan was brilliant broadcaster. Compare and contrast the clowns on Sky.

GOLF
The brilliant Inbee Park wins the Women’s Open. Pity that Trump fellow is still making waves.

Remember this name: Ollie Schniederjans. Got it?

Someone has been shitting in the cup holes of a Norwegian golf club for TEN YEARS!

TENNIS
Nadal watch: a win is a win, however ugly.

Another week, another load of slam talk.

Should tennis be speeded up?

FOOTBALL
Manager watch: Rude Mourinho (but right); Championship sackings; the rise and fall of Mexico’s Miguel Herrera.

The frustrating Mr Wilshire.

Aberdeen fans rack up the air miles.

How will Manchester United fare this season?

FIFA
Why did the FA back Michel Platini before he’d even put forward his manifesto? Prince Ali isn’t happy. Nor is Chung Moon-Joon. Never forget: Platini voted for Qatar.

BASEBALL
The redemption of A-Rod.

Sport Geek is taking a break – back in September.

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Winter Olympics: it’s the cost, not the climate

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It is tempting to bemoan the Winter Olympics going to Beijing as another example of unsuitable regimes being awarded the big sporting jamborees. Russia and Qatar are the next two World Cup hosts. After lots of European countries pulled out, Beijing was left with Alamaty of Kazakhstan to bid for the 2020 Winter Games. Urgh, all these dictators.

But it was ever thus.

The 1988 Seoul Olympics may have marked South Korea’s emergence economically, but the bidding process started at the end of military dictatorship. Moscow in 1980 was still under Communist one-party rule. The 1978 World Cup was hosted by Argentina, under the rule of a military junta, and (allegedly) was rife with match fixing, drugs, and torture of dissidents. 1936? Hitler’s Games in Berlin. Mussolini made sure that Italy won the 1934 World Cup on home soil.

The only difference now is that countries with unsuitable climates are being awarded these events: Qatar’s heat meaning the World Cup will shift to November. Sochi’s climate was hardly ideal – it was the first sub-tropical city to host the Winter Games. Beijing will stage the Games near a desert, and as the Economist points out, it hardly has a domestic ski industry to speak of.

These are real concerns, especially if athletes and fans are at risk. But if a country wants to build mountains of artificial snow at great expense, that’s their look out.

The root of the problem is not human rights, important as they are. It is that the IOC and Fifa have made it impossible for countries to bid with existing facilities, demanding lots of shiny new stadiums and other crazy conditions. That makes hosting a gigantic expense, which gives an advantage to countries with unaccountable regimes and money to burn. Norway was favourite to win the 2020 Games, but the bid was pulled after a parliamentary vote.

Unpleasant regimes will always bid for these events, to enhance their worldwide standing. That won’t stop, but if the IOC and Fifa changed the selection criteria, at least cheaper, more cost-effective bids might stand a chance.

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Sport Geek #11: Miss Charming, angry caddy, and underpants

Reasons to be down: Russian racism, Test cricket dying. Reasons to be cheerful: NFL’s first female coach, Chris Froome, Reasons to laugh: Fifa, angry caddy.  Sport Geek’s take on the week is below. Please feel free to share and spread the word. Continue reading

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Sport Geek #10: urine, cash, and the bible

The golf was cold, the cycling was heated, and the cricket completely different to last time. Plus, (and you don’t get to write this every week), urine and cash have both been chucked about. Sport Geek’s take on the week is below. Please feel free to share and spread the word. Continue reading

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Sport Geek #9: a new tennis era, sch* <£30m, white trousers

Ashes in action, Wimbledon wrapped-up, plus lots of other great stories this week. Please feel free to share and spread the word.

CRICKET
Ashes primer: If you don’t know what the Ashes are all about, read this. It’s brilliant. Here are some fun facts to keep you going, plus a guide to sledging.

So England beat Australia in the first Test. Geoffrey Boycott didn’t see it coming. Nobody saw it coming, did they? Well, apart from Andy Bull (read the past 2 pars), Jonathan Agnew, Michael Clarke… So what do Australia do now? Ditch the oldies. But don’t feel sorry for Shane Watson.

Joe Root is England’s batting hero. However, it’s worth noting that his century was a triumph of result over method.

Meanwhile, Pakistan have just completed one of the greatest run chases in cricket history to secure victory in the third Test with Sri Lanka. So are Test run chases getting easier? Continue reading

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Sport Geek #8: tennis problems, footgolf, and pot

The best sports writing from the past week (or so).

WIMBLEDON
No predictions, they could all be wrong by the time you read this. Instead:

Player with a problem 1) Rafael Nadal. His loss to Dustin Brown was almost predicatable. Is this career end-game? Or time to sack uncle Toni and get a new coach?

Player with a problem 2) Nick Kyrgios. You can be the next superstar, but nobody likes a tanker.

Country with a problem: Spain is in meltdown.

Programme with a problem: Wimbledon 2day. Somebody thought a revamp was a good idea. Nobody else, from the Mail to the FT, agreed. Format scrapped. Life goes back to normal.

Which player could Roger Federer possibly be in awe of? Continue reading

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Sport Geek #7: wither the leftie, speedy nags, awkward rider

You may have noticed that Wimbledon is ON. But there are some other great sporting stories out there too. Here’s this week’s Geek take:

WIMBLEDON
Andy Murray – McEnroe’s pick to win – has a tough draw. Novak Djokovic has it easier. Will it make any difference? Here are some other predictions, and six players to watch.

Country file: what the hell has happened to Americans at SW19? Meanwhile, Australia have their biggest contingent for ages.

Don’t write off Roger. The Fed is a good winner because he’s also a good loser.

McEnroe, Navratilova, Ivanisevic – where have all the lefties gone?

What’s the difference between encouragement and coaching? Don’t ask Djokovic

Context: ranking the current generation against the all-time greats. Continue reading

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Sport Geek #6: Slam dreams, bollards, Hackball

GOLF
Leave aside talk of Serena getting the Grand Slam – what about Jordan? With the Masters and now US Open in the bag, Speith is halfway there. What’s in store at the Open?

Don’t forget how fine the margins are in golf: Dustin Johnson had a put to win at Chambers Bay.

Golf career obits: Phil Mickelson is at that awkward age for a golfer. Watching Tiger is just plain awkward.

Forget Tiger and Phil: Jordan vs Rory is the rivalry golf needs for the next few years.

Get your excuses in early: was this the worst ever course to hold a major? Continue reading

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Sport Geek #5: money talks, the N Korea of golf, racing’s dirty secret

CORRUPTION ETC
We noticed before that Sepp Blatter didn’t actually use the word ‘resign’. So let’s not be surprised that – oh look – he might carry on after all.

Get real 1) Don’t call the Olympics out as a model for Fifa to follow. The IOC is happy to suck up to dictators. Hello Baku!
Get real 2) It might be a fun devils-advocate position to take, but Blatter hasn’t actually helped the poorer football nations at all.

Don’t call it the beautiful game. Try “the zero-sum game that deepens the poverty of the poor“. Continue reading

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Sport Geek #4: end of the Big 4, Wood’s 85, Bradley’s 60 minutes

The best of the last week (or so). Fifa, Barca, failure, and a long hour.

FOOTBALL

FIFA
Blatter: Has he actually resigned, or is this all another ploy? And was he really all that bad? Richard Williams of the Guardian has a valiant go at making a case for Sepp. Continue reading

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