Rio Review

Permanent Secretary     'Minister, may I have a word?'

Minister for Culture, Media & Sport 'Yes, what is it now?'

PS     'Well Minister, terrific news. Our athletes have blown the lights out. They've only gone and won more medals than they did in London. 66 in fact, including 27 golds.'

Minister    'They've gone and done bloody what? How in the blazes did that happen? It's the last thing I need. We'll have to redo the whole honours list. They'll want a bloody silly parade and drinks at No 10 and you can bet my tickets for the Six Nations they'll be crying for more money the moment they get back. Who's going to tell the luvvies their grants are going to be slashed to pay for more trampolining? Selfish sods. Don't they realise they're supposed to be plucky losers up against the drug fuelled might of East Germany and industrialised American athlete factories?. They're not supposed to win. Who in the flying fxck decided to change that script? I knew I should have stayed at Agriculture; teas with the WI, the odd shoot and make up an argument with Brussels if things were going astray. I don't need this, I absolutely don't.'

PS     'Quite Minister. Shall we look at the diary and see how you are fixed for the reception?'

As the Rio Olympics draw to a close we can reflect on what has been a reasonable showing from the British cohort and while doing so note what has become the new national sport, Having A Go At John Inverdale. I'm not quite sure what the origins of this new game are but with the current score of Twitterati 341,000 to John Inverdale 0 I think it's time to shore up his defence. I don't particularly care if he tweaked a few oversensitive princesses by making a couple of honest errors while live on television. He is a good guy, has long been an enthusiastic supporter of charitable works, (especially sports related endeavours such as CRY), and is a commentator who I at least, am happy to listen to. There is nothing wrong with being grounded and unassuming rather than over the top and emotional. Certainly, I would rather have a pint with Inverdale than I would Queen Clare and therein I suspect, lies the problem. 

While Rio has been memorable for many individual sportsmen, teams and their respective families and fans there has yet been, no 'one big thing,' that will stay in the memory for me. Perhaps that is a good thing for often the 'big things,' are bad things as with Munich or some incident of cheating or other. Yet, there have been moments in the Olympics that will honestly live forever, (or live forever honestly). 

Dick Fosbury; the man who changed the history of high jump

I'm thinking especially of that moment 48 years ago when a young man walked into the arena in Mexico City and turned a sport on it's head. I was a young boy but the day after we saw the Fosbury Flop for the first time it was all anyone, from kids up, could talk about. It was a remarkable moment and he was a remarkable man. I wonder how many kids ended up in A&E in the weeks following as we all tried to emulate the new technique?

Angry? Bloody Right I'm Angry.

There are scores of memorial videos to lost lives on YouTube; enough.

I've just spent the last 50 mins reading the latest May-Aug CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young), update. It is 107 pages of uplifting inspiration merged with 107 pages of desolate grief. The grief far out weighs the inspiration. I've written about CRY before; so have many others. Although great strides are being made to reduce the number of early deaths from sudden heart death among young people in this country they are, in the scheme of things, baby steps. One death is too many.

We lose, very roughly, twelve young people a week in the UK from undiagnosed heart disorders, mostly but not always, when playing or participating in sport. Most of these individual tragedies are avoidable by simple screening. We don't though, mandate heart screening as a matter of course for our children in the UK and the death toll rises as an inevitable consequence. So, let me put this in plain and simple language that even the most stupid politician can understand.

If a rabid extremist walked out tomorrow morning and wasted 12 youngsters HM Government would immediately make it clear that 'no stone would be left unturned, no expense spared, no hiding place...... yada, yada.' Yet we'll lose more than that number before Christmas Day with kids clocking out because their ticker gives up the ghost with no warning. Because though, it happens in isolated incidents, up and down the land, there is no collective outrage, no front page news, no anger and frustration on Question Time and the rest of the media to force action. Every child in Italy is screened, why not here? To be screened in the UK a child has to meet one of the following criteria, they must be

a. At a school with an alert medical centre, sports department or enlightened headmaster who offers screening

b. Have parents who are aware of SADS and who are in a position to do something about screening

c. Lose a friend, colleague or neighbour in a tragic episode and take action

d. Be dead and the screening comes in the form of an autopsy.

Am I alone in hearing the nonsense alarm going clang-a-lang-a-lang? British sport is crammed full of self righteous self interest. From SKY Sports to the BBC, the Sports Minister, the FA, the RFU, Lords, Lord Coe; the whole shagging lot who are responsible for collective sporting failure on a quite epic scale. We have held two monumental sporting events in the UK in recent years and these people talk and bluster about 'legacy.' How about taking responsibility and doing something good in ensuring that no child who steps foot on a sports ground is at risk from sudden death. That would be a simple, achievable and laudable legacy. It's not mouth guards and shin pads parents need to be worrying about on the sports field, its being dressed in black and working out orders of service because the sporting establishment and those in the government charged with health, sport and education cannot, or will not, get their collective act together. Shame on them. Angry? Bloody right I am.

Of course, some individual sportsmen and members of the sporting establishment are great supporters of the campaign for screening. Among them Nick Easter, Sir Steve Redgrave, Gregor Townsend, Rio Ferdinand and John Inverdale, who experienced at first hand a tragedy when playing. It's not enough though, it just is not enough. I think its time to get angry and to communicate the frustration in the utter madness of doing nothing. It's not much, but I'll be writing to two Members of Parliament a week from here on in and conjuring up whatever other means might be at my disposal to cajole, embarrass and pressure those in positions of authority and responsibility to do the right thing.

We had a saying in the Army, 'JFDI.' 'Just Fucking Do It,' Mr Cameron, just do it.