Leaders: Basking in Olympic glory dangerous for politicians | Discovery adds to agony of bereaved
IT WAS surely only a matter of time before politicians elbowed their way to the podium and the microphones for a frenetic display of breast-beating about the innate superiority of their countries in the London Olympics.
Some of this can be regarded as mischievous fun-poking. Yesterday Prime Minister David Cameron indulged in public gloating over the French in respect of Team GB’s cycling victories. This was in response to dark mutterings in the French camp about the deployment of technical black arts in the British cycling camp: about par for the course for these two countries.
However, there are evident dangers attached to politicians scrambling to grab the spotlight of sporting success to make spurious claims. Two in particular stand out. One is the invocation of nationalism or the claimed superiority of political systems as an explanation for Olympic success. In the Cold War era the United States and the Soviet Union vied for supremacy at the top of the medals table. Today it is America and China, a reflection of the emergence of China as a global super-power over the past two decades. But in what way does this validate China as a superior political or social model?
Nearer home, politics has notably entered into the fray between unionists and the SNP as to which constitutional arrangement would provide the best showcase for Scottish athletes, as if the individual stories of personal effort, perseverance, dedication and triumph were insufficient to engage our attention. There is no doubt that Scottish athletes have played a very considerable part in the tally of 23 gold medals won by British athletes in the London Olympics. You would have to have retreated to a cave in the Outer Hebrides not to have appreciated their victories and shared in their pride. That this augurs well for Scots participants in the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in no way makes their achievements under the union flag in the past fortnight any less notable and praiseworthy. The second danger is the boastful rivalry that has broken out over the commitment of UK political parties to national and local government sporting and athletic budgets. Few doubt the importance of physical education and sport in schools. But we now have the equivalent of a weight throwing competition as to which party would hurl the largest sum at PE to reap the most of the Olympic feel-good factor. In truth, sporting achievement is much more than a mechanistic calculus about money. It owes much to the calibre, skills and motivation of teachers and parents, and to the individual dedication of athletes. Time and again in the London Olympics gold medals have been won by athletes from challenging backgrounds and in the face of the most daunting odds. Better, surely, that our politicians seek with some humility to find ways of summoning the Olympic spirit into areas of our national life which are so conspicuously lagging the field.
Discovery adds to agony of bereaved
THE discovery that body parts and tissue from
soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan had been kept without permission from their families is one of those stories many would need to read twice because it is so hard to believe the first time. The body parts were taken without notification and stored at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, while the tissue samples were retained at the Military Police’s Special Investigations Branch in Salisbury, Wiltshire. Their discovery seems to have been inadvertent, only coming to light when a new SIB manager was appointed. As if the death of serving servicemen and women was not distressing enough for the families – a fact of which the MoD should be only too familiar – this macabre discovery cannot but add to the agony of the bereaved. “A small number of cases” did not follow procedure is how the affair is coldly summarised by the MoD. Apologies are now effusive. But an inquiry is now surely needed as to why the relatives of the soldiers were not promptly informed at the time, why it has taken so long for the matter to come to light – one of the samples dates back to 2002 – and how long this would have been left undiscovered without the
arrival of a new manager.
The affair is all the more chilling given the aftermath of the Alder Hay Children’s Hospital scandal in 1999, when it was found that the organs of 800 children had been kept without the knowledge of relatives. This led to the introduction of the Human Tissue Act in 2006, which requires consent from relatives. This dreadful oversight has now produced the deserved apology, but there must be a thorough investigation to ensure that it is never repeated.
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Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 21 C
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Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
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