Sunday shorts

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Don’t worry, Sunday evening’s collection of short pieces is family and workplace safe. But you’ll find two stories where speaking out can land you in trouble, even prison. And if you enjoyed the Tinker, Tailor, Cyclist, Spy piece, there’s an appetiser for an upcoming story.

GP d’Ouverture – La Marseillaise
Samuel Dumoulin of Cofidis won the race in a sprint finish. Wearing full-fingered gloves and a long-sleeved top he beat Marco Marcato who sported a headband to keep his ears warm.

The Etoile de Bessèges stage race starts on Wednesday and even colder gear will be needed. Weather forecasts are predicting a deep freeze for France and snow is expected for most of the country, including the south.

Ladies Tour of Qatar
There’s warmer weather in the gulf state of Qatar with the women’s stage race starting on Wednesday too. But the prizes on offer leave a chill. First prize for the overall classification is €1,200. Yes the race is only three stages, yes it’s not the biggest prize of the year and yes people don’t ride for the prize money. But still, it’s a rather modest prize, no?

UCI to sue Paul Kimmage
Talking of surprisingly small sums, Ireland’s Independent newspaper says the UCI is suing the journalist Paul Kimmage. It’s a shame to see precious funds spent on lawyers and court fees but the UCI should feel able to defend itself. But feeling insulted, the claims involved are for 8,000 Swiss Francs, under US$9,000.

I just hope they’ve done their homework in Aigle since Kimmage is a journalist with a terrier streak. If he’s called to give evidence he might come armed with notebooks and documents that bring embarrassment to the UCI. Kimmage has already responded, with Velonation quoting him as saying “Hell will freeze over before I issue either of those gentlemen an apology for anything“.

2013 Track Worlds
If Kimmage and others might be worried about criticising the UCI, it’s nothing compared to Belarus where criticising the country can result in a two year jail sentence. The country, sandwiched between Poland, Ukraine and Russia is Europe’s last dictatorship.

A propaganda coup?

Much of the capital Minsk is under redevelopment and it boasts a smart indoor cycling track and the UCI has just announced the 2013 track worlds will be held there.

Taking sport to people is good. But both the European Union and US have imposed sanctions on Belarus because of brutal repression of protesters and the government’s pesky habit of jailing opposition politicians. Politics crossed to sport last December when the US House of Representatives passed a bill that, amongst other things, called on the International Ice Hockey Federation to re-award its 2014 World Championships to another country, saying President Alexander Lukashenko would use such a major sporting event to legitimise his rule. The President of the European Parliament made similar representations. We could see the track cycling champs become a political subject too.

There’s more to this story. A lot more. It is so interesting that I’m going to return with a full piece on this later in the week and if you liked the Tinker, Tailor, Cyclist, Spy read on here then you’ll probably like this one too.

Riding clean
Some good news to end on. I’d written about the jerseys used by French teams FDJ and Saur-Sojasun that feature an extra side pocket to stash empty food wrappers, as opposed to the normal practice of littering. Fast forward three months and I got an email from a reader to say that her club in the south of France called Sud Vélo will have a new jersey:

“This year’s jersey will have its own rubbish pocket with a jetez ici logo – in part inspired by your article”

The club has long had an ecological stance with a ne jetez plus motto, which means “don’t litter” so the design change to the jersey is just a small step for them but it’s good to see and if pros often set the example, it’s good that people are starting to copy the better examples rather than those that still dump rubbish in the countryside

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{ 9 comments }

Larry T. January 30, 2012 at 11:11 am

I’m not so sure boycotting or denying events to nations we don’t like is a good idea. Did that get rid of the disgusting regime in South Africa quickly? But it certainly DID rob a lot of South African athletes of a chance to compete and their country to have the visits from athletes from other countries to let them know there’s hope for the future. International sporting events do a lot to break down barriers, something the U.S. House of Right-Wing Crackpots cares little about. If Paul Kimmage is found guilty of annoying the honchos at UCI he should set up a Paypal fund for donations to pay any fines – I’d contribute to it as we need this fellow to keep pointing out the corruption and hypocrisy in the sport! How else will it ever be cleaned up?

Tom January 30, 2012 at 11:44 am

I’d contribute to Kimmage. Only fair because as a racing licence holder I am already contributing to the UCI’s lawsuit.

The Inner Ring January 30, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Larry: true, the games can help the people but note the Europeans have also made representations to the IIHF. My point was more that the hockey has become a political fight and we could see cycling sucked into the same thing, caught in between politicians and various arguments.

Tom: I’ve seen others on twitter saying the same. Winning 8,000 francs in court seems small compared to the risk of a priceless public relations backlash. Everyone loses here.

Larry T. January 30, 2012 at 2:03 pm

I read the bit you wrote about the IIHF. Same question. Does boycotting a regime we don’t like somehow make that regime better? No. They’re not going to suddenly say, “Oh, the hockey folks won’t let us have the games here because they don’t like our style of government. I guess we better install a democracy very quickly so they’re reconsider.” I say take the long view – ENGAGE these regimes and let their people see (from the athletes who mix with the citizens at some level no matter how hard the regime tries to prevent it) there are alternatives out there and that the rest of the world is NOT their enemy. This does more to combat the regime’s control and domination than any boycott will. If sporting events were limited to so-called democracies where all the human-rights were 100% respected the Olympic Games (the world’s biggest peace festival) would not have been held in China, depriving millions of Chinese folks of the knowledge that the rest of the world is not out to dominate them or looks upon them simply as a giant factory churning out cheap consumer goods. These are the good things about international sport. Whatever short-term propaganda gains the repressive regime gets are countered by the positive effects in my view.

daniel January 30, 2012 at 3:52 pm

lol ‘the UCI defending itself’. It’s Hein and Pat’s personal crusade, just using the UCI’s money to do it with.

LDR January 30, 2012 at 7:19 pm

I’d certainly contribute to the Kimmage cause, and would love to see the UCI actually pursue their claims against both Kimmage and Landis. Since truth is a defense, it would provide a judicial forum for Kimmage and Landis to prove the claims they have been making. A judicial ruling. Closure. We can only dream!

Bazil Brush January 31, 2012 at 11:44 am

Kimmage is not having a great year as he has been laid off from the Sunday Times recently

http://www.sportsjournalists.co.uk/jobs/kimmage-and-hawkey-cut-from-sunday-times-sport/

both his main books Rough Ride and Engage (the Story of the Tigers rugby prop Matt Hampson) are excellent and I’m sure a quick Kindle download would help Paul out as well as well as provide some welcome diversion

Big Mikey January 31, 2012 at 4:55 pm

The UCI going after Kimmage, a journalist, is rich. It’s akin to LA’s strategy of taking it hard to his enemies, but performed by the village idiot.
I can’t imagine that any court other than the kangaroo-variety would accept the allegations they are laying. And damages of 9,000 francs – these guys should be held in contempt for wasting the court’s time.
Seriously, causing them Annoyances? Are they men or little girls?

Darren January 31, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Great to see how the piece regarding riders & littering is able to make a ‘real’ difference!

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