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Wednesday 15 August 2012
Letters: After Olympic glory, back to politics as usual?
The success of the London Games has defied all the critics and the cynics, and as a nation we bathe in the reflected glory of our athletes. Today we stand in a Britain that has not only rediscovered its confidence and self- esteem, but more importantly a sense of national unity and pride
Now we hand the country back to our politicians, who seem ever more out of touch with the heartbeat of Britain. The old divisions of class, race, religion, and economic inequality will soon fill the front pages once more, as our politicians continue to be driven by self-interest, fear and concern for their own electability.
Let them show the same level of work, commitment, determination and above all courage to take on the world as our athletes, and lead us from this pit of economic, political and social despair. Let us hope that the "legacy" of these games continues to develop, not only in the sporting arena but through strong and fair leadership from our politicians. Let us show the world that Britain is, once again, great.
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands
I have never been so proud to be a Londoner. The police have been so friendly and warm, as have the Army.
The most abiding memory I will have, though, is all the volunteers just walking around the different parts of the city in their purple and orange uniforms. They have been so helpful and generous. They have made the Olympics great, not just the athletes and spectators.
Amid the Olympic euphoria and widespread clamour for the Government to commit £250m funding for 500 "elite" athletes during the next four years, am I alone in recalling that the NHS is required to make budget reductions of £20bn over that period?
No doubt the unhealthy in our nation whose suffering is unnecessarily extended because of delayed operations or inadequate equipment are wholly sympathetic to this demanded allocation of funds – but how will their choice be known?
Surely, as "we are all in this together", it would be more equitable if elite sports funding was arranged on a similar basis to university tuition fees, with the successful athletes being required to repay some funding from the product endorsements and prize money that ensue.
Any hope of the true spirit of sportsmanship, fair play, respect for one's opponents and grace in defeat – qualities shown by the Olympians – transferring to footballers was blown away in the Community Shield, the precursor to the forthcoming football season.
A match peppered with yellow cards and a sending-off, plus the usual nasty backchat to the officials, tells us what we will continue to suffer from these overpaid, narcissistic "professionals". They have much to learn.
Another five opportunities for gold medals spurned by the encroachment of politics into sport. I refer to the collective punishment of target pistol shooters by weak-kneed politicians afraid of the tabloids. Miniature cartridge pistol shooting is banned in England, Scotland and Wales.
Criminals do not tend to use Olympic target pistols costing around £1,500, yet my sport is condemned to the outer reaches of the Olympic movement, rattling a begging bowl as the millionaire track stars drive by.
Birmingham's brutalist masterpiece
Birmingham has certainly had a tradition of feverishly demolishing the previous generation's architecture ("Should they stay or should they go?", 9 August). This derives from its planning officer from 1935 to 1963, Herbert Manzoni, who wrote: "I have never been very certain of the value of tangible links with the past."
But some of us, including the Friends of the Central Library, have been trying to change that tradition. As well as being damaging to citizens' wellbeing and sense of stability and security, it is also simply unsustainable. John Madin's 1974 Central Library, a magnificent building from an unfashionable time, represents a colossal amount of material resource and embodied energy.
The Friends have made an alternative masterplan for the area, showing how it can be integrated into a new development, and converted to profitable new uses after the books have left. This is in opposition to the developer's masterplan, which proposes its demolition, continuing the regrettable Birmingham tradition.
Temporary buildings, while possibly questionable in sustainability terms, can be both attractive and useful. But a proper city has to be made of more permanent stuff; making an environment which, while capable of adopting to economic and social change, creates a stable background within which our temporary lives can be lived.
Thank you for bringing the plight of Birmingham's Central Library to the attention of a national audience. Arguably the best and most beautiful example of brutalist architecture in the UK, superbly executed and regarded by many as architect John Madin's masterpiece, this national treasure's fate is in the hands of a toxic combination of demolition-happy "developers", a City Council devoid of imagination and an indifferent central government happy to go along with the building's obliteration.
Indeed, the minister responsible (Jeremy Hunt) issued a Certificate of Immunity from Listing (COI) for the Central Library in January 2011, allowing Birmingham City Council to demolish with impunity. As my letter from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport says: "The library may not now be reconsidered for listing until at least January 2016. The decision was made in the knowledge that the library may well be demolished by the time the COI expires."
Pesticides and the fate of bees
With reference to the letter from Dr Phil Botham of Syngenta (8 August): of course the pesticides industry will attempt to defend their profits, but they appear to be in denial about the potential link between modern insecticides and the declines in populations of wild pollinators.
Wild bees, butterflies, hoverflies and moths are all in steep decline. Indeed, scientific data has shown that 38 per cent of wild pollinator species are in decline across Europe. There are now piles of laboratory evidence showing how wild pollinators could be affected by neonicotinoid pesticides in pollen, nectar and dust from seeds.
The European Food Standards Agency and Defra/Fera have concluded that current pesticide authorisation processes are unable to assess risks to populations of wild pollinators. The Varroa mite does not affect bumblebees and other wild pollinators, so can't be a cause of their decline.
Finally, pollination services across Europe are worth £17bn a year in agricultural production and it is not worth putting these at risk for the £800m increase in production claimed by Syngenta for their products.
Chief Executive, Buglife, The Invertebrate Conservation Trust, Peterborough
Cyclists in peril, even with helmets
Bradley Wiggins may be right in encouraging the use of cycling helmets; however the majority of cyclists killed by vehicles on the road are simply crushed to death.
While governments and local councils continue to talk about the virtues of green, healthy transport but fail to make any money available to create an infrastructure that enables safe cycling, the death rate among cyclists will continue to rise, hat or no hat.
Our local cycling group has identified and campaigned for a network of off-road cycle paths leading from the town centre to local schools, hospitals and other major work places. The MP and local councillors say they support the idea but have failed to exert any pressure on those with the funds. Recently we have been unsuccessful in our bid to get a portion of the millions being offered by Norman Baker's Local Sustainable Transport Fund.
I have no experience of cycling in London but conversations I have had with car drivers living there are sweepingly critical of cyclists, saying they are "arrogant" and "a nuisance". The overwhelming attitude of drivers locally is the same – cyclists must be passed, however little space there is, and the faster the better.
On the semi-rural roads I now put my own safety before the law and cycle on the empty pavements – pavements that would lend themselves to shared use at a minimum of cost.
Hastings, East Sussex
Haunted by a criminal past
I am worried that two apparently suitable candidates for the post of Police and Crime Commissioner have felt compelled to withdraw their candidacy because of minor offences committed in their youth.
My criminal record comprises a fine of five shillings (25p) for cycling past a halt sign in Swindon in 1943. I still cycle. If I should (heaven forbid!) again fall foul of the police, should I expect a prison sentence for a second offence?
Edward Pearce is absolutely right (letter, 13 August). "Fairest Isle" should be our national anthem. Although written originally for soprano, the tune has been used in the past as a hymn setting and so can be sung by all.
As far as "Jerusalem" is concerned, all you need to know is that the answer to the first verse is "no" and to the second "fetch them yourself".
St Albans, Hertfordshire
Stop this medalling
Now we know the nastiest legacy of the 2012 Olympics: yet another noun-to-verb abomination. For many years now, climbers have been driven by the desire "to summit". And now our athletes are only going to get serious financial backing if they are likely "to medal". What's next? Motivation to enter a career in banking – "to sewage"?
Terry Godman (Letter, 14 August) is offended by the use of the word "Christ" at the beginning of one of your articles. Well, Terry, that's tough: many of us find religious zealots offensive, so we all have, er, a cross to bear.
As well as the people listed by John Kenny (letter, 14 August), Damon Albarn, Marti Pellow, Chaka Khan and Ric Ocasek from The Cars were also born on 23 March, as were Barry Cryer and Werner von Braun. That's like, spooky.
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