Letters: Olympics 2012

Olympic medals in 2012 depend on investment in coaching now


Sir: Tom McNab writes with an authority which few could match ("Commonwealth disaster points to dark days in the run up to 2012", 27 March). One hopes that someone in a position of influence might heed his words of warning.

The sport of track and field athletics is coach-driven, hence to ignore the contribution made by coaches will contribute to our demise in what is the centrepiece of the Olympic games. Unless we reorganise our coaching structure, and start to pay the coaches according to the results of their athletes, we have no hope of success in the London games of 2012.

We are already quite well aware of those athletes likely to represent us in 2012. They will need financial support, as will their coaches. However, there will also have to be a complete shift of emphasis in our coach education.

While those whom we can identify as potential 2012 medallists might be young people now, the coaches will need to introduce them to a work ethic that will earn medals later. That might mean pushing them harder in training, shouting words of encouragement for them to draw on that little bit of extra effort. Sadly, those club officials responsible for "child protection", such an integral part of today's coach education, might mistake the demand for harder work as "bullying" and the encouragement as "verbal abuse"!

Coaches have to work with their hands tied behind their backs, and pay out of their own pocket to do it. Like Tom McNab, I devote the total amount of my state pension travelling to help those who will bring us glory in 2012.



Sir: Britain has the talent to bring home the medals in 2012 - if we don't, it will be because those who administer the sport have failed to provide the quality of coaching to match the athletes' aspirations. In the last three years I have coached 10 athletes in to the GB team to add to a total of over 150 athletes during my career. Four of the athletes receive lottery funding but I, as their coach, receive not a penny.

We have an abundance of talent, both athletes and coaches. What is needed is commitment on behalf of UK Athletics to maximise resources. A start has been made in the appointment of Dave Collins as Performance Director. He must now seek and deliver the athletes and coaches who will provide the medals in 2012 - they are there!



'Carbon offsets' will solve nothing

Sir: Our challenge is to reduce our carbon emissions, not offset them. "Carbon offset" is "greenwash" that cons people into thinking they can carry on as before ("How to fly around the world without costing the Earth", 1 April). You say a one-way flight to New York would create approximately two tonnes of CO2; Climate Care, the commercial offset company you mention, says 0.78 tonnes. This is because Climate Care calculates merely the CO2 released, not the enhanced effect of emitting at altitude which trebles the effect. It charges £5.85 to salve your conscience. Unfortunately it won't save the planet.

Not only does it underestimate on every calculation but this site, and others like it, do not seem to have heard of climate change "tipping points"; critical points of no return. So it is irresponsible to offset the carbon emitted in five hours over five years or, as in some cases, the life of a tree. That carbon may have pushed us over the edge before it is "neutralised". Then how silly will a per-tonne price on carbon emissions look when our priceless inheritance, the future, is destroyed.

For it to be safe we need to offset in the same time frame as we emit. For flights it is virtually impossible and certainly can't be done by planting trees. If you replace eight incandescent bulbs with low-energy bulbs they would save about two tonnes of CO 2 emissions over their five-year life span. But we need to save that in five hours to be sure of not causing any damaging warming. To do this you would have to buy 70,080 low-energy light bulbs and make sure each was replacing an existing incandescent bulb.

We need to reduce our emissions - not squirm out of them. Take the No Flight Pledge at www.flightpledge.org. uk.



Sir: High-level diplomacy is necessary for world peace and world trade ("The Prince of Emissions, 1 April). Tourist jaunts to distant places are not necessary, and consume thousands of times more untaxed aviation fuel than any royal visit.



Sir: Dominic Lawson (31 March) would like us to believe that Sir David King is not qualified to know whether or not global warming is the looming Armageddon, because he is not a climatologist but a chemist. He goes on to tell us that "there is a significant minority of genuine experts in the field who believe that the Armageddon scenario is grossly oversold, especially by climatologists in pursuit of government funding and research grants". These statements cast a slur not only on Sir David King, but also on the vast majority of climate scientists. They also give the impression, wrongly, that the majority of expert climatologists have "oversold" their product.

The World Meteorological Organisation is not an extremist group, but the consensual body of world meteorologists. In its 2003 book Climate into the 21st Century we learn that climate change is real, and that the world's top modelling group, the UK's Hadley Centre, can demonstrate that man's accelerated input into the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases provides the only explanation for the recent rapid rise in global atmospheric and ocean temperatures.

The question then becomes - what do we do about it. I am reminded of the boiled frog syndrome. You can put a frog into a pan of cold water, turn up the heat slowly and the frog will cook. Throw him into a pot of boiling water and he will jump straight out. We are now frogs sitting in steadily warming water.



Sir: As a geology student, I was really excited by Mr Lawson's article. It says in my books that the dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago, but here was living proof that they still exist!

I have been trying for some years now to reduce my "ecological footprint", not because I think my own individual efforts will make any measurable difference, but because I feel I have a personal responsibility for my own behaviour which Mr Lawson evidently does not feel for his.



Sir: Most of your correspondents on the climate-change debate are well informed, but it seems to me that there is a surplus of important professors and a distinct lack of the people who are going to be dealing with this crisis in a few years' time. I am just 16 years old, but having grown up in an environmentally and politically focused family, I feel I understand this issue well enough to make a few simple points.

One, that those who deny responsibility for global warming should ask themselves - if not you, then who? We're all in this together, hurtling towards the brink of apocalypse. Two, that those who claim nuclear power is the only way forward should examine the side-effects of uranium mining, the dangers of power stations at close quarters and the unforgivable danger to future generations in burying nuclear waste. And three, that people are simply overlooking the clean, renewable alternatives - sure, you need a lot of wind farms to generate the same energy as a nuclear power station, but what about other, barely used, effective methods such as photovoltaics?

In essence, this letter is a plea: the past and current generations got us into this mess, and the future generations will have to try to pick up the pieces. So please, don't despair, don't deny the crisis, but try your utmost to improve the situation and help others see the light.



Sir: Congratulations on publishing your readers' solutions to the climate crisis. I believe that this sends an important message to the electorate - you have finally shown us the true puritanical, quasi-religious and quite frankly authoritarian nature of the green movement.

Do these people really expect that anyone other than themselves would choose to ban or tax everything remotely enjoyable or convenient? Do they really expect ordinary people to subscribe to the notion of "destroying America", banning cars or "punishing those who damage the environment". Their solution to increasing CO2 levels seems to hinge on the establishment of a repressive, energy-rationed police state.

The world will not heed the self-righteous hectoring of the greens and their extreme-left stablemates. Shame on them for trying to resurrect the mouldering corpse of repressive state socialism on the back of concern for the environment.



Man loves dog

Sir: I very much enjoyed Andrew Buncombe's "One Man and his Bestseller" (1 April) and being a dog owner/lover myself know the feelings one gets from a long man/dog relationship. Jet, my own cross labrador, is nearing the age of 13. I would, however, quibble with your list of other canine books for not including the great John Steinbeck's Travels with Charlie and our own Roy Hattersley's hilarious Buster's Diaries. Yours faithfully (just like my dog),



Transgender names

Sir: In his article "When Hilary met Stacey, a state of confusion ensued" (30 March), Miles Kington is mistaken when he states that Hilary is a name which crosses "the gender border effortlessly". My husband's name is Hilary and he has become used to the resulting incidents of confusion regarding his gender. However, he did find it rather disconcerting when he was called in by our GP for a cervical smear test.



Crossword bias

Sir: I write to protest at the southern bias demonstrated in your crossword of 29 March. One clue read "Assaults in shopping areas reported". To the chattering classes in the Home Counties, this was an easily answered "sounds like" clue - answer "mauls". There are, however, Independent readers north of Watford Junction who shop not in "mawls", but in "malls" - the "a" is sounded as in "plan".



Sexless Oscars?

Sir: With regard to Colin Burke's letter about lady thespians (30 March), I have long felt that it makes no sense for there to be separate award categories for Best Actor/Actress. Acting is not a sport, and is not dependent upon physical strength or stamina, so why can't actors of both sexes be judged against each other for a single Best Acting Performance award?



Phonetic annoyance

Sir: Phonetic spelling is already here (letters, 1 April). Television sub-titles for the deaf give us "fella", "wanna", "gonna" etc. As a deaf person I find this practice insulting.



The essence of it

Sir: Your item on the effectiveness of aromatherapy (1 April) made me wonder how many people are swayed in favour of it by a misinterpretation of the phrase "essential oils". When we talk of "essential amino acids", we mean compounds which are necessary for the functioning of the human body. However, "essential oils" are merely oils with an essence, ie, a perfume.



Sir: The research on aromatherapy is seriously flawed since it omitted to test the oldest and best-known therapeutic agent in this field of complementary medicine - snake oil.



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