In light of much criticism of the Olympic Games in London, I thought I might write and tell you of my recent experience as a visitor to your City and the Games.
Two of us were lucky enough to get two tickets to the Eventing at Greenwich, so we flew into Heathrow and journeyed into central London to find our hotel. From landing at Heathrow until leaving four days later, our trip was a complete joy.
We found the organisation to be brilliant, with fresh-faced, smiling faces at every Tube station and British Rail station we used. They could not have been better or nicer and made the entire experience more memorable. The venue was superb and, again, there were people there at every corner to help you on your way.
I have come to the sad conclusion that there seem to be more people with glasses half-empty than half-full, and it is these people who bleat on endlessly about how poor everything is and how it could be better. We must despatch these naysayers and not pay them any more attention than we have to.
Our experience, and the experience of dozens of people we spoke to, was a very positive one. Congratualtions to all concerned.
I am not a sports fan and have so far been completely underwhelmed by the Olympics. Then I caught sight of a clip showing the men's single sculls, in which the competitor from Niger came last, some 1 minute and 39 seconds behind the winner. But he had given his best and was cheered to the echo as he crossed the line. That moment alone eclipses all the organisational cock-ups and commercial dross, and reminds us what the Games are really about.
Downham Market, Norfolk
Your report "That's not my name" (1 August) on Locog's refusal to use brand names at Olympic venues is spot on, but misses one such bar which has won universal support.
This relates to their refusal to use Sports Direct millionaire Mike Ashley's bull-headed renaming of Newcastle United's ground as the Sports Direct Arena. Instead, Locog insist on the original name of St James's Park.
As this is the name thousands of North-easterners wanted to retain, and have fought for, for once Locog have won (perhaps unwittingly) many fans across the North-east.
I am an unexpected fan of watching the Olympics. It's so refreshing to watch ordinary people do extraordinary things, with the margin of error so thin. However with so much sport crammed into so little time one does wonder whether the Olympics should last longer, say three weeks. Then spectators, in the armchair as well as the stadia, could enjoy more of what is going on, at a more leisurely pace. The initial cost of building for the Olympics has been very high – why not enjoy the spectacle for longer?
The headline "Who needs Cavendish when you've got Lizzie?" (30 July) was cruel; poor Mark Cavendish, derided, it seems by all sections of the media for having the temerity not to win a gold medal in the cycling road race.
The pressure on "our winners" to keep on winning is immense and when they don't succeed, our media is very adept at highlighting the fact. Please can't we just value our sportsmen and women for the effort, dedication and determination they give to their sports, win or lose?
Frinton on Sea, Essex
Free School decisions neither racist nor sexist
I was disappointed to read your article on 30 July about the Diaspora Free School application and the accusation that the Department of Education has been racist and sexist in its decision not to approve the school. You returned to this story again on 1 August and this time reported that the Department has been accused of "snubbing poorer pupils".
Every one of the hundreds of Free School applications that we have received since 2010 has been assessed by officials who are committed to exercising impartial judgement. They run a competitive process where every application is properly tested before coming to ministers. I will approve only those applications that officials assess to have the best chance of delivering the excellent education that every child deserves. Inevitably some groups are disappointed, but we must strive to ensure we are guaranteeing the best possible approach to each child's education and to taxpayers' money.
Half of the first Free Schools to be opened and two-thirds of those opening in September are in communities with higher than average levels of deprivation. Of the most recent applications; over a third of the mainstream schools to gain approval have proposed sites in the 30 per cent most deprived areas of the country. The Marine Academy in Plymouth and the Longsight Community Primary in Manchester are just two of these and have been designed to support some of our poorest families. In the circumstances, the assertion that the Department is sexist, racist, lacks expertise or "snubs poorer pupils" seems to me not to reflect the professionalism of my colleagues or the quality of so many bids.
Secretary of State for Education
Cash payments aid local economy
According to a Government minister, it is now a wicked thing to pay someone cash, rather than for the person receiving it not to pay tax on it. The ruling classes and their friends have been keeping their vast incomes and "bonuses" under the radar for generations, paying as little tax as possible, but that was OK, because it was legal. Has anyone bothered to unpick the moral element of these judgements? In merely economic terms "cash-in-hand" gets spent locally, and doesn't disappear to the Cayman Islands, so it is possible that small-time light-fingeredness is actually, from a utilitarian point of view, less bad than the big-time sort. And, that being the case, might the Government perhaps target its friends and relatives first? Perhaps the people making the biggest profits would set the best example?
The Revd Richard Haggis
If it is immoral to settle accounts by legal tender what happens after the banks do away with cheques?
Secrets of the conductor's face
David Lister (28 July) believes it is "bizarre that the audience at a classical music concert never sees the conductor's face, while a TV broadcast of the same event recognises that it is a crucial element of the evening. Surely screens in the concert hall can only be a matter of time."
May a musician point out that this is wrong? The most rewarding, concentrated listening is with closed eyes. Experiments have proved that the more an audience looks at an individual member of a complex body such as an orchestra, the less it listens properly. Try telling that to TV producers who indulge in constant close-ups.
Of course visual rapport between the audience and a solo singer or instrumentalist at a recital is important, provided that the performer is not showing off as many famous figures do. There can be much pleasure in watching at the same time as listening. But a conductor – the only person on stage who does not make a sound – is different. The greatest of conductors of the past were not "visual" at all, and to want to feature the face is to pander to the cult of celebrity.
No mercy from 'Britannia'
Mr Sherwood (Letters, 28 July) thinks that a public subscription should be organised to provide a new Royal Yacht. The previous Britannia left John Brown's Clydebank shipyard in 1953 and served for 43 years making 968 official voyages until decommissioning at Portsmouth in 1997.
When it was built, in times of austerity matching those prevailing today, the public was assured that the ship's design incorporated all the necessary features to adapt Britannia into a hospital ship if such an eventuality arose. It did so in 1982 when a task force was sent into the South Atlantic to recapture the Falkland Islands, but nothing was said about any conversion of the Royal Yacht into a mercy ship, and it only ever served as an expensive toy, particularly enjoyed during Cowes Week. Not unlike a Fabergé egg.
Milton under Wychwood, Oxfordshire
Kick sexism out of sport
This indeed is the moment to tackle sexism in sport (Leading article, 1 August). Better media coverage of female athletes and their sports would help improve attitudes across society, too. Both sexes – of all ages – need to see women using and owning their bodies in a non-sexual and non-sexualised context.
Dr Alex May
Boris Johnson, a party of one
I agree with Steve Richards' view that Boris Johnston will never lead the Conservative Party (31 July).
My reasons are, however, different. Boris only really loves Boris. He's having a very easy ride right now, but it wouldn't take much for "Hillsborough Boris" to make a reappearance. Crass, ignorant, and at root unconcerned about the lives of others.
Ways to use a classroom
Mary Dejevsky (Opinion, 27 July) is mistaken to believe state schools operate for 36 weeks, they actually operate for 39 weeks. Students attend for 38 weeks (190 days) and the other five days are spent on in-service training days. The remaining 13 weeks could be better spent as she suggests, but time must also be allocated to repair and decorate rooms. Could we not encourage young people to get involved in this? They would pick up valuable skills.
West Bromwich, West Midlands.
The isolated Pacific island on which the descendants of the famous HMS Bounty mutinneers live is Pitcairn Island, not Norfolk Island which was a very harsh penal colony for recalcitrant prisoners transported to Australia. (Report, 21 July.)
Alice Evelyn Stewart
Pleasures of age?
Terence Blacker writes about late-flowering lust (31 July). Cicero had it right in his treatise on old age: Summam voluptatem nullis egere – the greatest pleasure is not to feel the want of any.
Woking, SurreyReuse content