Letters: Salute Olympic winners without parent power


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The Independent Online

At Sydney, and in Beijing, breathless Team GB medal-winners used post-event interviews to thank the Lottery. This time, it's the parents being thanked.

Solid, proud mums and dads are also praising their offspring, and using their few moments of TV fame to enjoy a little modest self-satisfaction of their own, reflecting on a job well done.

But if Seb Coe's aim is to "inspire a generation", where does that leave the countless children and young people, all potentially bursting with ability, who don't have competent, supportive parents?

If BBC interviewers are allowing athletes to emphasise repeatedly the contribution to their success of family support, as opposed to self-discipline, determination and responding to encouragement at school, where does that leave children and young people whose home lives are in chaos, or who have no home life at all?

The generation we need to inspire are those without the family support networks. The legacy should at the very least be about making young people from age 10 on realise that just turning up at school and taking advantage of whatever is available is an equally valid first step.

Geraldine Prince

North Berwick

Ms Littlehales (letter, 9 August) appears to need some reassurance that rowing is not indulging in a confidence trick against the public.

Other sports can be, broadly speaking, practised anywhere there is a field, a swimming pool, a lake or a gym. Rowing is one of the few Olympic sports constrained to certain sites. If you can identify a stretch of rowable river in Britain, it is odds-on that it already supports an open-to-all club and possibly a school or two.

Almost all clubs experienced a big upsurge in interest in late 2000, after the fifth Redgrave gold, with increased membership and competition, especially for juniors. In the process, unfortunately, a lot of clubs reached their capacity, whether that is measured in terms of membership, amount of coaching time on the water, number of boats or events entered.

In this they have been aided by a first-class support network established by British Rowing, some of the results of which have been visible recently at Eton Dorney.

Dr Andrew Ruddle

West Molesey, Surrey

If it is forbidden to be ageist or sexist, is it not "sizeist" or "fatist" to make it impossible for a woman over size 16 to buy a T-shirt with a Team GB or other logo at the Olympic shops or online?

Last week, the shop at Wimbledon advised me to buy a man's T-shirt, as they came in the larger sizes, but at 5ft nothing, that would not have done much for my appearance.

When I emailed the shop's HQ, I was told the larger sizes had been out of stock since last November.

Marjorie Harris

London NW11

I wonder how many British veterans of the 1948 Olympics are still alive. My cousin, Esme Gibb, *ée Harris, soon to be 80, was the youngest British competitor in the 1948 Olympics. She was three months short of 16 when she came 13th in the women's diving.

Despite all efforts from Esme's family, she has been in no way involved in this year's events. Indeed, the only person who deigned to reply to letters was Lord Coe who explained that he had no control over ticketing but directed her to some agency which again did not reply.

Although her local Oxford radio station has shown great interest, it is extraordinary that there has been no acknowledgement in the nation at large. Is it too late to include her in the closing ceremony? It would be an act of great graciousness.

Janet Lash


Don't paint Clegg in colours he doesn't deserve

Martin Callaghan ("Why Clegg had to defy the Tories", 8 August) paints Nick Clegg in glowing colours he doesn't deserve. From the outset, it was clear that the Tory plans for reducing the number of MPs and making constituencies of roughly equal electorates were changes which would benefit the Tories for years, possibly permanently, and Clegg was willing to go along with this gerrymandering in return for reform of the Lords.

The Lords does need reform (maybe even abolition) but not at the expense of effectively introducing a period of one-party government by the rich and privileged.

Gordon Whitehead

Scarborough, North Yorkshire

The spin regarding the birth of the Coalition continues. "The leadership came to the conclusion that the interests of the country had to come first, and went ahead knowing the likely consequences" (letters, 8 August). It was never the principled self-sacrifice the Lib Dems would have us believe, but the chance of a lifetime for the "Orangebookers", who are by now indistinguishable from the Tories, to enjoy playing at sharing power and revelling in the trappings thereof.

Eddie Dougall

Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

Apart from a few politicians at Westminster, no one wants 450 elected Senators in a new upper house elected for 15 years. I am amazed the Lib Dems don't see this. They were doing themselves no favours by asking for more Senators than people wanted, so wrecking any chances of reform of the Lords. One hundred elected Senators would have been enough.

Please let us have a proposal for a fully elected second chamber of the right size with more frequent elections than 15 years apart.

Nigel Boddy

Darlington, Co Durham

Free Schools pose threat of elitism

In his letter of 2 August, Mr Gove, the Education Secretary, indicated that most Free Schools are in communities with higher than average deprivation, again displaying his annoying habit of quoting irrelevance when in search of virtue for yet another misconceived policy.

The key issue with Free Schools is not where they are located, but the criteria these schools will be allowed to use in selecting pupils.

Socio-economic elitism remains the criterion which sustains most of the existing private sector in education and compounds social immobility. The danger is that the Free School initiative will further segregate young people.

Phil Keeley

Woodstock, Oxfordshire

Free Schools are divisive in the extreme. They are damaging many local schools as they are being opened in areas where there are already excess places. The number of faith Free Schools is astounding and more than a little disconcerting in an island where extreme religious views cause concern to many.

In addition, Free Schools do not even have to employ qualified teachers. As Professor Chris Husbands, director of the Institute of Education, said: "Teaching is a complex, higher-order skill and it depends on high-quality training." To suggest that amateurs can successfully run Free Schools is an attack on education in this country.

Simon G Gosden

Rayleigh, Essex

G4S expertise benefits Israel

Diana Neslen (letter 14 July) and Rita Appleby (letter 31 July) may be justified in criticising the choice of G4S for Olympic security, based on their recent failure or for their pay policy. But it is wrong to do so because the company has an Israeli subsidiary which supplies equipment to the Israel security forces.

Since Israel's terrorist and deterrence system is to protect against the same groups of fanatics who are the biggest threats to London, seeking to benefit from G4S's expertise is understandable.

Alan Halibard

Bet Shemesh, Israel

It seems that G4S is casting its shambolic shadow even north of the border.

A G4S staff member arrived to read our electricity meter (G4S is contracted by Scottish Power) last week. On Friday we received an email from Scottish Power asking us to read the meter ourselves.

Geraldine Perriam

Baldernock, East Dunbartonshire

More truths about those GM crops

When I was a farmer, to kill the weeds in my oil seed rape I applied Metazochlor in the autumn to stop too great a burden of weeds over winter. In the spring, Fluazifop-P-butol was always needed to kill grassy weeds and Benazolin for the control of Cleavers. Most years some other weed would raise its ugly head, making four herbicides per year necessary.

If I had been allowed to grow Roundup Ready oil seed rape it would only have needed one spray of glyphosate. I am afraid the letters from your readers on 30 July are erroneous.

Joanna Blythman is wrong when she says I would need more pesticides and Peter Milne is wrong when he says it would have put me more "in hock to big agribusiness" because the programme used would have been much cheaper.

R F Stearn

Stowmarket, Suffolk

Victims who can't get justice

Ian Birrell (article, 9 August) reminded us of the shocking abuse of those with learning difficulties. As a former police officer, I am certain that if those who cannot communicate effectively are abused, they are unlikely to have recourse to the justice system because the system almost always relies on victims giving evidence. Given their vulnerability, these victims are more likely to be abused unless there is a good oversight on the behaviour of their carers. No system is serving the needs of these victims at present.

Bob Morgan

Thatcham, West Berkshire

Dashed brave

Roland Taylor's boast "I never use the Oxford comma" (letters, 10 August) is nothing to be proud of. He could choose to write without any commas, or without hyphens or the letter k, but why deny himself something that one day might be just what he needs?

David Ridge

London N19

My keyboard has no Oxford comma. Where can I get one and how do I know if it's genuine?

Or do I need an app for an iPhone which I don't have either?

David Penny

Witley, Surrey

Colour clash?

As the successes of our multicultural Team GB coincide with the anniversary of the multicultural Riots GB, will David Starkey conclude the former occurred because "the whites have become black" or because the successful black athletes "think they are white"?

Dr Chris Williams

University of Birmingham

Boris the titan

Prime Minister David Cameron describes London's Mayor Boris Johnson as a "titan". I have not received the classical education enjoyed by these two gentlemen but, as I understand it, the Titans of Greek myth were creatures much given to incest, inbreeding, intoxication, the eating of children and a cosmic fratricidal conflict which ended in their ultimate defeat. I see what Cameron's getting at.

Sasha Simic

London N16

Talk kills music

Elisa Bray (article, 9 August) bemoans the lack of "real music lovers on BBC radio". She should try the presenters on Radio 3, who all qualify for that description. Perhaps it's because the music is more lovable.

Mark Miller

Dalton-in-Furness, Cumbria