Monday 31 December 2012

13 for 2013

Well as is traditional on this blog it is time to look forward to what 2013 will have in stall.

1. Peter Robinson will be ousted as DUP leader and First Minister. I seriously think that the way that the Protestant/Loyalist/Unionist community has been in revolt this past month will bring about a split within the DUP. The hardliners will be out for more blood and those that want a shared society or are seen too will be further marginalised. The biggest casualty of this will be the leader, who for the first time will be forced from office. Somehow Nigel Dodds takes over as leader.

2. We will say goodbye to Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher and the Duke of Edinburgh. Yeah a triple whammy but all three have been in hospital this year and all three are far from young. I don't think that any of the three of them will live for a further 365 days.

3. Chris Froome will win the Tour de France. After Bradley Wiggins wins the Giro d'Italia Sky decide to name Froome as co-leader publicly for the Tour but in private Froome has been given the nod with Wiggins as his super-domestic, just so he can wear the number 1 for the race as defending champion. Meanwhile in his new team, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Mark Cavendish returns to Paris in Green and yet again manages to win on the Champs Élysées, he also manages 5 stage wins and the sprinters jersey in the Giro. 

4. Pressure mounts on Northern Ireland to rethink Equal Marriage with England, Wales and Scotland all passing legislation to allow equal marriage the Unionist politicians come under increased for their sham-Unionism on the matter of LGBT rights.

5. Andy Murray kisses a gold trophy. Yeah, I'm sticking my neck out here. In July Andy Murray fulfills every British tennis fan's dream of lifting up the silver-gilt cup inscribed with the words "The All England Lawn Tennis Club Single Handed Champion of the World". He will celebrate by going off and marrying Caroline Wozniacki before defending his US Open title.

6.Jeremy Clarkson will say something so over the top that he is suspended from presenting Top Gear. Yeah, hard to work out exactly what it is that Clarkson says that could lead to such action looking at his past history, but he will come up with something.

7. A DUP elected politician will be caught in a compromising position with someone of the same gender. Big news for the DUP as they try to carry on an attack on any expansion of LGBT rights is that one of their own is found to have had a secret lover of the same gender for years.

8. Alex Salmond drops the plans for a referendum on independence this becomes inevitable after he is caught telling even more inaccuracies about what an Independent Scotland will look like. An SNP MSP resigns and points out that under his plans Scotland would be a puppet state to too many other nations that being a devolved part of the United Kingdom is actually the most economically and legislatively liberating option that there is.

9. The Republic Party finally concede the need for gun control... sadly this only happens after an intern working for a Republican Senator kills a number of GOP Senators and Representatives and staff with assault weapons he has sneaked in in parts over a number of months.

10. Two members of Westboro Baptist Church leave to move in together in San Francisco...yeah turns out that they fancy someone of the same sex after all. One of the members is a member of the Phelps family.

11. The 2020 Olympics are awarded to Tokyo. The compact proposal set largely in the harbour area beats Istanbul in the second round of voting at the 125th IOC Session in September.

12. The Flag Protests will carry on until Easter. The protesters will continue in diminishing numbers to protest against the designated days the Union Flag is flown on  Belfast City Hall until Easter. They run a near riot when on one of the designated days it's lowered and fail to notice as they are charging City Hall that it is being lowered to half mast only, to mark the death of the Duke of Edinburgh. When they carry out one last protest they are shouted at by members of the public for not showing respect to it being the day of the Duke's coffin being transported to Westminster Hall to lie in state.

13. There will be two by elections caused by MPs being charged as a result of the Jimmy Saville investigations.

On a personal note, I will run the Belfast Marathon on 6th May inside four hours (you can sponsor me at my Just Giving page)

2012 Predictions: How did I do then?

It is time to reflect back on those predictions I made at the start of the year.

  1. Andy Murray will win in Australia in past years I have hedged my bets with Andy saying he will win a Grand Slam event either in Australia or the USA. This year after his Asian Autumn and the fact that Novak Djoković showed that Rafa and Fed can be beaten he will return after the injury at the end of season World Tour Finals he'll be back to go one better than both 2010 and 2011. I should have kept edging. Andy lost out to Djokovic in a tough 5 sets at the Australian open from 2-1 up in sets. He made his first Wimbledon final before losing to Federer, picking up his first Grand Slam final set. He then took Olympic gold, before winning the US Open 7-6. 7-5,2-6, 3-6, 6-2.
  2. Barak Obama will be President and president elect. Of course the next term doesn't start until January 2013 but Obama with new running mate Hillary Clinton will see off the republican ticket of Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. He will do so despite losing both North Carolina and Florida among the big scoring states in the electoral college. OK POTUS stuck with Joe 'the Senator' Biden for Veep and Hillary is stepping aside at the inauguration, memoirs are looming. But Barack Obama has got four more years.
  3. Rory McIlroy will win The Masters. After the blow up on the final nine holes at Augusta last year the Northern Irish golfer will come back and dominate the event on the course that suits his style of play. He will again lead after the 2nd and 3rd days. Pushing if not taking some of the records along the way. But on the 63rd hole of the Tournament the 10th on the last day he hits his tee shot straight down the middle. He birdies to extend his lead and heads back towards the inevitable green jacket. He didn't win the first major of the year tied for 3rd after the second round he dropped away to 40th, but no final round blow out. Rory . However, he did win the last the US PGA.
  4. Kim Jong-un will be overthrown. Before the end of the year the people of North Korea will overthrow the inherited dictatorship of the Kim family. The young leader will not survive a year in his new position. He will flee in exile to Japan where he will enjoy the freedom he experienced briefly when he studied in Switzerland, handing power over peacefully to the people's uprising leadership. Somehow he won the vote to become Time magazine man of the year and is still in power. A Chinese magazine also fell for The Onion naming him the sexiest man in the world.
  5. British women will shine at the Olympics the men will not do badly either. Beth Tweddle will retire after an inspired performance sees he lift gold in the Uneven Bars only a bronze for Beth. Rebecca Addlington will win double gold again! Ok double bronze in the 400m and 800m Keri-Ann Payne will win the swimming marathon in the Serpentine 4th. Sarah Stevenson will lift the Tae Kwan Do gold out in the prelims. Despite all this success some of the above will not make the Sports Personality of the Year shortlist. Well our first medal was in the road cycling and it was the women the day after Mark Cavendish failed to get his. Plus another medal from the women in day two. The total medal break down by gender was Women 10  Gold 6 Silver 6 Bronze, Men 18 G 9 S 13 B Mixed 1 Gold (2 women 1 man) 1 Silver (4 women 1 man) in the equestrian team events and 1 silver (1 women 1 man) in Tennis.
  6. Greece will send its smallest ever team the founding nation of the Olympics will because of economic constraints send its smallest ever Olympic team just to maintain it's ever presence at the games. It will fail to send any teams for the team events, rowers or equestrians because of the cost and only send individuals and sailors who are able to get their own boats to Weymouth. The team of 104 was the smallest that Greece had send since the 70 that had attended in Barcelona in 1992. In Atlanta in 1996 they sent 121, Sydney 2000 there were 140, when Athens hosted in 2004 there were 426 home nation competitors and last time in Beijing there was still an increase to 156 over the 2000 numbers. This shrinkage is a total of xx%
  7. Manx Missile will take Green and Gold. Mark these dates in your diary 4th, 5th, 6th,14th, 16th, 22nd and 28th July. The first six will be the stage wins that take Mark Cavendish to a second consecutive Green Jersey in the Tour the France the final one is after that little training jaunt around France (Belgium and Switzerland) sees him find along the Mall to pump the air wearing the Team GB jersey he wore to the rainbow jersey to Olympic gold. Little did I expect to see Mark take THREE stages in the Giro d'Italia and lose out on the Maglia Rossa (red jersey) by the time that race got to Milan by just one point to Joaquim Rodriguez. Just before the Tour Mark said he was changing his approach had lost some weight and speed. Well it didn't show in the 2nd July as he rode into Tournai without the famous lead out train he floated on other's wheels to take his 21st stage win. However the three earlt stages I had ear marked for success brought mixed fortunes, but none of them winning. He didn't win again until the 20th, but did win on the 22nd to make it four wins on the Champs d'Elysées in a row, with the Maillot Jaune on the back on Britain's Bradley Wiggins leading him out. Sadly for Mark nobody was prepared to help Team GB in the Olympic road race so he missed out on gold there to.
  8. A DUP MLA will take part in Belfast Pride. Maybe I will fall down on this one but I really want to see the DUP take up the invite to engage with the other parties in the debate that is now traditionally part of the Belfast Pride week. I don't expect them to take part in the parade this year but a step to turn up to the debate with our politicians is a step in the right direction and will take place in the year that Jeff Dudgeon has received an MBE in the New Years Honours. Not quite an MLA but Lord Mayor Alderman Gavin Robinson did take part in the annual Pride Talks Back panel on 31 July.
  9. William and Kate will give birth to a daughter. The third in line to the throne a Princess whose position will not be usurped by a subsequent brother will arrive in the Autumn/Winter of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year. After speculation she will be called Diana in the press it is announced her name shall be Margaret Elizabeth Victoria. Well the baby isn't due until next summer so I wasn't too far off on the baby prediction.
  10. Gareth Malone gets a gong. In the Queen's Birthday Honours Gareth Malone will have bestowed upon him for services to choral music and the armed forces the honour of Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE). Sam Stevenson representing the women of the Military Wives Choir will be bestowed as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE). Bang on target, well at least the first bit Gareth Malone was awarded the OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours.
  11. Seb Coe wins Strictly Come Dancing. Fresh from running a very successful Olympics Lord Coe becomes the oldest ever winner of the glitter ball dancing with Natalie Lowe. Seb no! But Victoria Pendleton and Louis Smith with a gold, two silver and a bronze between them from the Games did take part. Louis of course adding the Glitterball to his silver and bronze from the summer of sport. Seb was awarded the Sports Personality of the Year lifetime achievement award.
  12. Maggie Thatcher will win an Oscar and die on the same day. I was going to say in the same year but I'm being bold and say that on 26 February Meryl Streep will win the best Actress award at the 84th Academy Awards and the Iron Lady herself will pass away in her 87th year. Well Meryl did indeed win her Oscar, although the following day the papers did not carry obituaries for the woman she portrayed. Maggie celebrated her 87th birthday in October.
In summary I make that:

  1. Near miss ½ point
  2.  On the nose 1 point
  3.  Close he won another major ½ point
  4. Total failure nil point
  5. British women (and men) did shine, just not the ones I singled out 1 point
  6. It was only the smallest for 20 years nil point
  7. Neither acheived nil point  
  8. Not and MLA but they too part  ½ point
  9. Baby imminent  ½ point
  10. Honoured just the wrong station 1 point
  11. Wrong Olympic connection but an Olympic win ½ point
  12. Meryl got her Oscar but the Iron Lady still lives ½ point 
So I make that  6 points out of twelve. Not bad.

All that remains is to announce that my predictions for 2013 will be posted in an hour, my last post for 2012.

Saturday 29 December 2012

2012 my blog by your viewing habits

There are two ways to look at the most popular blog posts of 2012. There are obviously the most popular posts over the whole year. That list is at the end, but I thought I also go month by month first (all results are according to Google Analytics)

January top of the heap was Apparently I'm a leper now when Core Issues brought a conference The Leper Among us: Homosexuality and Life in the Church to Orangefield Presbyterian Church. Runners up were SNP MP Claims to be a Unionist and a carry over from the previous January Anne Francis Starred in Forbidden Planet.

February saw my explaining to Charlotte Henry the difference between social and socialist with respect to the Social Liberal Forum in Dear Charlotte, it's social not socialist and it's constitutional. Behind that came the Breaking News that one of my old sparring partners (not physically) Sky confirm that Eric Joyce arrested on suspicion of assault equal with another explanation Neither a Left Liberal nor a Right Liberal, Just Liberal.

March top of this month was my adaptation of a well known verse If - with Liberal apologies to Rudyard Kipling which was basically looking at the Lib Dem constitution. Honourable mentions go to So the Lib Dems are not debating the NHS Bill, but... and a in the words of a late Lib Dem Viv - one sentance to sum up the party - Freedom.

April my top post seems rather topical considering some of the Christmas It's Easter let's show the love with Christians, unless they are Gay. Elsewhere my Olympic posts were picking up views as the Games drew nearer with 1948 Summer Olympics London: XIV Olympiad and 1900 Summer Olympics Paris: II Olympiad the next most popular in April. 

May my post on the last London Olympics in 1948 had been written in March, but it was most popular in May. Following were two more not written this month the biblical definitions of marriage from December 2011 and 1936 Summer Olympics Berlin: XI Olympiad another from the series from March.

June top was the sad post about the loss of a dear friend Nikki Thomson 1967-2012. London 2012 fever insured that London 1948 featured yet again along with Never, say Never to second looks - Argyll and Bute.

July top this month was outrage at Why have @Twitter suspended @equalmarriageni ? when our newly established Twitter account disappeared just hours after it was created. Another Olympic post this time 1952 Summer Olympics Helsinki: XV Olympiad shared the honours with London 1948 once again in the top three.

August and London 2012 was upon us and dominated my blogging but top story was a sad one Cyclist killed by Olympic Bus. It took precedence over a look at the Games to come Summer Olympics 2020 XXXII Olympiad plus what other look at the stamps but Super Saturday's the fourth day that the Royal Mail were busy and the first issue date on a Sunday.

September post Olympics and a shock is that an art post from June 2011 takes top spot Artful Thursday - Escher, it wasn't even the month in which he passed away 40 years ago. But elsewhere it was praise for Team GB Well Done Team GB but it was back to politics with Mike Nesbitt and his bigot question.

October with the debate in Stormont on marriage equality at the start of the month my top story was related Alliance Party censors criticism. Elsewhere Escher featured again plus David Ford issues apology for Monday.

November top was clearing up a little bit of language from the Prime Minister Dave paedophiles are not a subset of gay men (any excuse for a good Venn diagram). The others that month were Co-opted Councillor resigns from party for a little local politics and more of Escher.

December as of the time of writing it is actually very close at the top, so I will only update the order at the end of the month. But the three in contention (for now) are personal politics In which I join the Alliance Party, a tribute Kenneth Kendall 1924-2012 and Why designated days actually make the Flag special.

Which leads to the biggest hits of 2012. Will there be any sleeper that hasn't made a months top three that may sneak in? 

Just out of interest my top 5 posts about the 2012 Olympics were:

The UK Paralympians not honoured

Reading the list of honours it appears that every gold medal winner in the Olympics and Paralympics (who wasn't previously honoured) received some sort of reward in the New Years Honours. However, there are five gold medals from three individuals that appear to have gone onrecognised. Yeah the fastest Paralympian Jason Smyth, middle distance runner Michael McKillop and swimmer Bethany Firth have been left off the honours list.

Some people will argue that these people made a personal choice to compete for Team Ireland. But in the case of Bethany, without the Olympic sized pool being ready in Bangor, her nearest and most accessible facilities were in Dublin.

Jason Smyth was asked the question about why he chose Ireland on Channel 4's The Last Leg to which he responded:

"At the time, I had put it out there that is was Britain or Ireland. I gave them the opportunity, whoever was interested. At the time Ireland came back and were going to help and support and were able to help and Britain were just, whatever. Not really that bothered. And just that Ireland were going to look after me made the decision easy, cause I wouldn’t be politically one way or the other."

It is not always a choice that is down to personal circumstances, it is sometimes to the amount of support that the appropriate governing body is able to provide, even than can change depending on personal circumstances. For example a Northern Irish person who goes to higher education in London say is easier to tap into Team GB facilities than someone who stays at home.

Remember when the news broke that these three would get a golden post box.

Arise Sir Wiggo and other Olympic and Paralympic Honours

Top of the heap in the special list of Olympic and Paralympic honours in the New Year's Honours List have to be the Knighthoods for cyclist Bradley Wiggins and sailor Ben Ainslie, there will also be Dame Sarah Storey for the Swimmer turned Cyclist who had started swimming at the Paralympics 20 years ago to win a British record equaling total of 11 gold medals. Coaches Dave Brailsford (cycling) and David Tanner (Rowing) are also awarded Knighthoods. Tanner has been performance director of GB rowing for 16 years a similar length of time that Brailsford has been involved with British Cycling.

This does mean that Britian's five living most decorated in gold Olympians are all knights Sir Chris Hoy with 6 golds,Sir Steve Redgrave 5, Sir Matthew Pinsent, Sir Bradley Wiggins and Sir Ben Ainslie 4. Sarah Storey joins Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson who became a Dame in 2005, but the other Brit with eleven Paralympic golds Dave Roberts remains with only a CBE, while Mike Kenny, the forgotten Paralympian, who won 16 from 1976-88 is only an MBE.

There are CBEs for gold medalists Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and David Weir (athletics), Katherine Grainger (rowing) and Victoria Pendleton (cycling).

OBEs go to cycling's golden couple Jason Kenny and Laura Trott, equestrians Charlotte Dujardin and Sophie Christiansen, Andy Murray (tennis) and Ellie Simmonds (swimming).

While MBEs go to
  • Nicola Adams, Luke Campbell and Anthony Joshua (boxing) and Jade Jones (taekwondo)
  • Canoeists Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott, plus Ed McKeever. 
  • Dujardin's dressage team mates Laura Bechtolsheimer and Carl Hester, Christiansen's team mates Natasha Baker, Deborah Criddle and Sophie Wells the show jumpers Scott Brash, Peter Charles and Ben Maher, eventer Mary King. 
  • Triathlete Alistair Brownlee and gymnast Louis Smith
  • Archery's Danielle Brown and Peter Wilson for shooting
  • Heather Lucas in sailing
  • Swimmers Josef Craig, Jonathan Fox, Heather Fredericksen, Oliver Hynd. 
  • Cyclists Steven Burke, Mark Colbourne, Neil Fachie, Philip Hindes, Peter Kennaugh, Dani King, Craig MacLean and Joanna Rowsell
  • Boccia player Nigel Murray
  • Rowers Katherine Copeland, Helen Glover, Alex Gregory, Sophie Hosking, Pam Relph, Naomi Riches, James Roe, David Smith, Heather Stanning, Lily van den Broecke and Anna Watkins
  • Athletes Jessica-Jane Applegate, Mickey Bushell, Hannah Cockroft, Aled Davies, Jonnie Peacock, Josie Pearson, Greg Rutherford and Richard Whitehead
People will have noticed that I haven't split this list  by Olympian or Paralympian because I think they all deserve equal recognition for what they achieved this year.

Sunday 23 December 2012

My top 10 Sporting Highlights 2012

Last night I noticed that Mark Cole had written up his top 10 sporting events of the year. I was considering doing my own anyway but his writing about his got me to focus on it. And yeah the time I am posting this is deliberate.

10. Rory McIlroy wins the US PGA you may have missed this, you were probably watching the closing ceremony of the Olympics. But golf becomes an Olympic sport in Rio 2016 so what better way to put down a marker than to blow the field away. He shot -6 for the day to win by a winning margin of 8 breaking the record set by none other than Jack Nicklaus on the tough Kiawah Island course. Here is the footage of him zooming to that exceptional final round. He'd earlier in the day had to complete the weather affected 3rd Round and day two was one of the toughest in PGA history with 20-30mph winds.

9. My University wins gold those who know me know that I started out at a Polytechnic, but ended out earning a University degree. But Kingston University already had one Olympic medal courtesy of Gail Emms, but on the last day of competition at Eton Dorney there was a gold for a University close to the Thames, about half way between the rowing/canoeing venue and the main Olympic venues by river. Ed McKeever in the canoe sprint K1 200m took the gold here is his winning performance (from about 7:50 in). I was a very happy non-blue (they came in too late for me).

8. Every nation sent women to London 2012. Not even the men managed that! But yes women like Sarah Attar, Wojdan Shaherkani and Noor Hussain Al-Malki may not have been world beaters. But they have each in their own way made a minor break through for sport. I think their participation is a highlight for sport not just for this year but for history.

7. Near simultaneous shooting and slalom golds being able to watch any sport from the Olympics on the digital service meant that at times sporting moments fused together. Thus it was that on the 2 August I was watching Team GB going for gold in two events in two venues almost simultaneously. And for ages we were leading in both, but there was still some time to go. First up were Etienne Stott and Tim Baillie who were first up in the six crew C2 Canoe Slalom final, with one run to go Team GB were guaranteed gold as only team mates David Florence and Richard Hounslow going last could beat them;  here are their highlights. Meanwhile over at the Royal Artillery Barracks Peter Wilson was edging towards Gold, but there were missed targets, which kept your heart in a sleeve. He managed to hold his nerve as can be seen and it turned into a golden minute: the time was 15:37.

6. Chad le Clos edges out Phelps. One of the tightest finishes in Bejing involved Michael Phelps in the 100m Butterfly winning by 1/100th. On that occasion the most winningest Olympian got his final stroke just right, this year in the 2012 200m Butterfly final he got that final stroke just wrong, see for yourself. Of course with Chad le Clos winning we got introduced to his dad Bert.

5. British man wins a grand slam event yesterday would have been my late father's 70th birthday and he never got to see something I saw this year; a British man winning a slam singles title in Tennis. Hot on the back of his Olympic gold, Andy went to New York and in 4 hrs 54 mins, the equal longest final in US Open history ended 76 years of waiting. It was also due to the rain delay moving the match from the Sunday to the Monday actually 79 on from when Fred Perry won his first Grand Slam event in the same location. Here is the final game of that historic match.

4. Finally a gold for Kath Grainger I've heard it many times that those of us who have competed in sport have always felt for Katherine Grainger. She had three silver medals over the last three Olympics. She had been tipped to be part of the first British women's boat to win a gold at the Olympics before, she was also tipped to do that this year, but had been beaten to that by a quirk of scheduling, the very first final the women's double produced gold. But in the double sculls along with Anna Watkins the weight was over, Grainger was Olympic champion, here is the race.

3. The Fastest Paralympian is from Norn Irn, so he is yes Jason Smith is from Eglington just outside Derry/Londonderry. In the T13 100m he ran a time of 10.46 seconds, he also ran 21.05 secs for the 200m. Both were world records. But he was also quick off the mark when he came into The Last Leg studio when

Alex Brooker asked, "You're from Northern Ireland did you not fancy running for Great Britain?" The response:

"At the time, I had put it out there that is was Britain or Ireland. I gave them the opportunity, whoever was interested. At the time Ireland came back and were going to  help and support and were able to help and Britain were just, whatever. Not really that bothered. And just that Ireland were going to look after me made the decision easy, cause I wouldn’t be politically one way or the other."
A carefully avoided awkward moment.

2. Wiggins wins the Tour de France leading out Cav for the stage win one of my passions since Channel 4 first started to show highlights every July is the Tour de France. This year in the 99th edition we finally got a British winner. We have now won the three major jerseys. He had destroyed the rest in the time trials and on the last mountain rode his challenges off his wheel with the help of Chris Froome. But it was the way in which Bradley Wiggins went to the line. Normally the leader going to Paris sits comfortably in the pack on the last lap. But the man in yellow had a debt to repay to the World Champion, who at times in this year's tour was acting as bottle carrier to his friend. On the Place de la Concorde the Maillot Jaune hit the front grimacing as he was helping take his buddy to the line. For a fourth year in a row Cav won on the Champs Élysées. Here are those final 2 kms.

1. Super Saturday I was a runner (although I'm in marathon training so maybe I still am, and you can sponsor me here) so I know what it is like to run 25 laps around a track. I was also a jumper (although triple) so the events of Super Saturday and the greatest day for British Athletics ever in an Olympic stadium had be up on my feet over and over again. So I couldn't really separate the gold medal successes of Greg Rutherford, Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah. So here they all are from the camera of a fan in the stands, where I probably would have wanted to be (although I'd have missed out on the chance to watch three sports simultaneously).

As you can see if you compare my list with Mark's there are differences. I also think that this year 10 is nowhere near enough it has been a truly remarkable year of sport not just in the Olympic and Paralympic arena but in so many other ways.