Aug. 3: Who should drop in to see David Cameron at 10, Downing Street, yesterday but Vladimir Putin? Playing the perfect host, Cameron set off with the sporty Russian President to see judo at the Excel Centre and even managed a little joke.
“I look forward to taking the President to the judo but I note that we will be spectators and not participants,” quipped Cameron.
In fact, relations between the two countries have been so bad that this is Putin’s first visit to Britain for eight years.
Putin was charming and diplomatic: he praised Danny Boyle’s “unforgettable” opening ceremony which he described as “a wonderful feast presented by you to mankind”.
Putin, who is himself a black belt at judo and rides bareback on horses, like to cultivate the image of a macho man. At the Excel Centre, Putin could celebrate a win for a Russian and pose with Tagir Khaibulaev, winner of the 100 kg Olympic gold. Perhaps the British foreign office is able to fix these results for its VVIPs.
Later, Cameron, too, could witness a British cycling triumph in a packed Vellodrome when Sir Chris Hoy won the 5th gold medal of his career and led teammates Philip Hinds and Jason Kenny to victory.
Did this mean that the “curse of Cameron” had been lifted? The jinx, which seemed to affect British competitors at every event he has attended, indeed appeared to have been lifted.
Cyclist Victoria Pendleton, the British pin-up girl in the Olympics, broke the world record in the Vellodrome but then came heartbreak in a million in one incident — she and her teammate Jess Varnish, who had seemed on the verge of getting gold, were disqualified because of a technical infringement.
And to make matters worse, there is now a question mark over Hoy’s victory. His teammate Philip Hinds admitted deliberately crashing his bike in the heats so that the Brits could benefit from a fresh start.Their gold medal may not be taken back but some, even in the British media, seem shocked at what is being interpreted by some as cheating by Team GB.
The curse of Cameron, again?
The sensation so far of the Games has been the 16-year-old Chinese girl, Ye Shiwen, a double gold winner who has matched the speed of male swimmers.
Drug tests have shown her to be clean and British swimmers have sportingly stuck up for her. But the whispering has not died down.
One theory is that the Chinese have learnt to manipulate genes in a crafty way which does not get picked up by conventional drug testing.
The story is big enough for one innovative paper, the Daily Mail, to send an investigative reporter to China.
The interview with her parents may have been lost in translation but the alleged interaction yields the headline: “Cruelty and our little Mermaid.”
A strap headline reads: “Chinese swim sensation’s brutal training, her sobbing call and how she’s always been taken for a boy.”
Her father, Ye Qingsong, 45, and her mother, Ning Yiqing, 43, deny any drug taking by their darling daughter but the picture built up is of a ruthless state. Ye Shiwen was taken away for training very early so her childhood was lost.
“As a mother, I sometimes felt as though I had lost her. I missed her so much. We were allowed to see her only once a week. And she was only 11.”
The report says: “Since the age of six, when she was plucked from primary school to join an elite sporting programme, Ye’s life has been party to China’s insatiable drive to dominate world sports.”
It sounds very much like the training that was given to generations of British children, admittedly mainly boys, who were packed off to boarding school at eight, so that they could one day be sent to rule India.
Today, many ambitious Indian parents also send their kids to remote Himalayan boarding schools at a tender age in the pursuit of character building. Anyone who has any doubt should see Vikramaditya Motwane’s film, Udaan, which was premiered in Cannes two years ago.
If the Mail report is correct, the Chinese are doing what the Brits and the Indians continue to do, though admittedly today’s public schools in England are not the tough institutions they used to be. Another film worth seeing is If where little boys are supposed to thank senior boys for beating the hell out of them. It certainly prepared boys for empire. Perhaps today the Chinese do it for the Olympics.