Friday, 31 August 2012

Turning 30...

I couldn't really stop the passage of time and so it was that I decided many months ago that if I must turn 30 then I may as well do so with good company and in happy surroundings.

So last weekend, a group of over 30 of my friends from across the UK (including Glasgow!) got together for a Bank Holiday weekend by the sea in Tenby. As a born and bred south Pembrokeshire boy, I could think of nowhere better to stay than in Tenby and with better than forecast weather, we make the most of Tenby South and North Beaches during our stay.

With the many good friends who spent their weekend with
me, celebrating my 30th birthday in Tenby!
On the big day itself, Bank Holiday Sunday 26th August, we had a lovely meal at the Ocean Restaurant overlooking the harbour and it was great that my close family were able to make it to bring us up to a total of 46 there on the day.

It wasn't a matter of looking back forlornly at time lost and looking ahead concerningly at a new decade. Anyone who thought that that was the mentality in which I approached the celebrations, mistook my sense of self and indeed, my sense of humour entirely.

For I can easily describe the past 10 years as being the best decade of my life. I've been very fortunate to have had good health and to have made such good friends and to have lived and enjoyed so many unique moments in that time. This then for me personally, was an opportunity to give thanks to what has been a splendid period of my life.

Looking ahead, I do so with great enthusiasm and with that 'glass half-full' mentality of which I am very proud. Many friends joked during the weekend that they couldn't believe that I was 30 - they thought that I must've been 40 such is my 'old head on young shoulders' persona!

It doesn't bother me one jot. I've always taken life with a slight pinch of salt and a great dose of irony. We don't know what's around the corner and so we must embrace life with a zestful love and thanks for being so fortunate when others in the world are markedly less so.

So if anyone did mistake my self-depracating ironic humour for that of someone lamenting the passing of time, you couldn't have been further from the truth. My 20s were indeed a wonderful time but that is now in the past and I wouldn't wish to re-live it. Life is for the here and now.

So, 30s? Bring it on!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The Greatest Olympic Controversy of All-Time? USA vs USSR - Munich, 1972

It's a wonderful, unprecedented Olympic fortnight for Team GB. But more of that at the close of the Games in a few days time.

What it has done has reminded me of the of the greatest controversies in the history of the Summer Games. It's odd, because whilst I have attended a live Basketball game in my life and enjoyed the frenetic nature of the chase, it is not a sport that I have necessarily warmed too.

Perhaps the American domination of the game that in fairness, they invented in the 1890s, plays a part in my relative ambivalence towards it.

But as a child, I vividly recall watching (time and again I may add) a 'Sporting Disasters' video hosted by if I remember correctly Nick Hancock (yes, it was the 1990s). I am therefore a conoisseur of the heartache and the misery in sport.

Doug Sanders missing a 3ft putt to win the Open in 1970? Gordon Smith missing a guilt edged 1-on-1 with Manchester United Goalkeeper Gary Bailey to win the FA Cup for Brighton? Don Fox's last-gasp missed conversion in the 1968 challenge cup final for Wakefield against Leeds? Yes, I've seen them all and many more. I'm not a sporting nut for nothing you know.

But the 1972 Olympic Basketball Final in Munich? It was an incredible drama that ended in the Americans losing their 63-game winning streak that stretched back to the first medalled Basketball competition at the Olympics in Berlin, 1936.

This Wikipedia article states in cold black and white the unravelling drama as the USSR scored a highly dubious last second basket to beat their Cold War foes 51-50. It resulted in the American team contesting the result but to no avail and as a result, they became the first ever Olympians to refuse to collect their medals.

As a result, their Silver medals have apparently to this day been in the possession of the IOC, waiting to be collected - or at least that's what I thought until I watched this fascinating American documentary that marked the 20th anniversary during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

It is a biased piece that only speaks to the American side of the debate and not their Russian counterparts but taking that away, it nevertheless told an incredible moment of sporting drama, sporting theatre that when mixed into the political tensions of the age, surely made it one of the, if not the greatest Olympic controversy of all-time.

We've not seen anything near that kind of anger in London 2012 and that is to be welcomed but still, looking back, it was a British man, the Secretary-General of FIBA William Jones who played a central role in the unfolding drama by coming out of the stands and ordering the officials to put 3 seconds back on the clock even though he later conceded that he had no authority to make such a ruling during a game.

You really couldn't have made it up!