Friday, 22 August 2008

Insult to injury

Judging by the reaction of the British troops the Prime Minister addressed yesterday in Afghanistan they were not exactly delighted to see him. It is hard to know exactly why; perhaps it's the result of the often appalling state of forces family accommodation back home; or maybe the failure to address their legitimate concerns about their leave arrangements; or perhaps it is the use of the troops by the Prime Minister for political advantage whenever he is in a domestic pickle (almost all the time currently!).

Yesterday he added insult to injury when he compared our troops efforts to those of our athletes in Beijing. He said "This week we are celebrating the Olympics where we have had great success, but this week also I believe that our Olympic athletes and everybody else in our country will remember that you have showed exactly the same courage, professionalism and dedication."

This comparison is not worthy of our troops and frankly is an insult to the sacrifices they and their families make, and risks they take on our behalf, every day. No wonder they feel the military covenant is broken.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

A real legacy

As the Olympics start this weekend, I am filled with mixed emotions. Excitement for the sporting spectacle ahead. Hope that the British competitors will succeed with personal bests and medals. Anticipation for the Games in 2012 as Britain becomes the host country. But most importantly for those of us who believe that sport can be a force for a good in the world, breaking down barriers, I hope that the Beijing Games will lead to greater openness in Chinese society, promote greater freedom of expression for the Chinese people, and encourage greater co-operation with the countries of the world.

Sport and the Olympics cannot in themselves solve all problems of repression and human rights in China, but they can certainly help. I hope that will be the real legacy of these Games.