Monday, July 13, 2009

This is no trick

The Sunday Star Times came out with this: Olympian pimps bid with fundraising trick. Logan Campbell an Olympic hopeful in 2008 is trying to fund his bid for 2012 by opening what he describes as a "high class escort agency". It isn’t a trick - this is called making a living and I hope that the publicity helps the business.

In terms of being “traditional” or “old fashioned” Taekwondo is nothing short of prehistoric, at least it is in New Zealand. In going public over his new business venture I suspect Logan will have done a little bit more than surprise people. He will have upset some and deeply offended others; I would be truly interested in what his instructor has to say - especially now the story has gone global. I hope the tale sparks a wider debate about the role of minor sports, small nations and what professional funding means in modern Olympism, but I’m not holding my breath.

It is not for me to defend the legitimacy of running an escort agency or even to argue that Logan’s case is a special one amongst the athletes who compete in sports that are regarded as minor in terms of national importance. The only thing I really take issue with is that anyone has the right to call his actions disreputable or inappropriate. The Logan Campbell I know is a nice guy, dedicated, bright, articulate and generally well meaning.

The quote by John Schofield of Taekwondo "Selection takes into account not just performance but also the athlete's ability to serve as an example to the youth of the country.", typifies what has been a difficult relationship between Campbell and the sport he loves. Perhaps what Schofield should have said, is something along the lines of - ”whilst we don’t necessarily approve of these actions it does highlight the difficulties surrounding the finances for all aspiring New Zealand Olympians in minor sports”. Given that performance funding for all but a restricted number of sports in NZ is largely discretionary and unpredictable, it was perhaps wise not to rock the boat. The NZOC and SPARC’s National academy are far from perfect organisations, but I strongly believe that the root of this problem rests with a genuine lack of will on the part of successive governments to actually promote sport rather than winning. What politicians want is medals and trophies, the approach to sport funding continues to reflect this.

High performance sport funding in New Zealand is broken; spending increasing amounts of cash on a diminishing pool of athletes in order to “punch above our weight on the international stage” is a strategy that is doomed to failure in the long term. There will come a point when there will not be enough quality performers and nothing like enough money to pull this off. It may well be the case that the whole notion of performance sport funding needs to be debated in terms of viability and usefulness. As long as high performance sport funding remains a populist cash cow then no one has the right to judge those with the dedication and industry to seek independent means whatever the method.

Some things you may not know about Logan Campbell: He

Has been in Taekwondo from a young age.
Narrowly missed out on going to the Athens Olympics at age 19.
Is a drug-free athlete.
Is dyslexic.
Was training twice a day most days in the 9 months preceding the Beijing Olympics.
Put off his last year of study at university in order to prepare for the Olympics.
Sold his car to fund a training trip to Europe.
Left New Zealand for Beijing with one sponsor (I think).
Attended at least three schools making presentations before leaving for Beijing while many other athletes were already at camps, this he did out of love for his sport.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Fuck who ?

One baby boy, one wife and a modestly happy life, but you gotta wonder though, haven’t you…..

To the best of my knowledge, my first gay admirer was the late John Balance or as he was known to me, Geoff Rushton. His enthusiasm for Throbbing Gristle pins and such was lost on me, but his kindness and respect for me is not forgotten. Now I understand the confused and slightly pained look on his face. I think at the time I was rather too absorbed in my own struggles to really grasp what was going on.

Time passes:

I became chaperone to the first (and probably only) lesbian pool team to play in a male dominated league in the UK. We made the local rag and I made some good friends. Ali, Fran and Angie were heroes in their own right being long standing protestors at Greenham Common. I learned a lot from them all, not least about the lottery created by not knowing who the nasty homophobes were. Looking back, one of my mother’s finer achievements was running a pub with an ambiance and attitude that allowed everyone to feel comfortable having a drink.

Meanwhile more admirers made themselves known to me. Poor old Peter used to call me Hero, he never laid a hand on me but in a moment of exasperation he all but begged me to undress for him. Later he apologised to me, it was a struggle to explain that I was flattered, not offended, but still not really up for it.

The bravest of the lot I think, was Ray who followed me home after an evening in the Pub. I remember the footsteps behind me on a deserted street in Oxford; I sped up the feet behind me sped up, I slowed down the feet behind me slowed down. I thought I was going to get mugged. Beneath a streetlight I turned quickly to confront my assailant and there was Ray with his hands in front of his face expecting to be punched. He stood his ground and blurted “are you gay ? andodyouwanttogoforadrink ?“ pause…. I laughed out loud and said I wasn’t gay, he looked so disappointed that I agreed to go for a drink with him anyway – just for a giggle. I’m not sure if that was the smartest thing that I have ever done, and it was a poor reward for what I feel was quite a courageous act. After all, I was a fit and quite capable of beating the shit out of him.

And the list goes on…

Gareth expanded beyond measure, my understanding of non-contact sport, he also loaned me some really useful books.

The guy on the train who had such a broad Yorkshire accent he shouted his proposal at me three times across a train before I got it.

The two guys who so openly flirted with me while they were on the checkouts at my local supermarket…….in front of my then fiancĂ©e.

The pair in Sheffield who had me biting a pillow with laughter one Sunday morning – the floors are thin around here too y’know.

My admirers at the pool; “are you gay ?”, “no”, “do you want to be ?” left me speechless as did “I’m married, but I’d give it up for you”.

I remain flattered.

To the couple who have befriended and cared for my Mother in the UK, I am truly grateful.

Right now I’m looking forwards to the birth of a work colleague’s baby – she and her partner are lovely and I am damn proud that they have chosen to confide in me.

This is not just some self aggrandising way of screaming “I’m down with teh gayz”. The bigger point is this. I have never felt the urge to harm anyone in the course of these encounters. It may be argued for various reasons that I should be deeply homophobic. I’m not and when shit like this happens I get very upset indeed. Which I guess is why when stuff like this comes out I am almost crying with mischief and happiness.

All together now….”Fuck you, Fuck you very very muuuuch”……