Weir’s Week: an Open calamity, stay-away Celts and Korean capers

Out of stock at Hampden? Picture: John Pavelka

As sporting weekends go, this one ain’t half bad: the German GP and the conclusions to both the Open and the Tour de France. There are even some friendly football matches to whet the appetite for the forthcoming season.

On Saturday, I find myself staring at a wall.

I’m in the Dollan Baths in East Kilbride, a venue where I spent many a hot and bothered afternoon serving my journalistic apprenticeship, doing agency work (motto: “one par fits all”).

The baths were opened back in the 1960s, with the special guest of honour being Bobby McGregor, the golden boy of Scottish swimming. Or rather, not quite.

The plaque on the wall acknowledges McGregor’s presence, the fact that he was a world record holder and an Olympic silver medallist. And I have a wee issue with that.

Acknowledging a gold medallist is fine. They were the top dog, the number one, unbeatable. However, any time I see silver or bronze medallist, I always get the feeling that it makes them look not quite good enough, only second or third best. A bit like the Little Britain character Denver Mills.

Actually, the reality was their achievement in winning a medal of any colour put them among the very best in the world on a given day. So would it not look better and be slightly kinder just to say medallist?

The final round of the Open didn’t get my undivided attention, for once. The events unfolding in Paris were really just too memorable to drag myself back to the Fylde coast.

However, once the pedals had stopped whirring and the bouquets had been handed out, it was back to see how Adam Scott was doing in his pursuit of a first major.

And it looked like his ability to stand still while everyone else slid downwards was going to be good enough to see an Australian winner.

But oh no! The last four holes saw Scott implode, his game and ambitions falling to pieces, leaving Ernie Els to pick up his second Open on these shores.

What is it with 42-year-old, over-the-hill golfers, the South African following the lead of the 2011 champion, Darren Clarke?

Scott might get over it. History, though, would suggest otherwise. As might Doug Sanders, Simon Owen, John Cook, Jesper Parnevik or Jean van de Velde …

I am again delighted to accept an invitation to appear on STV’s Scotland Tonight, with Rona Dougall refereeing a friendly debate between myself, long-time friend and fellow wordsmith Rob Robertson of the Daily Mail and Scots cycling legend Graeme Obree as to whether Bradley Wiggins had been elevated to Britain’s greatest-ever sportsman following his Tour de France success.

In short, the consensus was that Wiggins was up there, in the top ten, half-dozen, top five or best three, depending on who you asked.

Is he better than Thompson, Coe, Holmes, Redgrave, Lewis, Stewart, Hoy, Taylor, Hendry or CB Fry? A case or argument could be made for all.

And you’d be slightly closer to the mark than the Mirror’s Oliver Holt, who tried to make a case for others.

On Twitter, he said; “Some already acclaiming him greatest British sportsman of all time. Don’t agree with that. One of the greatest sporting achievements, yes.

“[But] In terms of stunning individual British sporting feats, I’d put Graham Hill winning Indianapolis 500 as one of things up there with Wiggins.”

I can only assume the aforementioned journalist was caught up with the emotion when he managed to place Hill ahead of Jim Clark, who was the first Brit to win the American classic, and Dario Franchitti, who has only managed to win the race on three occasions.

Or does he just have a blind spot when it comes to Scottish sport?

I love Twenty20 cricket. And it would be impossible for any lover of sport not to marvel at the innings of Kiwi Scott Styris, who scored the joint-third fastest century in Twenty20 history as Sussex comfortably beat Gloucestershire at Hove to secure their place on T20 finals day.

Sussex clattered 230 for 4, the highest score from any team in the 2012 competition, assisted by Styris – who, returning from a thumb injury, smashed 100 not out off 37 balls including nine 6s.

He was especially brutal on Gloucestershire seam bowler James Fuller, who will want to forget this history-making over. Brilliant stuff …

You couldn’t make it up. Scotland, staging their first Olympic event in 104 years, become the centre of attention – and almost the catalyst for an international incident – when the giant screens at Hampden display the South Korean flag when it was North Korea who were playing in the women’s football competition. Oops.

Good job those Koreans (from the north) are such a fun-loving, understanding, friendly bunch. Because if it wasn’t for the fact that they were already at war with those in the south, it could have got nasty.

While it was Scotland, Glasgow and Hampden who were initially lambasted for this blunder, it turns out the error was in the video package – sent from London.

Oh well, these things happen. As David Cameron said, it was “an honest mistake,” and “we shouldn’t over-inflate this episode”.

The kind of words you would expect from someone who can decant into a nuclear bunker within a few minutes, leaving the rest of us to say “sorry” to a nation as stable as nitroglycerin on a hot day.

Anyway, the mere mention of flags is as good an excuse as any for this.

There were people happy to be at Hampden earlier in the day as USA took on France. And some tweeted their delight at attending free, courtesy of the SFA.

Trouble was, even giving away tickets wasn’t enough for some to turn out.

That wasn’t going to deflate the spirits of those who were happy to go along for the spectacle, but who admitted that they would have stayed at home if it were Team GB playing.

The reason? No Scots are participating in this tournament.

A minor, ironic detail lost on some, who just didn’t realise the reason there were no Scots in the Team GB squad was entirely to do with their generous ticket touts …

And in an open letter to supporters, Celtic’s chief executive Peter Lawwell has urged fans to buy season tickets and back the club as they prepare for what he has described as “new challenges”.

In his letter, Lawwell states: “Throughout our history Celtic has, time and again, stood up for what it believes is right. In recent weeks we have acted accordingly, in the best interests of Celtic and Scottish football.”

Those “best interests” included voting Rangers out of the SPL. Of course, that decision wasn’t taken lightly. But Celtic recognised their fans’ upset at what had gone on across the city, and acted accordingly.

The fans spoke, and Celtic followed.

Maybe some other fans are now talking by not buying season tickets.

Perhaps they are not interested in seeing a one-horse title race. Maybe they only bought season tickets to guarantee them briefs for two Old Firm games twice a year. Or do those supporters think the “product” (namely SPL games) is over-priced and too expensive?

Lawwell hailed Celtic’s unbroken 125-year history. Looks though as if some fans are seriously thinking about taking a break this season, hence the letter …

Forget the fact that the women’s football has kicked off, and forget the G4S debacle, and that minor flag issue, and that you can’t drive anywhere in London.

The curtain rises tonight on the biggest show on earth, the Olympic Games. Who’d have thought it? On time and on budget (well, nearly).

The world will tune in this evening to see the spectacular opening ceremony that many have been talking about for weeks, and that those taking part in have been rehearsing for months.

Director Danny Boyle has promised something special. It will have to be to keep me watching (I’m still traumatised by the giant flowers and the abseiling bees from France ’98).

In Olympic terms, Boyle has much to live up to. No, not the show served up by Sydney, or Los Angeles, or the computer-enhanced effort from Beijing four years ago.

If Boyle wants to win me over, then he has to go beyond the benchmark set a quarter of a century ago by what I consider to be Britain’s greatest-ever festival of sporting excellence, theatre, pageantry and pride.

Danny, watch and learn. You may even watch and weep. I know I still do …

Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments.

  • SAR

    In contrast with the opening ceremony, the closing ceremony was very similar to Eurovision.