By Stewart Weir
Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad, track-fighting man Picture: Chell Hill
Usain Bolt aside, athletics has been up against it in recent times, drugs putting a question mark against everyone. So those in charge of the sport have tried all kinds of marketing ploys to lift the popularity, from Golden to Diamond leagues, strange-coloured vests, and world record attempts at every opportunity.
But it appears they might have cracked it with a completely new event – the middleweight street-fighter 3,000m steeplechase. I know there have been wee neds and polis throughout Scotland participating in this event for years, but never on a world stage.
Watch this and tell me who wouldn’t want this in the 2012 London Olympics or Glasgow 2014?
Channel 5 has live boxing, the British and Commonwealth heavyweight title fight between holder Dereck Chisora and Tyson Fury.
Fury took the win on points after 12 rounds, which I had scored 117–112 in his favour. There were some inquisitive looks at me when the MC read out the judges’ scorecards, the first two giving Fury the fight by the same margin. There are those amongst my family and friends who forget what I used to do for a living.
All in all, it was more thud and blunder than blood and thunder, but a good enough scrap nevertheless. I’d score the contest 7/10, above average, because over the years I’ve paid more to watch worse…
The German Grand Prix lost out to a BBQ. I admit, I missed a great race (although I watched the highlights later).
Star performance of the day comes from Mark Cavendish, who won the final stage of the Tour de France in Paris, becoming Britain’s first winner of the green jersey for the race’s best sprinter.
Cavendish deserves the plaudits for his achievement, although what he won was a series of races within one big race. Overall, he finished 130th, ninety-nine places behind the top Brit, Geraint Thomas.
Still, Cavendish rewrote the history books in capturing that green jersey, and had plenty more written about him as a result.
But imagine if he had taken such a title and finished at the head of the field. What media frenzy would have followed that?
Well, back in 1984, that’s what Scotland’s Robert Millar did, winning the King of the Mountains red polka-dot jersey outright and finishing an amazing fourth overall.
But Millar’s incredible performance merited probably a tenth of the exposure in this country that Cavendish’s did.
That’s how much sport has grown in the last quarter of a century. Or do I mean the hype around it?
While he might never have enjoyed the hero-worship of Jimmy White or Ronnie O’Sullivan, Stephen Hendry was always a popular guy.
People presented him with awards aplenty, adoring fans even commissioning special trophies to mark his achievements, with my good friend Neil White’s Waterford Crystal piece commemorating Hendry’s 100 Crucible centuries a particularly striking gift.
Whenever the seven-times world champion was signing autographs, there would be a lengthy queue, with all sorts wanting him to pen their books, photographs, programmes, tickets and the likes – and, in the case of a few daring young ladies, certain parts of their anatomy.
Stephen joked a few months that he was now the property of the granny brigade. But just when he thought it couldn’t get any worse when it came to admirers…
I have to say, all credit to Stephen for posing as an Apache warrior…
While Rangers entertain Malmö (although they struggled to do the same with the home support) in their Champions League qualifier at Ibrox, holders Barcelona are participating in the Audi Cup at the Allianz Arena along with Bayern Munich (who they would eventually defeat in the final), AC Milan and Internacional from Brazil.
Audi spend a shed-load of dosh year-on-year backing their own record-breaking team in endurance car races, especially at Le Mans.
But while there are those out there trying to tell butchers, bakers and candlestick-makers just how wonderful motorsport sponsorship is for brand awareness, here is one of the biggest car manufacturers in the world sinking even more cash (they are official car suppliers to Manchester United) in football.
What does that tell you about the power of the glorious game?
Back to Ibrox, and in the inner bowels of the great stadium ahead of the game, I’m interviewing the legend that is the “Greatest Ever Ranger”, John Greig. “Greigy” is helping me with a few chapters for a book idea I’m working on and complains bitterly that I’ve asked him to recall some details from nearly 50 years ago.
He then rhymes off team-mates, goalscorers, who passed to who and other recollections as if it were yesterday.
What does that tell you about the power of the glorious game?
One year to go to London 2012. 365 days now, or is it 366? It’s a year, anyway. Unfortunately my preparations have been curtailed somewhat by injury (a long-term Achilles problem has flared up again), and the fact that I am still trying to decide what event I want to compete in. This decision-making process will be all the easier once I work out what sport I am going to be good at.
I’m still thinking football, as the token Scot – or judo, as you would get to keep a nice jacket if nothing else.
It might be my imagination, but champion diver Tom Daley has started appearing even more regularly on my TV, fronting the Nestlé “Get Set, Go Free” campaign.
Now as a diver, young Tom is agile, inventive and expressive – all of the things he is not in this advert.
I noted that while he tried out golf and hockey, the kept him well away from horses. Copyright there probably belongs to Zara Phillips.
Of course, there has only ever been one athlete capable of world-class diving and being able to act with it. Watch and learn, Tom, from a master at work.
El-Hadji Diouf has always had the ability to play at the very highest level. He has also had the ability throughout his career to start a fight in an empty hoose.
This week Diouf fell out of love with the Senegal Football Federation (FSF) which banned him for five years after comments he had made on Radio France Internationale, in which he claimed that “the whole system of African football is corrupt”. I couldn’t possibly comment.
But Diouf is naturally upset by the outcome and promised he would “go to war” with the FSF. Well, he wouldn’t be himself if he wasn’t warring with someone. Ask Scott Brown, the players of QPR, and at least one Celtic fan. The list is endless.
This latest spat, coupled with Diouf’s non-appearance for Blackburn’s return for pre-season training, has put his future at Ewood Park in doubt, with Rovers boss Steve Kean indicating that perhaps the time was right for the player to leave the club.
And here was me thinking that Kean had allowed Diouf to play at the tail-end of last season with Rangers, just so he could welcome him back with open arms.
However, there might have been some method in El-Hadji’s madness, missing the making of this.
Maybe Tom Daley isn’t that bad after all…
Northern Ireland’s second-best golfer Rory McIlroy doesn’t like criticism levelled at him by American broadcaster Jay Townsend on Twitter.
After seeing the US Open champion double-bogey the last hole at Killarney, Townsend tweeted: “It was some of the worst course management I’ve ever seen beyond under-10 boys’ golf competition.”
McIlroy countered: “Jay Townsend shut up… you’re a commentator and a failed golfer, your opinion means nothing.”
Townsend responded with: “I stand by my comments.”
The Ulsterman retaliated with “Well, I stand by my caddie,” and then revealed: “I have now blocked him on Twitter so I won’t be reading anything more.”
Different sport, different people, different times and different technology.
But you could never see someone like Graeme Souness in his pomp, or Sir Alex Ferguson, resolving their differences with someone by telling them they’d blocked them on Twitter…
– Tweet Stewart Weir with thoughts and comments, @sweirz
Donate to us: support independent, intelligent, in-depth Scottish journalism from just 3p a day