The elite do battle in London
Elite representatives from countries around the world are battling to outdo each other in London. I’m not talking about the Olympic athletes. No, the capital is now host to the planet’s super-rich. For these people, sitting on plastic seats in a sweaty stadium is not an option. So before the Games began, the race was on to find the most exclusive alternatives.
Gold goes to Russian oligarch Mikhail Kusnirovich, owner of clothing manufacturer Bosco. His firm makes the Olympic kit for Spain, Russia and the Ukraine. Kusnirovich pulled off a similar coup with his Olympic party venue, says Nicholas Hellen in The Sunday Times. He has secured the roof terrace of the British Academy, “pipping British Airways”.
It overlooks the finishes of several road races “and offers tantalising glimpses of the beach volleyball events on Horse Guards Parade”. Kusnirovich has also made his own improvements. “Pink-blossoming cherry trees have been winched onto the terrace and guests are offered a ride on customised double-decker buses. Even the academic tomes in the library have been replaced with books imported from Russia.”
Meanwhile, a dozen private yachts and tall ships lie in the “glamorous marina in the heart of the financial district of Canary Wharf”. Barges, rechristened “water chariots”, ferry them to and from the Olympic stadium. In this event, Microsoft’s billionaire co-founder Paul Allen takes first prize with his 414ft super-yacht, Octopus. Frank Lowy, 81-year-old founder of the Westfield Group, has a mere 243-footer, but that didn’t stop him placing a red carpet outside it as “a statement of intent”.
Not wishing to be outdone, I’ll be spending time in my boat during the Olympics. I’ve taken the start of the Games as my signal to escape to Cornwall.
Cameron's pointless piece of political grandstanding
When David Cameron refused to meet France’s now-president, François Hollande, on an election campaign visit, it was viewed as “le snub”, says Jane Merrick in The Independent. Once elected, Hollande exacted “his revenge” by making Ed Miliband “the first British politician to be invited to the Élysée Palace”.
Cameron had more success with the American president, Barack Obama, who took him to a basketball match on a visit this year. Maybe that’s why he was so quick to attack visiting presidential candidate Mitt Romney when he made unflattering remarks about Britain’s Olympic preparations. More likely, says Dorothy Rabinowitz in The Wall Street Journal, it was “a piece of political grandstanding starring the PM standing up for England and her Olympics”.
It’s all a bit sad. Do these leaders really think these photo opportunities make any difference? Being seen with someone held in lukewarm regard by their own electorate is hardly a coup.
Tabloid money… why we should cheer the Olympics
• This week we saw more proof that Britain’s benefits culture “is out of control”, says The Sun. Figures show that “900,000 people have been on the sick for more than a decade”. Some of the most bizarre include “varicose veins and nail disorders”.
So far the coalition has made important steps to cut back “the bloated welfare state” and reforms such as the Universal Credit and Personal Independence Payments are a good start. But it must do more. “As far as hard-working Brits are concerned, the current situation is nothing but a sick joke.“
• The case of Liam Corcoran-Fort, the 11-year-old who got on a flight to Rome without a ticket or ID, makes a mockery of our security system, says Lorraine Kelly in The Sun. Airport security is “a grim experience”, but we put up with it “because we know there is a real terror threat and assume the authorities must know what they are doing”. But Liam’s case, where a young boy with special needs outwitted an entire airport, shows there “has to be a fundamental flaw in security”.
• Things in Britain are tough right now, says Mark Austin in the Sunday Mirror. The country is in the worst recession for 50 years, one million school-leavers are unemployed and families are struggling to get by.
But that’s no excuse not to celebrate the Olympics. After all, “when London last hosted the Games in 1948, much of Europe was struggling to recover from the ravages and widespread destruction” of World War II. If we could put on a Games then, we can do it now.
Moreover, if we do it right it could even help the economy. “We have the opportunity to show it’s a good place to visit, a good place to invest in, a good place to do business.” The world is watching and we need to make the most of it.