Friday, 3 February 2012

Welcome to Loughborough

Initial impression: it has a Tesco. And a Subway. The hotel has no pedestrian entrance.

I realise that this may not be what Loughborough's Tourism Czar is hoping for, but I must admit that I am a teensy bit biased. From my undergraduate days I remember two things about Loughborough University: its reputation for being a track-suited redoubt of the Nice-But-Dims, and a thoroughly-deserved name for being deeply Tory. Not the aristocratic Toryism of Oxbridge and their wannabes, but the chippy Toryism of the Mail-reading classes. I know, what a snobby thing to say, but I distinctly remember seeing a picture of the Students' Union president proudly displaying his office portrait of John Major. On such things are lifelong resentments founded.

I'm sure that it's a much nicer place these days. I resolve to be a kinder nicer person this weekend that hitherto. What am I doing here, anyway? Well, it's the annual orientation and management training day for the School Games. This is Michael Gove's truncated, cheaper and meaner version of the UK School Games, which was meant to be part of the Olympic Legacy. Gove couldn't stand allowing a Labour idea to live, so he's replaced it, and lost a huge number of young athletes and schools along the way.

Still, the event lives on and I'll do my bit: the fencers and the staff are all the same, so it'll be great. All I have to do this weekend is grit my teeth and say nothing when sports-management buzzword follows sports-management buzzword across the PowerPoint screen. In Comic Sans.

I've done this for five years now and still love it, even the bits which involve standing in the rain at 2 a.m. surrounded by crying teenage girls (thanks, Cardiff University's silverfish infestation) or dealing with allegations of the kind of thing that comes up in youth sport now and then. I like the tension of team events, I like seeing the underdogs come through, the ripples of scandal that move through the crowds, seeing friendships made and rivalries come to a head. I particularly like the kids' cheery disdain for whichever suited politician makes a dull speech at the opening ceremony (poor Seb Coe wasn't universally popular last time). Head here for a photographic taste of last year's event.

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