Friday 1 August
Mrs Thatcher is relieved to discover that plans for her funeral are not as advanced as have been rumoured; no state funeral, says Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman. Tracey Emin enjoys the first retrospective of her work, at Scotland’s National Gallery of Modern Art. The appearance of a sea trout in Paris prompts much celebration from those in charge of the clean-up of the Seine. Ai Weiwei, architect of Beijing’s Olympic stadium, says that the Chinese authorities are using the Games to extend state power.
Saturday 2 August
Shock abounds with the revelation that Elgar’s Land of Hope and Glory will be played without vibrato at this year’s Proms; classical music buffs are divided while the rest of us are mystified. Staff at the Southbank Centre are busted posting positive reviews of The Wizard of Oz on a theatre review website (the musical opened this week at, you’ve guessed it, the Southbank, to something other than critical acclaim). South Africa win the Test series against England with a victory at Edgbaston and Mark Ramprakash finally gets the one hundredth century of his career at Headingley.
Sunday 3 August
A study from Play England finds a steep decline in children being allowed to engage in risky play; half of children have been stopped from climbing trees. Reports of soaring sales of camping gear as Brits head for the cost instead of the Costas. An investigation into the management of the Robben Island museum in Cape Town shows a large hole in the accounts and accusations of mismanagement and corruption. It transpires that the naked left breast of a female figure in a painting in the Palazzo Chigi in Rome has been painted over to spare the blushes of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi; the offending body part appears over the PM’s left shoulder during press conferences and his staff seem to have thought the juxtaposition just too much to bear. The painted ceiling panels of the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford are replaced following restoration. Michael Vaughan resigns as captain of the England cricket team. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn dies at the age of 89.
Monday 4 August
The ever-lovable Andy Murray reaches number six in the world tennis rankings, his highest position to date. In the count down to the Olympic Games sixteen policemen are reported killed in an explosion in a north-western province of China, with separatist terrorists suspected. The Department of Health reveals plans to inform parents of their children’s weight in the fight against obesity. Kevin Pietersen is named as the captain of the England cricket team in all its guises. Meanwhile the BBC declines to bid for any of the television packages made available by the England and Wales Cricket Board. Paul Radcliffe says she expects to be fit for Beijing even though she had been hospitalised by a spider bite.
Tuesday 5 August
IOC officials reassure athletes arriving in Beijing that the grey mist is a result of evaporation and humidity rather than air pollution. Scepticism arrives in the shape of some US athletes getting off the plan wearing anti-pollution masks. It seems that the IOC is also minded to cancel plans for a torch relay preceding the London Games. Dutch architects Mecanoo are selected for the £193 project to design Birmingham’s new library but the scheme could be scuppered by the original 1974 building’s Grade II listed status. An Italian court awards a Napoli fan damages against Internazionale for “existential damage” caused by banners displayed at a match. The BBC says that Test cricket will not return to terrestrial television unless home matches are restored to the list of ‘crown jewels’.
Wednesday 6 August
Two British protestors are arrested in Beijing after the unfurling of ‘Free Tibet’ banners. An American gold medallist who founded the concept of Team Darfur in time for Beijing is banned from attending the Games by the Chinese authorities; the US government is to protest at the decision. Archaeologists have discovered the remains of the theatre in east London where Shakespeare "learned his trade". Oh the relief: Ronaldo says he’ll be staying in Manchester after all. And Harmy’s back in the Test side. Simon Gray, novelist, playwright and diarist, dies at the age of 71.
Thursday 7 August
It seems that culture secretary Andy Burnham has sparked a low-level diplomatic row by suggesting that GB’s Olympic medal total might be closing in on countries such as Australia. Kate Ellis, Australia’s sports minister, was gracious enough to pick up the gauntlet and suggest that Team GB would not be able to handle the pressure. Boxer Frankie Gavin might be able to handle the pressure but he can’t make the weight and leaves the GB Olympic camp before the Games begin.
Friday 8 August
The Beijing Games kicks off with the usual spectacular opening ceremony. Damon Albarn says that school pupils should be obliged to learn to read music as a matter of urgency. Ladbrokes’ annual report shows that the company now makes more money in its shops from touch-screen roulette machines than traditional horse race betting. The Royal Bank of Scotland gives London 2012 and Olympic Price Watch fans something to think about by announcing write-downs on its investments totalling £5.9bn. LOCOG chief exec Paul Deighton suggests that London should be seeking to set a template for a manageable, affordable and sustainable Games.
Saturday 9 August
God help us, the football season starts in the middle of the Oval test match. Two British male gymnasts qualify for the Olympic finals, the first since 1920. The first day of the Games is marred by the murder of an American visitor, a relative of the USA volleyball coach.
Sunday 10 August
Nicole Cooke kicks off the British medal haul in Beijing by winning the women’s cycling road race in a torrential “shower”. Lorna Page, a debut novelist at the age of 93, moves out of her nursing home and into a nice big house with some of her friends on the proceeds of the huge sales of A Dangerous Weakness. Beach-goers in Sardinia have taken the fight against the dominance of their domain by the boats and egos of the rich and powerful by pelting those landing on the shore with wet sand; Flavio Briatore and his guests are among those to have felt the wrath of the populus Romani and we may rest assured that they are not pleased. Greek sprinter and noted motor-scooterist Katerina Thanou is banned from the Olympics by the IOC; she will not be appealing against the decision. Padraig Harrington wins the USPGA title, his second major on the trot and his third in just over a year. Emma Jonathan dies after a fall at the Hartpury horse trials in Gloucestershire.
Monday 11 August
National picnic week kicks off. Meanwhile Rebecca Adlington wins gold in the pool and, almost as quick off the mark, the mayor of Mansfield announces that her local pool will be refurbished and renamed in her honour. Still in Beijing, Tom Daley’s diving bubble bursts with a last-place finish in the synchro and a public spat with his so-called teammate. Andy Murray emulates Tim Henman’s achievement in the Athens Games: a first-round exit of the baffling Olympic tennis competition. What a surprise: the first athlete to be thrown out of the Games for a positive drugs test is a Spanish cyclist, Maria Isabel Moreno. Elsewhere on the planet the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is to investigate a serious failure of its ticketing process after software problems. The Egyptian government unveils the first phase of a new project to improve the Giza pyramid world heritage site, including a twelve-mile fence to keep hawkers out, new lighting and a visitor centre. England win a test match but lose a series, prompting England captain, South African-born Kevin Pietersen, to start talking about beating the Aussies next summer.
Tuesday 12 August
Confirmation that the small child singing at the Beijing opening ceremony was in fact miming, the original singer having been benched owing to absence of the appropriate photogenic qualities. The president of the Australian Olympic committee concedes that Britain’s gold in the pool is “not bad for a country that has no swimming pools and very little soap”. Medals in canoeing and three-day eventing today for the soap-dodgers. Back home, the Association of Chief Police Officers suggests that football clubs should pay more for the cost of their policing. Meanwhile a right-wing think tank suggests that regeneration of northern towns hasn’t worked and everyone should move to London; nothing to do with us, says David ‘Dave’ Cameron and his merry men. Italy’s culture minister Sandro Bondi admits that he can’t stand modern art.
Wednesday 13 August
It’s all Beijing really. Michael Phelps wins his eleventh gold medal, making him the (ahem) “winningest” Olympian in history. Silver for the disarmingly open Emma Pooley and her “Secret Squirrel” handlebars, while Andy Murray and his brother exit the tennis competition admitting that he (Andy) had been unprepared and unprofessional. The positive vibe within the GB swimming team is dampened when the women’s 4x200m relay squad fail to qualify for the final, dashing their well-founded hopes of a medal; cue disappointment and post-Games inquest. Away from Beijing but still with the Corinthian spirit uppermost, Joey Barton admits the FA’s charge of violent conduct relating to his attack on teammate Ousmane Dabo. A little further south geographically and a little further north in terms of league position, Frank Lampard graciously accepts a contract compromise and begins to face up to life on £140,000 a week..
Thursday 14 August
Reports from the Baltic (the art gallery rather than the sea) that Godfrey Worsdale has been poached from Middlesbrough Institute for Modern Art to become director of Gateshead’s Tyneside centre for contemporary art. Will there be relocation costs in the deal? The French institute for statistics, L’Insée, reveals that the average price of hotel room in France has risen 41% since 2001; another report shows that over a quarter of French seaside restaurants and cafés failed hygiene inspections. Further south, plans are unveiled for a theme park in Rome to bring a Eurodisney-style experience to ancient history. FIFA raise the stakes in the anti-doping fight by ordering Adrian Mutu to pay Chelsea £13.8m in compensation following his positive test in 2004. In Beijing the tennis holiday continues for the top stars as Federer and the Williams sisters all go out early in the competition. Beijing officials accuse journalists of deliberately finding fault with the Games by their repeated questions about how many people have been allowed to protest in the ‘protest parks’ and what happened to the person who requested permission and hasn’t been seen since being bundled into a police vehicle. Alexander Bruce-Lockhart, former chair of the Local Government Association and chair of English Heritage, dies at the age of 66.
Friday 15 August
Still in Beijing, it’s gold at the velodrome but nowt for ante-post fav Kelly Sotherton in the heptathlon. Back home, in not totally unrelated story the Local Government Association reveals that local authorities will be facing significant expenditure enlarging crematoria furnaces to accommodate the increasingly obese deceased. Steven Paskin is jailed for eight months having been found guilty of defrauding the benefits system by claiming disability benefit while fulfilling his fixture list as a football referee.
Saturday 16 August
Official: it’s a gold rush. Four golds for Team GB from the rowers, swimmers and cyclists. Seventeen medals so far and the press are eyeing the UK Sport total medal target of 35 and the post-war best for Britain at an Olympic Games which stands a 37. Meanwhile Usain Bolt runs 70m, jogs the last 30m and still breaks the world record for 100m. Incredible. Beijing authorities (and there are plenty of those) clamp down on ticket touts and arrest around one hundred people, many of whom are the same South London wide boys to be found outside the Astoria when there’s a gig on. Coincidentally (or perhaps not) Walthamstow dog track holds what is likely to be its last ever meeting.
Sunday 17 August
Olympic fever is now claiming the lives of most of Britain as more and more people find it impossible to move off the sofa for fear of missing some in a blue and white vest winning something in a sport they’ve probably never heard of. GB athletes deliver medals in all shapes and sizes, with the focus on sailing, rowing and cycling, which have now become the power houses of British sport. Louis Smith also gets a gymnastic bronze into the bargain. The Jamaican team will be as pleased the Brits having taken all the medals available in the women’s 100m.
Monday 18 August.
Team GB wins its 26th and 27th medals of the Games and Boris Johnson, mayor of London (sic), announces 16 October as the date of the home-coming parade for athletes taking part in the Olympics and Paralympics. However, it seems that the government is still no closer to raising the promised £100m for athlete funding from the private sector and UK Sport is facing the prospect of having to reduce the value of its packages to national governing bodies. Back on the ground, Sky announces that it is to double its arts programming and General Motors is to end its sponsorship of the Oscars; the ailing company has supported Hollywood’s thesp-fest for the last nineteen years and spent $13.5m on TV ads during the Oscars broadcast last year.
Tuesday 19 August
It had to happen: Christine Ohuruogu wins gold in the 400m and sets a testing conundrum for LOCOG. Elsewhere Hoy and Pendleton take gold in the velodrome, Germaine Jackson gets a silver in high jump, and Paul Goodison gets gold in sailing. Tony Blair is spotted soaking up the reflected glory in the velodrome, the chair of Australia’s Olympic committee warns that the UK will have to continue to fund its athletes if it is to improve in 2012 and table tennis cements its place alongside beach volleyball at the top of the Olympic stupidity table when the vice-president of the international governing body suggests that the female competitors should wear tighter clothes for the good of the sport (the vice-president is a man, by the way). The IOC is to investigate allegations of ticket touting involving representatives from the national Olympic committees. Does anyone care that the England football team has a captain? In non-sporting news, a report in the British Medical Journal suggests that the Alexander technique can combat back pain, a listed folly on Dartmoor designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens goes on sale for around £10,000 and Wiltshire’s own Inspector Knacker uses the Licensing Act (2003) to prevent Babyshambles from performing at the Moonfest music festival; apparently Pete Doherty’s band has deliberately perform to get the crowd excited and then it all goes off.
Wednesday 20 August
Usain Bolt rewrites the record and coaching books in the 200m while Team GB can’t stop winning medals; open water swimming and women’s 400m hurdles today. Culture secretary Andy Burnham’s latest plan for making up the £100m of athletes’ funding that hasn’t appeared from the private sector includes the post-Games naming rights of the 2012 venues. Dave Brailsford, the man who lays the golden medals, wonders why cycling isn’t on the national curriculum. Two Beijing women in their seventies are sentenced to twelve months of “re-education through labour” having been found guilty of requesting permission to protest about their forced eviction. Chinese officials finally reveal the number of permits to protest that have been issued: none. Meanwhile on Planet Football Brian Barwick seems to have lost the FA power struggle and he announces his tenure of the post of FA chief executive will come to an end at the end of the year.
Thursday 21 August
The Office of National Statistics reveals that for the first time the UK has more people over pensionable age than people under sixteen. Tower Bridge, which has spanned the Thames since 1894, is to have a £4m repaint that will take three years. Boris Johnson arrives in Beijing and promises that the London Games will not be a “mean, penny-pinching austerity show”. Phillips Idowu bags silver in the sandpit, as does David Davies in the open-water swim. The GB men’s 4x100 squad drop the sausage but there’s gold in the Star sailing category. The Royal Courts of Justice in London are to be the venue for a ‘silent disco’ in September hosted by the, ahem, Fun Lovin’ Criminals.
Friday 22 August
The Indian Art Summit, India’s first arts fair, opens in Delhi. The 2012 organisers are toying with the idea of a kilometre-long video screen for London’s Olympic stadium but there’s no time for that: Tim Brabant has won Team GB’s eighteenth gold medal in the K1 1,000m. John Lewis blames its poor weekly sales figures on the Olympics effect just as Usain Bolt gets his third sprint gold with the Jamaican relay team. Silver for GB in the modern pentathlon but disappointment for Shanaze Reade in the BMX. Controversy at the taekwondo dojo as British competitor Aaron Cook fails to register several scores against his Chinese opponent. Steve Redgrave (sorry, Sir Steve) says Chris Hoy should not be knighted until he (presumably Hoy) retires and UK Sport is saying that a lack of government funding could threaten the team’s performance in 2012.
Saturday 23 August
Amitabh Bachchan, the “godfather of Indian cinema”, hosts the first Bollywood show to be held at the O2 Arena in London. Coastguards go on strike following a pay dispute just in time for the bank holiday weekend. A gold in the middleweight boxing competition for James DeGale and another medal for Dr Brabant in his canoe. More news from the taekwondo mat as Angel Matos of Cuba is banned from the Games for decking a judge.
Sunday 24 August
Madonna plays Cardiff; she’s fifty, you know. The National Trust warns that a number of coastal landmarks are threatened by rising sea levels and coastal erosion. In Beijing the London bus does its stuff and Boris reminds the world that the British Empire conquered half the globe using the wit and bumbling, tactless bonhomie of Old Etonians as its secret weapon. In a truly epic display of musical misjudgement, Scouting for Girls do a lounge version of The Clash’s London Calling at the party in the Mall to mark the handing over of the Olympic flag to Britain and the British Olympic Association says that it may well be eyeing third in the medals table next time. Gordon Brown says that competitive sport will be brought back to schools and Dave Brailsford says that he won’t be jumping ship to coach another national team. “It’s the greatest job in the world to take a British team into the London Games,” he says. If he were involved in football he would be gone by Tuesday. Speaking at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, Armando Ianucci suggests that the BBC should launch its own version of HBO, a subscription-based service dedicated to high-quality, challenging output. Sheffield’s Tinsley Towers are demolished in the early hours watched by a sizeable crowd. Eight climbers are killed in an avalanche on Mont Blanc.
Monday 25 August
Team GB arrive home to blanket media coverage and a very warm welcome. A pub in Mansfield is to be renamed in Rebecca Adlington’s honour. French sports minister Bernard Laporte is sniffy about Britain’s medal haul. “We’re not going to be concentrating on just five sports,” he says. Three quarters of a million people attend the final day of the Notting Hill Carnival. Ticket sales at the Fringe in Edinburgh are down by ten percent, largely, they think, owing to the ticketing problems in the run-up to the event. Six hundred thousand people attend the annual Mathew Street festival in Liverpool and Powys hosts the world bog snorkelling championships.
Tuesday 26 August
The Daily Telegraph letters page joins those up in arms against Mayor Boris’s unbuttoned jacket. In matters perhaps not unrelated, the Tories’ new health policy will include telling fat people that it’s their own fault. The Royal Mint issues a £2 coin to mark the occasion of the Olympic baton being passed from Beijing to London. A new bridge spanning the Grand Canal in Venice opens quietly to less than universal praise; unlike almost every other part of the city, the bridge will be accessible to the disabled. A little further north, three of Paris’s leading museums – the Grand Palais, the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay – announce plans for simultaneous exhibitions in October celebrating the work of Picasso. A high-speed rail link between London and Glasgow, running alongside the M40 for part of the way, would cost about £9bn, according to latest lobbyist thinking.
Wednesday 27 August
A report from the Cambridge University Centre for Housing and Planning Research suggests that regeneration projects are adversely affected by focusing on the needs of men rather than women. The Duke of Sutherland has offered two Titians to the nation for the knock-down price of £100m; they would be likely to fetch three times that at auction. An ‘obesity map’ finds Shetland to be the obesity hotspot of the UK. The game of golf continues to cover itself in glory with news that the LPGA, organisers of the women’s professional golf tour in Europe, is to suspend any of its players who cannot speak English to an appropriate standard. Chris Hoy takes an open-top bus up Edinburgh’s Royal Mile with other Scottish Olympic medallists but across the Irish Sea a freshly embittered Mark Cavendish wins the first stage of the Tour of Ireland, missing no opportunity to let everyone know that he’s glad to back in a proper team.
Thursday 28 August
Jon Morgan resigns as director of the Edinburgh Fringe after fifteen months in post. Construction of Britain’s first artificial reef begins in Boscombe, Dorset. In the same county Clavell Tower, a 19th-century folly which featured in works by Thomas Hardy, is opened to the public after work to move it 25m further away from the cliff edge on which it stood. The Museion museum in Bolzano, northern Italy, decides to defy the Pope and keep a sculpture, titled Zuerst die Fusse and depicting a crucified frog, on display. UEFA president Michel Platini announces an inquiry into the level of debt among European football clubs. Olympics minister Tessa Jowell calls in KPMG to look at the viability of some 2012 venues, including the equestrian venue in Greenwich Park, shooting at the Royal Artillery Barracks and basketball in the main Olympic park. Rob Andrew explains that the Sir Clive Woodward era left English rugby without a legacy of sustainable success. American motor racing ace Phil Hill dies aged 81.
Friday 29 August
Gorki Aguila, lead singer of punk band Porno par Ricardo, is charged with ‘social dangerousness’ by Cuban authorities. Mayor Johnson of Greater London explains how roof gardens can solve the city’s forthcoming flooding problems. Italy now has a 33-team national cricket league of three divisions as a result of immigration from the Indian subcontinent.
Saturday 30 August
Helensburgh, a seaside town in Scotland, is planning a way to acknowledge the 75 or so local heroes that makes it, they claim, Britain’s most talented town. The mayor of Venice reveals plans to place five electronic advertising hoardings, each measuring 250 square metres, in St Mark’s Square. This temporary installation is necessary to fund the restoration of the world’s most famous piazza.
Sunday 31 August
Sports retailers report a post-Olympics boost in sales as Chris Hoy’s agent reveals he has been taking fifty calls an hour on behalf of his charge. The Chicago Bulls give clearance for basketball superstar Luol Deng to play for Great Britain this week.
the world of leisure
Sunday 3 August:
A study from Play England finds a steep decline in children being allowed to engage in risky play; half of children have been stopped from climbing trees.
Tuesday 5 August:
Thursday 7 August:
It seems that culture secretary Andy Burnham has sparked a low-level diplomatic row by suggesting that GB’s Olympic medal total might be closing in on countries such as Australia. Kate Ellis, Australia’s sports minister, was gracious enough to pick up the gauntlet and suggest that Team GB would not be able to handle the pressure.
Sunday 10 August:
Beach-goers in Sardinia have taken the fight against the dominance of their domain by the boats and egos of the rich and powerful by pelting those landing on the shore with wet sand; Flavio Briatore and his guests are among those to have felt the wrath of the populus Romani and we may rest assured that they are not pleased.
Wednesday 13 August:
Away from Beijing but still with the Corinthian spirit uppermost, Joey Barton admits the FA’s charge of violent conduct relating to his attack on teammate Ousmane Dabo.