Category Archives: united in a future

240. Rory McIlroy – US Open Champion and UNICEF Ambassador

rory mcilroy us open champion congressional 2011 rorymcilroy comGolf is a sport which can make you humble.

Yet the new US Open champion had already learnt humility the hard way.

In April, Rory McIlroy led a major championship for the third time in a row, starting the last day of the US Masters with a four-stroke lead. That was before a spectacular Amen Corner collapse raised doubts if Rory could ever win a major.

rory mcilroy range work TPC sawgrass florida usa 2009 by ltbeyer flickrAfter all, his final round at Augusta only matched the score he had made in a gale at St Andrews last July, after opening up with a 63.

Scoring 80 twice when leading majors seemed to ask serious questions about Rory’s appetite for the fight.

Yet really, his fortitude should never have been in doubt.
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229. Ryder Cup 2010 – the perfect blue day

ryder cup 2010 blue scoreboard celtic manor wales sunday c visitwales comClear skies may have been in short supply in Wales this week, but at least by Saturday night the Ryder Cup scoreboard was showing its first hint of blue.

As I left home on Sunday morning to find a TV showing the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor, news came through on the radio. The start of play had been delayed until noon, and then 1.30 pm. I’ve watched the last day of the Ryder Cup many times, but this year the weather and the schedule were both out of kilter.

Instead of a full Sunday programme, play would be restricted to the last nine holes of six fourballs and foursomes which had begun the day before. The singles matches to conclude the event would be delayed until Monday.

For just a very few moments, I pondered turning around. But, meagre as it was, this was all the live golf I would see in this Ryder Cup.

rainbow sky ryder cup 2010 celtic manor wales day 3 visitwales comFor me, and for many others, the Ryder Cup is the highlight of my sporting calendar. The reasons that the event is so special?

In truth, there are many. It’s all about pride, about fear, and about the vagaries and unique demands of match play in golf.

The Ryder Cup is about individual performance in the heat of the battle, and about bringing a team together to outdo even its own expectations.

On this side of the pond, it’s about proving the worth of the European Tour against the PGA Tour in the US. It’s about showing who are the best golfers in the world — for many years it really was the Americans, which is why we tried so hard to foster the illusion that maybe they weren’t.

That’s the Ryder Cup. It encapsulates so many glories in this game of golf, and it celebrates all that divides us and unites us across the Atlantic Ocean as well.
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221. Back to the white and black – Oslo, Norway

winter night train arriving at Oslo station Norway by   roadsofstoneThe March sun was warming the first Spring evening in London just a few hours ago, but it’s a winter’s tail that tells of Scandinavia now. Thirty centimetres of snow drape the train tracks in the station.

I fumble my way outside, and pull my coat around me. A mile of dark, uncertain streets leads past the midnight girls and drug dealers (who thought this city knew such things?) to my hastily-booked hotel.

No alarm call needed, as morning brings the sounds of a building site next door. The day is lightening outside my window, and pretty soon I’m running beneath a chill grey sky as deserted shopping streets lead me towards the Cathedral.

ss norge winter oslo harbour oslofjord norway by roadsofstoneI take a short diversion to reconnoitre the address for my meeting, and then my mental map of Oslo runs out.  Five circular minutes later I’m slithering across white snowy gardens around the Akershus Fortress, and then on to reach the waterfront.

The Oslofjord lies black and still before me, the quaysides completely empty. Five minutes of quiet is the time I need to clear my mind and think.
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218. A turning tide – from Houston to Copenhagen

summer evening arrival in houston texas usa by roadsofstoneJune in Houston. It’s 99F outside as we wait an hour at immigration.

A glossy US arrival video is playing on a giant screen above our booth, but we have to wait an hour and offer all our fingerprints before we’re free to pass.

Welcome to America.

Obama’s America — but has it really changed?

The freeway towards the city looks just the same. A little less traffic perhaps.

on the terrace cabo restaurant travis street houston texas usa by roadsofstoneWide blue skies are yawning high above the endless sprawl beside the road. The downtown towers inch nearer across the final swoop of our 5,000 mile journey to reach The Loop.

In the hotel at last, I flop my bag and body down and switch on the TV. There’s a programme talking all about energy costs, and today’s phone-in prize is (quite remarkably) a free green audit of your home.

And it strikes me that I’ve never heard this stuff in Texas before.

All fresh and showered by sunset, we walk on Main Street to find a place to eat. It’s hotter than July this evening, but after ten hours in an aluminium tube we’re in no mood for air-conditioned civility. Some al fresco nachos, a cold beer and a simple plate of enchiladas are all we seek.

actual size mini cooper s travis street houston texas usa by roadsofstoneWe find them at Cabo on Travis. A perfect terrace to catch the steamy breeze of sundown.

And then unexpectedly, outside the restaurant, we find surprise again. A parked Mini, with just the perfect bumper sticker. Actual Size.
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215. Waltz with Bashir – from Lebanon to Gaza

Tomorrow, President Obama will meet Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, bringing the Arab-Israeli Peace Process stuttering back into life.

Let’s wish success to them all as they begin that great endeavour.

Meanwhile, the UN Report on the War in Gaza was finally published last week, reminding me of this brief review that I wrote in March 2009 of the animated film Waltz with Bashir, directed by Ari Folman.

Time has passed since then, but the sentiments still apply.

* * * * *

waltz with bashir 2008 director ari folmanWhat an incredibly timely movie this is — coming so hard on the heels of the recent massacres in Gaza — and it’s the first time I’ve seen the Arab-Israeli conflict covered in any kind of movie, let alone a stunning and inventive animation.

The pointlessness of war — that’s what the film is about. But what makes it unique is its recognition of regret and remorse for the chaos of conflict and the pointless loss of life within a different war.
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205. Take back the city – Snow Patrol live at London’s O2 Arena

snow-patrol-live-at-the-o2-london-march-2009-c-gigwise-comI love this city tonight
I love this city always

It bears its teeth like a light
And spits me out after days

Snow Patrol — October 2008

A Northern Irish band playing London — on the night before St Patrick’s Day. It really has been been quite a week.

In Snow Patrol’s home town of Belfast, as in Omagh all those years ago, an outbreak of mindless violence has lent passion to the public desire for peace. Shootings carried out by dissident republicans of the ‘Real IRA’ and designed to break the peace process have proved to have the opposite effect.
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200. Welcome, President Barack Obama

mountaintop-by-david-fitzsimmons-the-arizona-daily-star

By David Fitzsimmons in The Arizona Daily Star, 18 January 2009.

It’s a long road to the top of the highest mountain. So today, let’s enjoy the view.
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