The Olympic rower talks about her 12-year struggle to strike gold, her academic career – and the healing power of safari
It’s very clearly an Olympic rower’s house right now,” says Katherine Grainger as she ushers me in from the rain into her red-brick house in Maidenhead, Surrey, in the south-east of England.
“Right now” suggests that she feels apologetic about her rowing paraphernalia lying unpacked in the study. This is odd after a summer of outstanding sporting spectacle, with Grainger’s story a scriptwriter’s dream. Dubbed the Steve Redgrave of women’s rowing, in three previous Olympics – Sydney, Athens, Beijing – she had to settle for silver. Then, on home waters, and with the nation holding its breath, she finally struck gold, victory in the double sculls giving her the place on top of the podium for which she had strived so hard, and for so long.
However, as Grainger leads me to the sitting room, it becomes clear that her rowing reference was not an apology but a statement about her home. She may have won 12 medals at world championships and Olympics since 1997 but, she says, “I use my house to get away from rowing in a good way. The only room with rowing pictures is my study. The others are deliberately not rowing or sport.” The sitting room is dominated by photographs of elephants and lions. “They give me perspective and balance,” she says. That was vital after the Beijing Olympics, where she lost gold in the quadruple sculls by a small margin. “It was a crushing disappointment, like suffering a massive personal loss. I had to go through a huge grieving process.” Read the full article
Harriet Lamb has no pretensions about competing with Nigella Lawson. She readily confesses, “I’m an absolutely hopeless cook, too impatient.” But it is the kitchen we head for as she welcomes me to her terraced house in Herne Hill, south London. This is “the centre of the household where we spend all our time”, and where the executive director of the UK Fairtrade Foundation marries home and work life.
By the kitchen door is Lamb’s Arts and Crafts era desk, at which she works one day a week, still writing with her father’s fountain pen. On the kitchen table are two bars of Green & Black’s organic dark chocolate. One is “Maya Gold”, made with cocoa from Belize; the other is “Hazelnut and Currant”, and its cocoa comes from the Dominican Republic. Both bear the Fairtrade mark; at first glance this symbol looks almost abstract but Lamb explains that it shows a farmer holding up his hand. Read more…
The film producer who helped London win its Olympics bid advises potential host cities all over the world
Caroline Rowland likes to surround herself with portraits of men in postures that either spell danger or promise excitement. So, as she leads me into her sitting room, on the mantelpiece is a picture of Richard Burton, cigarette in one hand and glass of whisky in the other.
“It is by Terry O’Neill and I picked it up for a song when nobody had any idea of Terry O’Neill photographs,” says Rowland. “This was taken on the set of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? At the height of Burton’s career, in the middle of a mad love affair with Elizabeth Taylor. He is so intense and determined. I love it.” Read more…
English football likes to see itself as occupying a high moral plain. It also enjoys the praise sometimes lavished on the English game by footballers from more successful nations. At the beginning of the season Uwe Rosler, the former German international now managing Brentford, told me “In my four and a half years I learnt that English football is honest. In Germany sometimes you went down and tried to get a free kick. It was natural and we called it clever play. When I came to Manchester City I did it once or twice. The manager, Brian Horton, and the players came to me and said very clearly, ‘You do that not one more time’. There was a sense of justice in the group.”
Given that England, despite inventing the game, has won nothing since the 1966 World Cup this could be some solace. The fans can say: “We may not win, but we uphold the principles of fair play.” It also fits in with the general national attitude. Despite having had the greatest empire in the world, from which it derived vast benefits, this country – or at least its historians – likes to dwell on the benefits the empire brought to millions and how it was a moral force for the good. Both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan evoked such moral sentiments.
The BOA chairman and former minister of sport talks about the boycott of the Moscow Olympics, his hopes for London 2012 and the ‘worst statistic in sport’
Lord Moynihan’s home presents a peculiar problem. Situated just outside Tunbridge Wells in Kent, it is not difficult to find, nor are the imposing electrically-operated gates an impossible barrier. The problem arises once you drive inside. I become so confused by the many driveways that I arrive at the back entrance feeling like a tradesman at Downton Abbey.
Moynihan, chairman of the British Olympic Association (BOA), emerges. “You have managed to arrive at the part of the house that is 160 years old, built for the governor of the Bank of England. Not many people manage that,” he says, reassuringly. And then he provides another piece of history that casts a different light on Britain’s class stereotypes.
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- FA was right to blow doors off the Italian job - February 10, 2012
- At home: Lord Bell - January 20, 2012
- The Spirit of the Game – FT review - January 16, 2012
- The scourge that threatens the ‘birthright of British boys’ - November 5, 2011
- Torch-bearer - October 28, 2011
- How England bowled out India on a budget - August 22, 2011
- India bats its way up the new world order - July 21, 2011
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