Gerry’s News Digest 189: Brexit means Brexit, the Olympics, a mystery (9th September, 2016)
Hi, this is Gerry, and this is my News Digest for Friday 9th September 2016, the first show after the summer break – which I hope you all enjoyed. First of all let me give you the names of the winners of the PodClub summer competition. I’m pleased to say that I recognised at least one of you as a loyal News Digest listener. So, congratulations to Cornelia, Denise und Sister Raphaela, who each won a JBL headset, sponsored by melectronics. Now, on today’s show I’ve chosen to talk about the two big news stories here in the UK over the summer: Brexit and the Olympics. And then I have the beginning of an intriguing  true mystery story.
When I last spoke to you it was just after the Brexit referendum. I was surprised by the result although there were signs just before the vote that perhaps it wasn’t going to be what the experts predicted. Since then we’ve had a change of prime minister and government, and everybody’s waiting to see what happens next. The main problems are that a) nobody really planned for this result and b) nobody knows exactly what the result should really mean. After all, the Leave campaigners didn’t have to explain in detail what they would replace our membership of the EU with, they just had to persuade people that they’d be better off  outside the EU. At the same time, the people who voted to leave had differing visions of the future and they all now want to see action. “Brexit means Brexit,” they say. They don’t want any backsliding  as they see it, or compromise.
Meanwhile journalists have been trying to analyse the vote. Why did 17 million voters vote to leave the EU? What was it about the EU that they didn’t like? It seems that for a lot of people, the question was not so much about the EU as about ourselves and our identity. One of the key  winning slogans in the referendum was “Let’s take back control of our country” and in particular of our borders. Immigration was a key issue. Immigration, Leave voters tended to think, has damaged our old communities. Leave voters tended to hold what we might call “old-fashioned values”. They tended to be royalist. They were concerned with justice and social stability. They had stronger views about crime and punishment than about free markets. The warnings about the damage to the economy that Brexit might bring didn’t frighten them. They took the view  that the people who would suffer most from any economic downturn  would be the rich and powerful, and that was all right with them.
On the other side, the Remainers were also not really concerned with specifically European issues. They just felt comfortable in the modern, urban world . They had a cosmopolitan, liberal world view. So, on both sides the concern was mainly with ideas of who we want to be, our community and our identity. Some Remainers feel very bitter about how the Leave campaign was run. There’s a tendency to feel that people were misled , and therefore to look down on  those who, as they see it, were fooled  into voting to leave. In short, we have a deeply divided country. All this makes the role of the government in trying to manage Brexit a difficult one. Our new Prime Minister, Theresa May, was a Remainer, although not very active in the campaign, but she’s put three prominent  Leavers in charge of planning our exit from the EU. Will the three of them, however, manage to agree with each other about the terms on which we’ll leave the EU? Is this the way that Mrs May makes sure that she has the final word? We won’t know for some time yet. Meanwhile the Labour Party is in big trouble. There’s a leadership struggle, and it has to find a way of pleasing its traditional working class supporters, many of whom voted to leave, and its liberal, middle-class urban supporters, who voted to remain.
In 1996 the Olympic Games were held in Atlanta in the United States. The British team managed to win  a total of 15 medals with just one gold medal among them. Britain was 36th in the medals table that year, its worst ever result. Previous to that it usually managed to come between 10th and 12th. This year in Rio, by contrast, the British team won 67 medals, including 27 golds and came second in the medals table, just beating China. So what’s happened? The answer seems to be that Britain has turned professional in its approach to the Olympics, which means that it spends a lot of money specifically aimed at winning medals. One thing that happened in the early 1990s is that the government at the time set up our National Lottery, and after the Atlanta Games it was decided to spend some of the money from the Lottery on sport. Last year the National Lottery sold tickets worth seven and a half billion pounds. Half of that money was paid out as prizes but about two billion went into education, culture and so on. It’s a bit like the Migros “Kulturprozent” (the “pour-cent culturel”, the “percento culturale”). And of that money 20% went into elite sport . Some money also came directly from the government but the Lottery is what has made the difference.
The money is managed by an organisation called UK Sport and this body makes very hard-nosed  decisions about which sports should receive the money. If your sport wins medals you’ll receive more money; if you fail to win, your funding  will be reduced. “Brutal but effective” is how the strategy has been described. Over the last three Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, London and Rio, the strategy has certainly worked in terms of building up the medal haul  each time. Apart from athletics, the sports that have received the most money and have been the most successful are cycling and rowing. The cost has, however, been something like £5.5m per medal.
So is it worth it? How should we answer that question? Is it a matter of national pride and prestige ? Is it a question of developing extraordinary talents? Is it a question of promoting sport and encouraging more people to participate? It was hoped that the London Olympics would boost  the numbers of people playing sport and thereby  improve the health of the nation. This has, by and large , not happened. And if you want to encourage more kids to play sport why not support games like basketball? It’s a sport that doesn’t require too much infrastructure. But basketball doesn’t actually receive any substantial  funding because there’s no likelihood  of Britain winning a basketball medal.
The British used to be the champions of amateurism in sport. We looked down on countries such as in the communist bloc that turned their athletes into professionals, or the Americans who provided sports scholarships at their top universities for their best sportsmen and -women. But Britain has changed as the world has changed. If only we were as good at manufacturing as we are at winning medals.
To finish with today, I’m going to start to tell you a true story, which we can entitle “The Body on the Moor”. The story starts on Saddleworth Moor  near Manchester, up on the Pennine Hills that run down the middle of England between Lancashire and Yorkshire. It’s a lonely but beautiful place, and there last December a mountain biker found a body lying beside the path that he was going up. It was a man’s body, between 65 and 75 years old. He looked as though he had just lain down beside the path for a rest. He was lying on his back with his legs pointing straight down the slope and with his arms across his chest. But he wasn’t dressed for the moor. He was wearing a jacket, shirt, sweater, corduroy  trousers and slip-on shoes . And he wasn’t resting, he was dead. So who was he? How had he died? And why was he on Saddleworth Moor? More next time!
Thanks for the messages after the last show. Please keep writing. It’s good to get feedback. Remember that you can write to me via the website: www.podclub.ch. Or use Twitter: my Twitter address is @Gerrypod. And don’t forget the PodClub app – you can also listen to me via that. And if you want to work on your vocabulary, my PodClub colleagues have developed the Vocabulary Trainer to help you. You can access it through the app. I’ll be back on October 7th. Till then, thanks for listening, and take care!
 intriguing: very interesting, mysterious
 to be better off: to have a better life (usually: to have more money)
 backsliding: an insulting expression used in politics to describe what happens when somebody goes backwards from a position that they have taken (when, for example, somebody might say that they would build a big wall along a frontier but then when they are elected they might decide just to employ more border police instead!)
 key: (adjective) most important
 to take the view: to hold an opinion, to think (something)
 economic downturn: a reduction in business activity, when the economic trend goes down
 the urban world: the world of people who live in cities
 to mislead (somebody): to make (somebody) believe something that is not true through lying or not telling the whole truth
 to look down on (somebody): to think that (somebody) is inferior or not as good as you in some way
 to fool (somebody): to trick (somebody), to make (somebody) believe something that isn’t true
 prominent: leading, important
 to manage to win: to succeed in winning (with some difficulty)
 elite sport: the sport that is played by the very best sports people, for example at the Olympics
 hard-nosed: business-like, determined to succeed and not influenced by emotions
 to fund: to give money to an organisation, for example, to do something
 haul: the number of fish that you catch in a net (here: the number of medals that Britain managed to win)
 prestige: reputation, fame
 to boost: to increase
 thereby: in that way, through doing that
 by and large: generally, in general terms, more or less
 substantial: considerable, significant, meaningful
 likelihood: probability
 moor: a natural area usually high up without trees where only grass and heather (“Erica”) can grow
 corduroy: a thick cotton cloth that has ridges (raised lines)
 slip-on shoes: shoes without laces or other ways of keeping them firmly on the feet