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Cou nter poi nts Litter bugged By Anthony Daniels
Walking recently through one of those many British towns in which the administration of unemployment and its attendant social problems and squalor is by far the most important economic activity, and where employees of the town hall are a kind of nomenklatura elite, I passed a school in whose playground children were playing under the supervision of a teacher.
The school building was one of those late Victorian or Edwardian edifices that are so redolent of the proud municipal belief in education as uplift and social progress. The unity of design of such buildings, which manage successfully to hint at grandeur while retaining a humanity of scale, has almost always been ruined by the depredations of the second half of the 20th century: in this case a container and a Portakabin tacked on to the side of the school to make up for the loss of an original classroom whose windows had been boarded up.
The children in the playground, I noticed, were wearing knee-pads, presumably to prevent them from scuffing their knees as they played. At the same time, the playground was strewn with the kind of litter now to be seen down any country lane in Britain, no matter how remote: discarded plastic orange bottles of sweetened fizzy drinks, cans of a supposed restorative after a hard night’s debauchery, and the polystyrene containers of repellent fast food.
The children took no notice of this litter, playing among it as if it were a natural feature. As for the teacher, she took no notice of it either but allowed the children to wade through it. For her, it seemed, the litter was just as much beyond her control as the weather.
Here was missed a golden opportunity to teach the children, by the method of that great educational theorist, Wackford Squeers, something really useful: not to drop litter. They should have been directed to clear it up before they were allowed to play; the less they felt inclined to do so, the more valuable the lesson to them.
Of course, considerations of Health and Safety would probably preclude such a lesson: the Health and Safety of the teacher, I mean. Once the vengeful parents learnt that their children had been taught in such a way and turned into mere refuse collectors, she would no doubt have been in serious danger of assault.
So what the children learnt (whether they realised it or not) was that the safety of their knees, and the prevention of even very minor accidents to them, was of incomparably more importance than the appearance, tidiness and cleanliness of a public space, even one that they used every day—a nasty but effec-
tive little lesson in narcissistic egotism. By the appendage of the container-cum-Portakabin to the building, they would have learnt that function in architecture trumps all other considerations. And this in turn teaches that the present moment, its exigencies and its concerns are what count, to the exclusion of the past or the future: and thus even the present moment is ruined.
Fifa, ho, hum ByNick Redgrove
In true populistfashion, Sepp Blatter—the quasi-dictatorial Swiss president of football’s world governing body Fifa—promised to deliver the first World Cup Finals tournament to be held in Africa. In an all-African bidding process, South Africa was finally selected as the official host nation of the 2010 event over Morocco and Egypt. Blatter explained how the win would result in a multi-billion cash injection for the South African economy, claiming with his usual bombast: “The victor is football. The victor is Africa.” In February, Blatter reiterated his pledge to “spread the economic benefit” and let ordinary South Africans “share the love story between Fifa and Africa”.
But this particular love story is already turning sour. Last November, in an exercise seen as a dry-run for the main event in July, Nigeria hosted the Under-17 World Cup Finals. The event left the Nigerians 12 billion naira (£54 million) in debt, just as the country sought a loan of $3 billion from the World Bank. The African Cup of Nations held in Angola in January—run by Fifa’s African subsidiary—was equally inauspicious: the Togo team’s bus was ambushed and three people were killed. It would be wrong to link these very different African nations, but justifiable concern has been raised about South Africa’s ability to control violent crime in its host cities.
As for “sharing the economic benefit”, it seems Blatter is intent only on sharing among his own. He awarded exclusive rights to sell World Cup hospitality packages to the
Swiss firm Match, a deal which requires South African hotels to relinquish 30 per cent of their total income over the course of the tournament. Match is part-owned by Zurich marketing group Infront, whose president happens to be Sepp’s nephew, Philippe Blatter. All official merchandise for the finals is being exclusively made by Fifa’s official retail partner and Singapore-based Global Brands Group—a partnership which in February brokered a multi-
Will Fifa change its spots? Zakumi, the mascot of this summer’s World Cup
Standpoint Grace Kelly: Style Icon: More than 50 spectacular outfits worn by the Hollywood star who became Princess Grace of Monaco, plus hats, jewellery and the original Hermès Kelly bag, will be on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, until 26 September