There’s not really an awful lot to say.
A national treasure that should be this country’s Tour de Force has once again pitifully degenerated into the annual Tour de Frauds. But no end of pathetic puns can relieve the shame and dishonour that a bunch of cheats has brought upon a sport that grips the nation every summer, yet refuses to deal with the problem that lies at its very core.
Rider after rider denies any involvement in drug-taking until they prove positive. And then they compound their deceit by claiming the tests were inaccurate. Last year’s winner for example, Floyd Landis, still maintains his innocence and one French cyclist several years ago, Richard Virenque, hotly refuted his involvement in “banned substances” until it was proven without a doubt. And he remains a hero to many followers of the sport, in spite of his EPO-enhanced exploits in the Alps and Pyrenees.
The Tour’s organisers and the sport’s governing body, ICU, defend themselves, claiming the very tests they carry out prove how much more of an effort they are making to rid the sport of its shame.
And while on the subject of shame, let’s take a quick look at what happened across the border last weekend. Belgium is often the butt of many a joke for the French, in much as Ireland is for England (for example where’s the biggest chip shop in the world? On the border between France and the Netherlands).
After recent elections, party leaders are trying to cobble together a coalition government and the most likely leader is Yves Leterme, the head of the Flemish Christian Democrats.
Last Saturday was a chance for Leterme to stamp his mark on a country traditionally divided along linguistic lines. And STAMP he did. July 21 is National Day in Belgium, and when asked by one of the country’s main TV channels what the day commemorated, he was unable to give the correct answer, mumbling incoherently about it “being the day the constitution was founded”. Wrong – It actually celebrates the day back in 1831 when Leopold 1 took the oath to become the first King of Belgium. Mind you it transpired that Leterme was in good company as a survey revealed that four out of five people had no idea why Belgians observed the day.
But Leterme was far from being finished. When reporters asked him to sing the opening lines of Belgium's national anthem, 'La Brabanconne', he broke into……….”La Marseillaise”. A bad joke as some suggested afterwards as he embarrassedly scuttled into the cathedral? Or more likely an ignorant oaf?
After all this is the same bloke who last year told a French newspaper that French speakers living around Brussels seemed "intellectually incapable" of learning Dutch. He has also in the past said the only things uniting the country were the King, the national soccer team and beer.
Ussat-les-Bains – Avenue de la Gare - Another postcard from the small village of Ussat-les-Bains in the Ariège department of France. I have already posted one postcard of the village and mo...