When asked “what’s hot in sport?” never for one moment did I imagine the answer to be “bobble hats”. Makes sense really.

A small diversion away from cycling on my travels, and a tribute to my Nan’s knitwear output.

I have written numerous times about my visits to bike shows around the world, but this week I have taken a detour to one of to one of the world’s most important sporting goods shows, ISPO Sport in Munich.

I am actually here to attend meetings and events on the side of the show that have been extremely useful for learning about trends in health and physical activity and the business climate in which the global bike industry is working.

But of course I went for a walk around the show. It was enormous, bigger than all the bike shows except maybe Eurobike. There were no specific bike exhibits but lots of familiar outdoor brands and many of the companies that make outdoor and sports gear also cross over into cycling.

Photo by Kevin Mayne Photo by Kevin Mayne

But inevitably my eye is drawn to the unexpected. This is especially true of trade fairs where the major purpose of the show is to convince manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers to take a particular range, not really to reach the individual consumers.

Photo by Kevin MayneWhen I first went to Taipei Cycle Show I was drawn to the booths that just exhibited a single item like bells, or a huge display of carefully colour coded bolts, there so that assemblers could order just the right part to match their bicycle designs. No reason why they should not be there, but the care and attention to detail put in to displaying the humble washer just caught my imagination.

So what was it at ISPO?

Bobble hats.

Photo by Kevin Mayne

Walls of bobble hats.

Photo by Kevin Mayne

Fields of bobble hats.

Photo by Kevin Mayne

 

Colour coordinated bobble hats.Photo by Kevin Mayne

The biggest bobble hat I have ever seen.Photo by Kevin Mayne

Who knew? If you want to convince the winter sports buying community that your product is the height of technical achievement you top off your display….with a bobble hat, lovingly designed and created by people who have invested a great deal of craft in their product.

Maybe it’s because I don’t come from a winter sports country, but somehow I was highly amused by the status given to the sort of clothing that represented the height of uncool in England because it was knitted by your grandmother in strange shapes and colours. The only exception was your football supporter’s hat that you wore on a Saturday.

Good luck to them all, if colour coded bolts matter to someone then why not bobble hats? My Nan would have seen it as a challenge to turn out another batch from her extraordinary selection of leftover wool.

Special Olympics Europe 2014 Opening Ceremony – a celebration of inclusion

Photo Kevin Mayne

On Saturday my wife and I had the pleasure of being guests at the Opening Ceremony of the European Summer Special Olympics which are taking place this week in Belgium.

It was an enjoyable and at times moving experience, the Special Olympics is a really distinctive movement that is well worth celebrating and Belgium did a great job with the launch.

The Special Olympics are the separate movement for people with Intellectual Disabilities which keeps the games separate from the much bigger and more extensively funded Olympics and Paralympics.

It began in the 1950s and 1960s when Eunice Kennedy Shriver (the fifth of the nine Kennedys from the renowned US political family) began working to introduce sports and physical activities in to summer camps for children with Intellectual Disabilities. In 1968 they became the Special Olympics which formed a part of her much wider work in the field.

There are now Special Olympics for continents as well as world summer and winter games. This year’s event in Belgium was for the Eurasia region so it included not only most European countries but also many participants from the central Asian countries that used to be part of the Soviet Union.

The Paralympics have grown in profile and stature since they were linked to the Olympic Games but the Special Olympics are by far the smaller player in the sport scene and they are much less well known internationally. I was delighted to discover that Belgium has one of the best established national Special Olympics programmes in Europe which meant it was a very proud host of the games. The city of Antwerp is actually the host city however because of their support the European Union and the national Belgian supporters were invited to celebrate the opening of the games in the national capital with the Belgian Queen, Prime Minister, outgoing President of the European Council Hermann van Rompuy and a range of other guests and supporters.

So that is how we ended up on a lovely summer afternoon at Heysel, the part of Brussels that hosts the national stadium, national Expo Centre and our old friend the Atomium which was glistening brightly in the sunshine.

Photo Kevin Mayne Photo Kevin Mayne

Our ceremony took place in one of the indoor halls which gave it a nice intimate feeling suitable for the “inclusive games” and enabled the show to be all about light and music. Unfortunately my little camera is really not up to the job of indoor photography in this environment so you can see some of my blurry impressions here but I have also linked to the very excellent 7 minute highlights film of the ceremony below and some of the official photographs can be found on the official web site here.

We were treated to an extended dance and acrobatic show that threaded its way through the two hour event and kept the whole thing bouncing along.

Photo Kevin Mayne Photo Kevin Mayne Photo Kevin Mayne

A Belgian flavour was given by the giants and puppets which are a feature of the celebrated Belgian carnivals and parades of Mardi Gras.

Photo Kevin Mayne

But my far the most impactful moments were perhaps the simplest, the ones that were most about the people the games are celebrating.

The teams were accompanied into the room by lively music, applause and cheering that never stopped. You could see the teams just burst with enjoyment at the welcome, dancing and waving their way to their seats. There was a huge welcome for all Belgium’s neighbours like Luxembourg and the Netherlands and of course a massive welcome for the home team, biggest of the whole event.

The raising of the games flags and the EU flag were accompanied by the EU Hymn, “Ode to Joy” but instead of the full orchestra the music was played by a young German man with an Intellectual Disability who played the tune on a harmonica to barely a dry eye in the house. You can see him in the video.

And finally there was just a ticker tape snowstorm over the heads of the athletes who were up and applauding their welcome. Joyful and celebratory.

Photo Kevin Mayne

Please enjoy the video of the event, it was a special occasion. (If the link to a video does not appear here please read the original post in your browser.)

During this week one of the 10 sports taking place will be the cycling events in Antwerp including time trials and road races with the rules allowing for tandems and trikes as well as modified bikes.

I am really delighted by that, both personally and professionally. When I worked at the national cyclists’ charity in the UK one of my proudest achievements was raising money to launch an inclusion programme for cycling which meant we could run development activities at centres right across the country. Almost every time I found myself visiting one of our special sessions for people with Intellectual or physical disabilities I was moved by the enormous sense of achievement that the simple bike ride many of us take for granted can bring to so many lives. This could be a life transforming change as participants found mobility or health through cycling.

There is a brilliant gallery of the cycling at the Belgian Special Olympics pre-event held last September that just brings out the best of that spirit. There is something special in almost every image. Many similar programmes exist all over the world, almost all run by volunteers, they should all be applauded and supported.

I have no doubt whatsoever of the transformative work that the whole Special Olympics movement does. The games themselves are the pinnacle and it was a pleasure to celebrate them with everybody here in the country we now call home.

Mayne rides to solo victory in the Fleche Waltonne

Trevor Mayne Photo Geradline Walker

Even those who don’t follow cycling as a sport recognise the victory salute of a winning rider as he or she crosses the line, preferably having dropped your breakaway companions and soloed to the line with time to sit up and do the full arms raised salute. Someone may even take your photo in victory.

A much smaller number of people know what that actually feels like, even within the sport. I never did it in about 20 years of racing and I am pretty sure that I am not going to now. Oh sure, I dreamt it a few times and I have certainly felt like I lived every pedal stroke when cheering a favourite rider to a win on the TV. But to actually feel it? I wish.

So full credit to my brother Trevor. He still races to a high standard in the UK and in his 50th year he set himself the goal of winning a road race. He has accumulated a whole range of awards and trophies in time-trialing in the past few years but said his season’s goal was a road race.

Well he only went and did it in the first event of the season.

As the report of Leicestershire’s Fleche Waltonne says:

C/D Race

The wind played havoc in this race and after only 1 lap the field was significantly strung out. A break of 5 established itself quite early containing Paul Caton Trevor Mayne and Karl Moseley amongst others. Mike Twelves attacked from the pack to try and bridge to the leaders , and got within 10 seconds of them before reinforcements from behind came up , these riders included strongmen, Andy Eagers and Jon Stephenson. Eventually, a very strong group of 6 were well clear of the rest.

In a move that was a copycat of the A B race, Trevor Mayne attacked in Walton village with just over 1 lap to go. Trevor, an expert timetrialist, pushed on alone to a fine victory by around a minute and a half.

 

Words from http://lvrc.org/race_results.asp?r=1072&y=2014

All credit to him. And putting any sibling rivalry aside I am not only very proud of his successes, but in this instance more than a little envious – because that’s the way to do it.

The only cautionary note is that having completed his season’s target in the first month of the year his excuses for avoiding DIY tasks have significantly diminished. Peaked too soon maybe? However I clearly need the training, so I’m off out on my bike. Maybe I need to practice my victory salutes a bit, just in case.

Dream on.