Tokyo misses out – and so does Squash

Tokyo was chosen at the weekend to host the 2020 Olympics – and we were hopeful that Squash would be included for the first time.


Sadly that is not to be. Wrestling had been taken out of the equation by the Olympic Committee but was then reinstated following a huge backlash. So the IOC put three sports into the pot – Wrestling, Squash and a joint bid by softball and baseball. Squash came third in the vote.

We don’t yet have the feedback on the bid – no doubt we’ll see that soon.

Squash has taken on board the feedback we had when we failed to get into the 2016 Olympics.But clearly it wasn’t enough. You’ll know that I am marginally biassed – I see the work our professional players put in – day by day. These are some of the fittest people I know.The game has been likened to physical chess – you need the fitness – but you need a brain too. The mental strength required is huge.

The downside, as I see it (and I listen to a lot of non squash players) is two-fold. Firstly the ‘let’ or ‘stroke’ rules are quite complicated. I play and referee and it can be a tough call sometimes between the two calls. This needs to be looked at.

We also have to find a way of making the games more exciting. Whilst I can appreciate long hard rallies where the players are trying to grind each other down, it can sometimes be seen as boring. So we also need to look at that. During training we often introduce ‘conditions’ to the games (i.e. you can only hit into one corner – or you must kill the ball on the 10th shot). We might need to think about this too.

In the meantime – the sport misses out again. Which is a pity…

London romps – we follow

The latest figures from Property Data show an interesting story. On the face of it the number of transactions for the equivalent period looking back over the last four years looks health – as you can see from the graph.

And yields are going down (pushing prices up). Average yields have shown a slide as follows:

Last month – 5.82%
Last 3 months – 5.98%
Last six months – 6.19%
Last 12 months – 6.24%

To put this in perspective if you had an income of £100,000 in rent and valued it on the initial yield basis 12 months ago – it was worth £1.602m. Six months ago it had increased to £1.615, 3 months ago to £1.672m and last month to £1.718m. These are averages so you can’t really apply the figures to every part of the market. But it does show you the effect of the slight changes in yield – £116k profit for doing nothing!

The other fact is the skew that London has on the figures. In terms of volume of transactions the London office market accounted for £11.4bn of property. Compare that with the rest of the UK – which managed £3.6bn!

It really is a story of two-halves. London continues to attract investment (and there may be some influence still of the Olympics). The provinces bump along the bottom!

2020 Squash – backing the bid

For some reason Squash isn’t considered enough of a sport to make the Olympics – and won’t be in the the 2016 Rio games either. But Horses going backwards will.

I may be biased as a player and qualified coach – but this is bonkers. Professional squash players are amongst the fittest people I know. They train rigorously and a match can be two hours – which could be part of the problem. It is a difficult game to grasp – the rules are not the easiest to understand! But it has all the hallmarks of a great sport, aggression, fitness, hand/eye coordination – and tactics. It is said to be gladiatorial chess! Players burn off around 1,000 calories per hour!

A major push to ‘back the bid’ is underway to get squash included in the 2020 Games. You can read about it here.

Squash is trying to make itself more accessible – with clearer explanation of the rules (they’re not that difficult!) – and modern glass walled courts where you can see all round them. There are now TV video replay appeals during games.

There are real characters in the game too – think McEnroe type people – who push and challenge! It can get quite exciting when the players quiz the referees about decisions (most of which happen in the blink of an eye!). The ball can travel up to 170mph…

So, I’m backing the bid – and have the tee shirt to prove it!

The power of the volunteer

I was struck last weekend as the Olympics finished how powerful a force volunteers can be.

Evidently there were 240,000 applications – in the end 70,000 were ‘employed’. By all accounts they did a fantastic job – and were universally praised.

These are people who gave up their time for free. This was not just the time at the events, but also in attending training sessions. It looks like the cost was in giving them a uniform.

I blogged about the Castle Announcement last week. We’re still waiting for that. But one of the themes I picked up on and we saw to great effect in America was the use of volunteers. We saw at the Plimouth Plantation and at Getty museum in Los Angeles how world class attractions were using an army of volunteer helpers. These were either people who were enthusiasts or former teachers. They were all knowledgeable, cheerful and incredibly helpful.

Despite what people think it’s not always about the money. Sometimes the love of the job / project shines through…

We really ought to tap into this new seam of enthusiasm. It’s always been there, but seems to be at an all time high right now?

Nottingham Castle lends itself to this sort of initiative… So what’s stopping us? Oh, yes, we don’t have anything there to show off.

Olympics 2012

I have studiously avoided blogging about the Olympics. I can’t quite get excited. Tickets at £475 don’t make this an inclusive games at all. They make it a rather exclusive club. And I was unimpressed with some of the Nazi tactics around the ‘protection’ of the Olympic logos.

I was trying to avoid seeing the start of the Games. But it was on TV and so I watched for a while. I couldn’t imagine how they could stretch the ceremony out for three hours – then you remember the flag thing – all 204 countries parading… yawn.

If you did watch – and you are not in the UK, can I just make it clear that the Maypole, cricket playing folks – with horses ploughing the fields is not where I live. I don’t wear a top hat (well not to work anyway). Isambard Kingdom Brunel was a great bloke – but he’s been dead for 150 years. But I also noted he had an iPod – an early adopter indeed.

The Pearly Kings and Queens and the Chelsea Pensioners got a gig. Like they always do. You can always rely on them to turn out.

For some reason we had to advertise the NHS too – the £27m cost of the ceremony might have been better spent on on healthcare? I was expecting Andrew Lansley to come out and talk at us. Thank God for small mercies. I did think that there was some accuracy in the hospital beds all lined up – like in the corridors. Why did this feature at all?

Not sure why Jean Michelle Jarre got a night out. If the French had wanted this event they could have paid the alleged £24bn cost? At least the Sex Pistols featured – although it was Pretty Vacant, not God Save the Queen…

Now how can I avoid the TV stuff over the next few weeks?

By Tim Garratt Posted in Grumpy Old Man! Tagged God Save The Queen, James Bond, London 2012, , Sex Pistols, The Sex Pistols

The Olympic Legacy – a credit card bill for many?

I know I’m one of the only people who has failed to be inspired by the Olympics. An over-blown event ‘we’ won in the boom times and operating and paying for in a period of austerity and recession. An event we can hardly afford. But I’m just being grumpy – lots of people are really looking to this once-in-a-lifetime event.

I’m not bitter that London has sucked lot’s of investment out of the regions…

I didn’t apply for any tickets. So I didn’t get any. But I was offered some last week for the semi-finals day of the Athletics. Apparently this is a good day (although it’s not the final). The offer was to pick the tickets up at face value. Having not applied I had no idea how much they would be. It is fair to say I was astonished to hear that they were £460 – EACH.

Not my idea of good value. So I declined.

Coupled with the fact that there are suggestions that you might have to queue for 2 hours to go through the countless security cordons. Frisked by the burly army blokes isn’t my idea of fun.

This is not exactly accessible and affordable stuff?

Then there’s the fact that London’s infrastructure already creaks – I had to wait for three tube trains in rush hour in the week … to then have the pleasure of someones sweaty armpit in my face for two stops. I can’t imagine what it is going to be like during the Olympics themselves. Even sweatier I imagine – especially for the running types. People I know in London are trying to get away!

A place to avoid methinks for a few weeks in July and August!

Life’s a game; squash is serious

Last week I got wet playing Golf in Scotland. It’s the only ‘other’ sport I play. My first choice is the game they regard as chess with a ball. Squash.

I have played for many years – and became an England Squash qualified Coach back in 2001. These days my knees are likely to shorten my career! It’s a hard game on the joints.

There was a travesty when Squash was not chosen as an Olympic sport either this year or for 2016. The problem is that it’s not a great spectator sport – although the introduction of glass walled courts have changed that. You really have to have played to appreciate good play.

The British Open is currently being hosted at the O2 in London. It’s the Wimbledon of Squash – and we currently have the world number one and two – James Willstrop and Nick Matthew. I have seen both of them play at Nottingham’s Squash Club. There aren’t many sports Where you get to see the World number one or two play? Sadly the sport has been declining in numbers for many years – which is a great pity.

We have to encourage kids to play.

And one such ‘kid’ was my youngest son Jak. He played from the age of six and then had a gap after picking up a number of injuries. But starting back a couple of years ago, his game has come on – to the extent that he won the Club Championships – Group C at the weekend. The final was hard fought, but he shone through. Apologies about the quality of the image! But you get the picture – Jak’s on the left.

I think his coach during the game is still awaiting the champagne…

Well done Jak!

Ugly Buildings?

At the weekend the Telegraph were running a picture story – trying to get votes for the ugliest buildings in the world. It was a pretty woeful collection.It can be found here.

This one is my ‘favourite’ by a long way – it’s the Longaberger Basket Company building in Newark, Ohio. Unbelievably it is a real building and was opened in 1997. It has seven storeys and accommodates 180,000 sq ft of offices. It was inspired by what they make apparently?

It’s difficult to follow the thought process of the Architect here. Maybe he had a brush too far with his ‘literal’ class that day? It is certainly quite appalling. What were they thinking? The only thing that could have improved it would have been a gingham roof?

There are some others too – well worth scrolling through. I think the inclusion of ArcelorMittal Orbit tower is a bit harsh…

This got me thinking about Nottingham’s ugliest building. There are some contenders, but my favourite (least favourite I mean) is the Players Horizon factory. Built in 1972 when Architects had a concrete-fetish (some still do) it really is the ugliest building I know in Nottingham. It was built as Players moved out of the assortment of buildings they owned in Radford. It makes 120 million cigarettes a day. And that is the extent of the ‘wow’ factor. It is perhaps the most depressing of styles, the concrete is a sea of grey other ‘features’ are brown.

It was designed by Arup – who do some stunning buildings and structures now, but I don’t recall seeing this one on their brochures. Their web site makes the merest hint of their involvement!

Any takers on other ugly buildings? The Playhouse? The Evening Post Building? The Eastcroft Incinerator? Marco Island?

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged ArcelorMittal Orbit Tower, Daily Telegraph, Longaberger Basket Company, , , Players Horizon Factory, refendum, ugly, Ugly buildings, Vote

2011 – a miserable year for property…

I guess we knew what the headlines were going to be – and they haven’t disappointed…even if they are disappointing!

One trillion pounds - piled up next to an arctic....

In the commercial market in 2011 the value of UK commercial property investment transactions in Q4 2011 was £8.69 billion, down 25% on the same period for 2010. We were hit hard by the lack of liquidity in the market and by the Euro-Crisis.

UK house sales fell last year to 869,000, one of the lowest totals on record, HM Revenue & Customs has said. House price growth was just 1% – which in the circumstances was probably fairly good!

This seems to have been a long depression – the back end of 2008 was when we saw the writing on the wall – that is nearly 3.5 years ago. I don’t think we ever anticipated the market to flat-line for so long.

This week the UK reached £1tn (£1,000,000,000,000) in debt. To understand what one trillion looks like – go and have a look at your doormat – 1 Trillion of them would cover the whole of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Alternatively if you had spent £1m every day since Jesus was born, you would still have some change!

The really worrying thing is that there is little sign of a change in the short term. However, in the medium term I am involved in a number of major projects which could come to fruition in 2013-15. They have a long lead in, but I take some comfort in the fact that people are considering them. Of course this Parliament must be dissolved by May 2015, it is unlikely that the current incumbents will want to go to the Country with the current state of play.

Further I suspect that there will be some monies available starting next year. We will have the Olympics out of the way – I doubt we will ever know how much that has cost us. The budget of £9.3bn is apparently robust, money we can ill afford in the current economic climate!

Perhaps it is better in the middle distance than we think? I hope so!

The great place debate…

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I had been invited to an event in London which was all about placemaking. My good friends at Thinking Place are the only people in the country who specialise in this area. They effectively help communities develop an identity.

This has the potential to be a great place....

Last night the event was at the amazing new St Martins College building near Kings Cross (I think it’s where Jarvis Cocker ‘caught her eye’?). It was an impressive backdrop – and a building that itself is trying to define an area – find a sense of place.

I am no expert on what Thinking Place do – so I hope they don’t mind me trying to distill some of the messages. The evening was prefaced by a statement that in our austere times we have little resources, but that we are going to have to be more resourceful. We should see the lack of piles of cash as a challenge to our ingenuity.

Places are where people want to be or want to go. But in order to create a sense of place we have to have some ideas about what the place means. We have to have a purpose. Those driving the agenda should have a passion about a place. This is perhaps easier said than done?

There were two things that ‘caught my eye’. firstly, the word that has become conjoined to the Olympics – ‘legacy’. It’s over-used and I’m not sure what it means really. I’m not sure that the Olympics will leave a legacy – but that is perhaps another blog! A point was made about the dysfunction of the development process. The developers are in it for a short term gain – legacy over 20 years is not really that important to the rate of return!

But the second was that it is actually property development that is the catalyst for place. Especially if we want to change a place. Development is the thing that can make the change. Which does put property back at the forefront of the debate…

A fascinating evening and food for thought!

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business, Nottingham Tagged Jarvis Cocker, legacy, , placemaking, Places, Pulp, St Martins College, Thinking Place