Matthew Syed

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n Berkeley Square in Mayfair is a private members’ club called Annabel’s. The entrance is reached by a green felt carpet, the doorman is dressed in a cashmere wool uniform and inside it feels like how Versailles might have been before the Terror. A £20 million Picasso hangs in the entrance, the terrace boasts a 5ft golden unicorn and the wallpaper looks like silk. A recent refurbishment cost £100 million.

It may sound wonderful, or ghastly, depending on your perspective. But I wonder if it may also serve as a metaphor for these strange times.

For there are two big economic trends.…  Seguir leyendo »

My first trip to India, the land of my father’s birth, was in 1986. I was 15 and wide-eyed, marvelling at its treasures, buildings and buzz. On the fourth day, I travelled from Delhi to the Taj Mahal, a shining tribute to the Mogul empire, built under Shah Jahan. “Let the splendour of diamond, pearl and ruby vanish,” wrote the poet Rabindranath Tagore. “Only let this one teardrop, this Taj Mahal, glisten spotlessly bright on the cheek of time, for ever and ever.”

Two things struck me about this trip, in addition to the wonderful architecture and people. The first was the economic might of India in its imperial heyday.…  Seguir leyendo »

It is worth keeping this illusion in mind, I think, when considering the activities of Russia and, for that matter, China.

On the surface, these nations seem engaged in conventional subterfuge and foreign influence. The Russian activity investigated by the intelligence select committee, for instance, was partly about electoral manipulation, influencing democratic votes to tilt policy in its favour. Or take China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI), an attempt to build large projects in foreign nations, thus deepening the soft power of the Chinese Communist Party (CPC).

Look at the picture a little longer, however, and it starts to morph. It is not that the analysis of the select committee is flawed, or its facts wrong.…  Seguir leyendo »

The body of Nodar Kumaritashvili, the Georgian competitor in the luge killed at the Vancouver Winter Olympics on Friday, will arrive back in the icy hills of Bakuriani today.

The coffin will be met by his grieving father David, who yesterday spoke of his sense of loss and incomprehension. “He feared that curve,” he said, holding aloft a photo of his dead son. “I told him, ‘You just take a slower start.’ But he said: ‘Dad, what kind of thing you are teaching me? I have come to the Olympics to try to win’.”

The perilously thin line between extinction and glory is, of course, integral to the curious appeal of what are known as “extreme sports”.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Olympic Games are built on a series of fictions, but one myth towers above all others. It is that the four-yearly festival is a bastion of meritocracy, where success is determined by hard work and talent rather than privilege. This is central to the Games's global appeal and is particularly powerful because it chimes with common sense. Is not sport about the objective measurement of ability, leaving little room for entrenched privilege? Has not the Olympics been the traditional arena for the underdog?

Well, no.

Look beyond the propaganda and you will find that 58 per cent of Great Britain's gold-medal winners at Athens in 2004 went to independent schools.…  Seguir leyendo »

The security services can expect a full mailbag from S&M enthusiasts volunteering to be the victims of their next sting operation. This follows Sunday's extraordinary revelations that an MI5 officer's wife was one of the prostitutes involved in the infamous sado-masochistic orgy with Max Mosley, the beleaguered head of Formula One's governing body - and subsequent speculation (quickly denied) that the News of the World exposé had the official backing of the security services.

Despite the growing scale of innuendo and conspiracy theory that has materialised in cyberspace, many of us will feel inclined to believe the protestations of innocence emanating from MI5.…  Seguir leyendo »

Not satisfied with its divine undertaking to convert the world to its own version of Christianity, the Vatican has embarked on a new crusade. Through the Italian Conference of Bishops, it has bought a stake in AC Ancona, a third division Italian club, with the objective of injecting some “overdue” morality into football.

“We want to bring some ethics back into the game, which has been undergoing a grave crisis in terms of sportsmanship,” Edoardo Menichelli, the Archbishop of Ancona, said. It is understood that bishops are drawing up an ethical code specifically related to the beautiful (soon to be called beatific) game.…  Seguir leyendo »

The men’s 100m at the World Athletics Championships in Japan this month will be won by a black athlete. This is not so much a prediction as a statement of fact. Every winner of the 100m at the championships since the inaugural event in 1983 has been black, as has every finalist from the last eight championships. No white athlete has reached the final of the Olympic Games for more than a quarter of a century. Of the 53 athletes to have ducked under ten seconds, all are black.

There is a natural conclusion to be drawn from all this: blacks have an inbuilt superiority over whites when it comes to sprinting.…  Seguir leyendo »