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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 March, 2004, 16:20 GMT
Heroes and victims

The Magazine Notebook
By Peter Allen
Presenter, Five Live Drive

Monday, two o'clock; Hans Blix the weapons inspector is on Five Live being questioned about the sins of the British and American governments.

It's an interview which we have been requesting for months. Moments after that interview starts, Mickey Adams, the Leicester manager begins a press conference answering for the sins of his footballers (if there are any, which he is sure there are not).

An editor has to choose which of these events to run. For an agonising minute the station continues to feature Mr Blix, then reality breaks through. Off with Mr Blix and on with Mr Adams.

Hans Blix
Blix: No plot
The television monitor shows our manager is well turned out, that scrubbed look of a man who has taken every precaution to show that he at least is a presentable face of football, but he doesn't have much to say. What can he say? But it doesn't matter. He and his footballers are what matter today.

As the station broadcasts his words there are reports from the agencies of another explosion in Baghdad. But it doesn't register on the seismograph of news, that indicator is no longer much moved by the occasional explosion in Baghdad.

This, by the way, is not a criticism. I happen to believe the editor was right to go the press conference. Not all listeners will agree. The editor cut out of Mr Adams to go back to Hans Blix a few minutes later and was probably attacked for that too.

Sometimes there is no such thing as a right answer, only a bad answer and a worse one. By the way, the Blix interview ended prematurely when the line went down. Most listeners thought it was part of a plot. Life is like that sometimes.


It was a week littered with claims of sporting misdemeanours. One jockey was accused of not trying, another of jumping off his horse rather than riding it.

The punters I know who back horses seem curiously untroubled by such reports. It's rather like putting money into a one armed bandit. There is no serious expectation of winning.

Then there is the use of drugs, which seems to have spread as far as Crufts, where there are reports of a doped dog struggling splay legged into the parade ring, a victim of dirty tricks.

Greg Rusedski
Rusedski: True Brit
No such problems for the tennis authorities. They cleared Greg Rusedski of deliberately taking drugs. A texter to Drive alleged double standards.

He suggested that when Rusedski first disclosed that he had tested positive for nandrolone, the station had stressed he was "Canadian born". Now he was in the clear we had forgotten such reservations. Greg was once more one of us; once again a British tennis player.


A week of relief too for those who returned from Guantanamo; held for two years by the Americans and cleared by the British police in 24 hours.

Like Rusedski they seemed for a while to have acquired the role of public villains, and clearly as far as the nation's media were concerted had only a tenuous connection with this country.

By the end of the week they were victims, almost folk heroes to some, and could happily be embraced as British once again by the country's media.


And as I sit writing this on Thursday morning a report which blows away all other talk. At breakfast the reports were of five people dying in an explosion on three trains in central Madrid. The enormity of the event took some hours to confirm.

So far it seems we have been lucky here - long may that luck hold good
The numbers of deaths spiralled so that by lunchtime we were talking of 130 people dying. Blame at first was directed at ETA but as I write comes a denial.

Could it be the work of Al Qaeda. Chances are that by the time we go on air and by the time your read this no one will be quite sure.

Opposite the BBC the trains still clatter by, as Londoners go about their business. The Metropolitan Commissioner has warned often enough that one day our capital will suffer an attack like that in Madrid. So far it seems we have been lucky. Long may that luck hold good.



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