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A matter of taste

With the moment of truth nearly upon us, the great danger of the London Olympics is not, I think, that they’ll be a failure, just an anticlimax. They won’t be disastrous, just a bit naff. Brits will win medals. The Tube will probably cope. But from the smallest things upwards, the London Games give the

Africa’s Afghanistan

For centuries, the people of Timbuktu have sought guidance from their Sufi saints. They took pride in the mausoleums of these medieval Muslim holy men, who spread their faith around the world from a city built on the profits of gold, salt and slaves. When I visited six years ago, a teenager showed me around,

A good run

I have just finished running — with a thousand like-minded souls from around the world — down a half-mile of medieval city streets while being pursued by a half-dozen half-ton wild Spanish fighting bulls. They were accompanied by an equal number of three-quarter-ton galloping oxen, but we didn’t worry about them: they know the course

America’s third way

For Americans who can’t stand Barack Obama but don’t want to vote for Mitt Romney, November’s presidential elections look bleak. There are other candidates, however, none more obvious than Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico and the Libertarian party nominee. A greying triathlete who once climbed Mount Everest, he may not have a

What Federer isn’t

This summer, like so many others in the past decade, belongs to Roger Federer. By reclaiming the men’s singles title at Wimbledon, after giving Andy Murray a set start, the peerless Swiss revealed what true greatness looks like in sporting togs. Seven times a Wimbledon champion, 17 times a winner of Grand Slam events: his

Friedman’s century

Milton Friedman would have been 100 later this month. As well as being one of the great economists, if not the greatest economist, of the 20th century, he was also what the Americans call a public intellectual. He was a regular on PBS, the American equivalent of the BBC, writing and presenting Free To Choose, a ten-part series

Censorship Olympics

The guards would not let me walk round the Olympic park. ‘We’re in lockdown because of a security alert,’ one explained. The rain fell. The overbearing policing intimidated. ‘London is going to host the Paralympics and the paramilitary Olympics,’ I muttered with unpatriotic grumpiness, as I retreated to the bright lights and piped music of