25 MARCH 2006, Page 47

Perfect peace



The end of another perfect season where skiing is concerned. Wonderful powder snow, beautiful sunshine, plunging temperatures at night and empty slopes once the glitzy types went back to whatever holes they came from. On my son’s last day here, he and I skied recklessly fast together (I couldn’t keep up) and late in the afternoon we were the last two on the mountain. It was so perfect, so beautiful and still, I almost blubbed. I was sad that he was leaving and sad that the next time I see snow I will be 70. (Well, perhaps not. If I go to Japan next month for a farewell karate session with the masters, there is always Mount Fuji.) The Palace hotel and the Eagle club closed on the same day, last Sunday. While climbing to the club in order to give the Taki Cup trophies, I thought the end had finally come. Some of you oldies might know the symptoms. The left hand feeling a bit numb, the breath coming in faster than usual, the throat dry and the vision bleary. Actually, I made it to the top and it all turned out to be a hangover, but still. In no time everything was hunky-dory, however.

As it turned out, it was the last perfect day. Once the club closed, so did the weather, and I’m packing for London as I write this. One of the good things that the Taki Cup offers is that I am given the microphone by the president and I get to harangue the packed terrace for a while. This year it was back to Marc Rich and the fact that he was brought to the club by some Spaniard. And it wasn’t only yours truly who protested. Rich may be able to get the president of the United States to give him a pardon, he may get the Swiss to grant him residency, but — as I said in my brief speech — even if he brings Ashley Judd to my bed, he ain’t gonna become a Gstaad regular without a fight from the poor little Greek boy.

But enough of such low life. This, after all, is supposed to be high life. Mind you, writing about low-lifers makes for easier scribbling. Take, for example, Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, who has warned fans not to make racist animal noises or else. Under new rules agreed by Fifa, teams may be thrown out of the World Cup this summer if their fans use racist taunts. This is well and good, but Blatter, in my opinion, is a con artist trying to lord it over the millions of idiots who love football and take the game seriously. For starters, how do you stop, say, a Chinaman who has bet a fortune on team A from paying people to shout racist remarks against team A, and getting team B thrown out of the tournament? Let’s face it, multiculturalism trumps free speech, just as sensitivity and equality routinely eclipse the individual’s right to speak out.

Blatter blathers on that anti-racism campaigners have widely welcomed the new rules. They would, wouldn’t they? The trouble is that putting certain groups beyond criticism is bound to increase resentment among those not similarly favoured. I am certain that speech codes limiting free expression work to the contrary. In America, where the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, no one makes racist remarks in sports contests. The fans simply won’t allow it. Sports stars are colourless to the average American, and that is the way it should be.

Europe’s disastrous love of multiculturalism, and its encouragement of immigrants to maintain their own identity and traditions, have brought us to the brink of civil unrest. Just look at France, Holland and Belgium, not to mention Britain. It has mostly been a plan for hands-off separatism and resistance to assimilation. One of the reasons Switzerland works except for its size, of course — is that the central government does not force laws down the local administrations’ throat. Yet I have never heard any xenophobic peasant utter racist remarks at poor African guest workers. Blatter and his ilk should stop bending over backwards when African players bitch about racism. Speech codes don’t work. Good sportsmanship does. Teach them to be sportsmen, Blatter, and while you’re at it, try to become a gent yourself.