How to ensure football is a hit at the 2016 Summer Olympics

Olympics organisers in London have just pulled half a million football tickets from public sale because they’ve only sold about 1 million of the 2 million that were up for grabs (and cunningly, they will curtain off the empty sections of each stadium).

To help the organisers of Rio 2016 avoid the same fate, here’s a two-point plan to ensure their stadiums are filled with fans:

1. Get rid of the age restriction for over-23s

2. Cancel the World Cup


Read more: The Times campaigns for sunshine at the Games

When it comes to pay-offs for humbled bank chiefs, British shareholders get superb value for money

(At least, when compared with their US counterparts)

Fred Goodwin, former RBS chief executive

Forced into early retirement after RBS lost a record £24 billion in 2008

Pay-off: £6.9 million

Bob Diamond, former Barclays chief executive

Ousted last week after Barclays was fined £291 million for its role in the Libor rigging scandal. Gave up £20 million in bonuses

Pay-off: £2 million

Adam Applegarth, former Northern Rock chief executive

Quit Northern Rock months before it was nationalised in 2008

Pay-off: £760,000

Andy Hornby, former HBOS chief executive

Hornby (left) was removed as HBOS was rescued from collapse by its government-backed merger with Lloyds TSB. Turned down £1.6 million severance

Pay-off: £2,970 (statutory redundancy)

GRAND TOTAL: £9.7 million

Meanwhile, across the pond…

Charles “Chuck” Prince, former chairman and chief executive at Citigroup

Stepped down after Citi revealed tens of billions of dollars of sub-prime mortgage losses

Pay-off: $95 million (£45 million)

How would Darwin reform the banks?

Dutch boy’s plan to avert eurogeddon

The man behind the Wolfson Economics Prize is writing for us today about eurogeddon…which gives us the perfect excuse to revisit Jurre Hermans’ entry to the £250,000 competition, challenging entrants to prepare a contingency plan for a break-up of the eurozone.

Hermans, who was 11 at the time, explained:

All Greek people should bring their Euro to the bank. They put it in an exchange machine. The Greek man gets back Greek Drachme from the bank, their old currency. The Bank gives all these euro’s to the Greek Government. All these euros together form a pancake or a pizza. Now the Greek government can start to pay back all their debts, everyone who has a debt gets a slice of the pizza.

Entirely sensible. Although the Greek chap doesn’t look too excited.

Twitter: @jamesdean_lives

Read more: Simon Wolfson - We’ll survive eurogeddon if we are prepared

American Higgs hunters forgo celebrations | James Dean

Spare a thought for the American particle physicists at Fermilab, Batavia. They, like the European scientists at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, have been trying to prove the existence of the Higgs boson.

The Tevatron at Fermilab is, like the LHC, a high-powered atom smasher – but far older. Fermilab was behind the discoveries of the top and bottom quarks (two other subatomic particles) in the 1990s. In June, it released preliminary results that confirmed the presence of the Higgs boson to an accuracy of 95 per cent – not, unfortunately, accurate enough to say they had discovered the “god particle” (today’s LHC results were 99.9999 per cent accurate).

Yesterday, Motherboard asked Robert Roser, head of Fermilab’s collider detector team, what sort of party preparations were being made in Batavia ahead of today’s LHC results.

“None,” replied Roser.

Twitter: @jamesdean_lives

Read more: Professor Peter Higgs celebrates discovery of the ‘God particle’

Pro-smoking lobby embraces social media to help protect the kids | James Dean

This has to be the weirdest social media campaign I’ve ever come across.

“Hands Off Our Packs” is fighting against plain cigarette packaging, a measure being floated by the Department of Health to try and make a killer habit less sexy – especially to kids. It tweets from @NoToPlainPacks, runs a Facebook page here and a YouTube channel here.

The main arguments are “nanny state”; that counterfeiting will become easier; and, conversely, that plain packaging will pose a danger to children.

The campaign does have its champions, particularly the Daily Mail. Blogger Abhijit Pandya recently offered this supportive pearl:

Tax revenue from tobacco over the last year was over £12.1 billion, paying for vital treatment in hospitals

It’s probably worth mentioning that the campaign is supported by British American Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco.

Twitter: @jamesdean_lives

Read more: Burning with indignation, an industry fights back over plans for plain cigarette packets

Public data and how to guilt trip a local council | James Dean

Tom Steinberg, a Director at mySociety, which builds pro-transparency websites, gave an interesting talk at The Times today.

He spoke about, a site that allows people to mark local problems (potholes, graffiti, fly tipping) on a public map – the point being to pressure the council into sorting the problem. The site also sends an e-mail to the council.

Steinberg said that 50 per cent of problems notified are fixed. That sounds like a staggeringly good return, achieved simply by making the complaints process public (and easy). It’s a fine model to build upon (in fact, mySociety is trying to repeat the success with

Initially dependent on charitable funding, mySociety now also makes money repurposing its sites for use abroad – see for example Mzalendo, the Kenyan version of They Work For You. Power to the people, and all that.

Twitter: @jamesdean_lives

Read more: There’s gold to be mined from all our data

Drones are that bit scarier because they’re robots | James Dean

What is it about a drone that makes it more scary than, say, the mean-looking brute that is the Apache helicopter gunship? You could, arguably, do more collateral damage with the latter.

Amid the arguments about the ethics of drone warfare, one thing struck me: perhaps we’re scared of drones because they’re robots. Robots controlled by humans rather than artificially intelligent automatons, but essentially, the piece of kit that is the “drone” contains no brain cells.

Drones shoot Hellfire air-to-ground missiles. So do Apaches. Once the missile is launched, it is guided to its target by the pilot – be they hovering overhead or sat in an office chair in Langley.

Surely, then, if they are given the exact same mission, a successful (unpiloted) drone strike is as ethically (un)sound as a successful (piloted) Apache strike. Isn’t it?

Twitter: @jamesdean_lives

Read more: The limited justifications for remote control warfare, by the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Ken Macdonald

28 hours later…assorted commentary on The Times’s new Opinion page on Tumblr

My quick opinion of the Times Opinion on Tumblr (Martin Belam on currybetdotnet)

Times Opinion Tumblr launches outside paywall (Josh Halliday on

The internet just got better (John Rentoul on The Independent blogs)

Wall comes down (Guido Fawkes)

Times ventures outside the paywall to launch Tumblr blog (Press Gazette)

The Times launches ‘experimental Tumblr page’ for Opinion (Rachel McAthy on

The Times Opinion on Tumblr

So, what are we doing here?



The Times has just launched an experimental Tumblr page for its Opinion section.

What’s Tumblr?

Kind of a mix between a blog platform and a social network.

What’s on this new page?

Read more

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