The Rio games: why so green?

Were Rio's green pools all part of an elaborate marketing ploy?


Not the spins, but perhaps the marketing

Having your own swimming pool can be a pain in the neck. You end up paying a small fortune in heating and chemicals, they require constant cleaning and care, and the British climate means that they can only be used for a fortnight each year. Still, you would have thought that the organisers of an Olympic event would have made sure they were kept in a reasonable condition.

Last week, one and then both the pools in Rio suddenly turned a bright shade of green, leaving me and other viewers to wonder if we were seeing things, or whether there was something wrong with our televisions.

There's been lots of speculation on Twitter about the reasons for this, says The Guardian's Elle Hunt. Theories ranged from the breakdown of the filtration system, to excessively perspiring athletes, to a misapplied chemical treatment that allowed algae to bloom in the hot Rio sun. But I prefer another theory: it was all part of a marketing scheme to redesign the pool to fit in with the colours of the Brazilian flag. Having dealt with branding consultants myself in the past, I can easily imagine some "guru" suggesting such a barmy idea, and charging a huge sum of money for it.

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The roo revolt

I find many of the products and services that the "sharing economy" offers appealing. Thanks to Uber, no longer do I have to put up with the ridiculous prices charged by black cabs, or throw myself on the mercy of some cowboy minicab firm. Likewise, holiday-rental site AirBnB offers an appealing alternative to those tiny-but-expensive hotel rooms. But there are a few things that I'm not so keen on.

It's not just the silly names like Task Rabbit and Vrumi but also the general impression that these firms think they are above the rules that apply to everybody else. Take the controversy over delivery service Deliveroo, which insisted it didn't have to pay its couriers ("roos") the minimum wage because they were independent contractors, not employees. The roos went on strike to protest against changes to their contracts.

The government has told the firm this is not acceptable and, rattled by the bad publicity, Deliveroo seems to be trying to patch things up. "I am very sorry that things have gotten to this point. Our riders are the lifeblood of our company, without them we have nothing," Deliveroo's founder William Shu told the BBC's Today programme.

But the whole row makes it clear that what's good for those of us who are using these services lower prices, more flexibility isn't necessarily so good for those doing the work, as Harry Wallop found when he tried a stint at "the coalface of the sharing economy". A fortnight of delivering parcels, renting out a sitting room and cooking a meal for strangers, earned him the equivalent of £10,000 a year, he writes in The Sunday Times. That's less than a nine-to-five job at the minimum wage.

"It's brilliant that companies have worked out how to monetise this generation's quest for authentic experiences," he writes. It's "just a shame that such a large chunk of the profits appear to be going to the platforms, rather than the people using the services".

Tabloid money Why £9bn won't make your life "fulfilling, worthwhile or happy"


Call me nuts, but I actually quite pity the new Duke of Westminster, says Carole Malone in the Sunday Mirror. Yes, he may be only 25 and have just inherited his father's £9bn estate. But he's "also inherited the full weight of responsibility that goes with it". And who wants that on their shoulders?

Like most blokes his age, he would have "dated a string of totally unsuitable women, partied with his mates, done stupid stuff. But not now." He'll be expected to behave in a certain way. The eyes of the world will be on him 24/7, watching to see if "he's going to get drunk, take drugs or bed the wrong women". It's a lesson to the rest of us. The young duke has got what most people can only dream of. But don't think for a minute his life is going to be fulfilling, worthwhile or happy. "Quite the opposite."

Sharon Osbourne has no time for the youthful judges of talent TV show, The X-Factor. Osbourne, 63, who has just signed up for another year on the show in a deal reportedly worth £2m, has decades of experience as a manager in the music business unlike her fellow panellists from last year, singer Rita Ora (pictured), 25, and Radio 1 DJ Nick Grimshaw, 31.

The contestants on the receiving end of their advice are "going to be like: Who are you? Are you going to be here in five years?' They haven't passed the test of time yet", Osbourne told The Sun on Sunday's Laura Armstrong. "They just want the fame, the quick rise, the money, the attention and those people don't last. They really don't."

The Queen is after a new gardener for Windsor Castle. She's paying £17,000 a year and you get your accommodation on top. But the real bonus, according to the job ad, is "admiring your lawn before millions do the same". The happy applicant will "maintain the shrub, herbaceous and rose borders, monitor the heath of plants and nurture young trees and shrubs". Note how the ad says "nothing of talking to plants", says the Daily Mail's Sebastian Shakespeare. "Only Prince Charles does that."