The track and field events get underway in London today, and Dai Greene, the Llanelli hurdler, has a good chance of picking up a medal. Fingers crossed that all his training and dedication pay off.
Whatever happens, we can be sure that Dai's every move will be covered in depth by the BBC, BBC Wales, Llanelli Star, Carmarthen Journal, Western Mail and all the rest. That is their job, after all.
Most people would think that councils mend the roads, run schools, collect the rubbish and provide social services. A little boring, perhaps, but these are vital services for all of us. And it's what we pay our council tax for.
Carmarthenshire County Council takes a different view. It would rather not do all of the mundane things councils are expected to do, and is busy cutting and outsourcing some of its traditional services so that it can concentrate on more interesting and innovative activities, such as public relations.
Last year it spent over £630,000 on its press office and "direct communications", including its own newspaper, Carmarthenshire News (now including a fun page for the kiddies). It is also the only council in Wales, and possibly in the UK, to have its own PR agency, SirGarPR.
In the run-up to the track and field events, the press office in County Hall has been busy with a string of Dai Greene stories. Beginning weeks ago, these have included guff about a council-run competition at the Elli shopping centre and Llanelli Market, where council officers have been hiding a cardboard cutout of the athlete and encouraging shoppers to find it:
Spot Dai Greene - join the fun and help find him!
Jump up and down for Dai Greene
Find Dai Greene - join the fun and help find him!
Five-a-Dai-Greene - join the fun and help find him!
As excitement mounts, the council is now running stories including,
Dai Greene's Village Pub Hot-Spot on Race Finals Night
The landlord has arranged a Dai Greene buffet, we are told, and the great man's Mum and Dad are regulars.
Last year the council's ministry of spin won an award at one of those incestuous industry-insider events for its PR. You have to wonder what the competition was like when you read the stuff County Hall is churning out. Here is a selection of award winning clichés, and punctuation and spelling mistakes taken from that story:
Pubs are hostelries. The landlord and landlady are mine hosts. Radio Five is homing in on the pub for a live broadcast that will be filled with Dai Greens (sic) fans in an outbreak of Dai Greene fever.
The landlady is quoted at some length (the dodgy punctuation was not hers):
It is strange how we are all feeling the tension and yet from what we
see of Dai he is as cool as a cucumber. It’s fingers, toes and
everything else crossed Dai wins an Olympic gold to eclipse everything
else he has achieved, European, World gold medallist and not forgetting
Carmarthenshire Sportsman of the year three years on the trot.
Perhaps she really did say all of that, including the final reference to the council's own award ceremonies that most people have never heard of. Or perhaps it was another of those lapses where the press office attributes words spoken by Person A (in this case a press officer perhaps) to Person B. Caebrwyn has spotted a few of these gems.
For all those who were not aware that the council runs its own annual award ceremonies, the press office followed up the pub story two days later on 2 August:
Allison off to roar support for Dai Greene
Who is Allison? Allison, it turns out, is County Personality Awards Organiser, and she has been very lucky indeed to obtain a ticket for the final in London. Let's hope she paid for the ticket herself.
Although Dai has won the council's award for Sports Personality of the Year in three successive years, the story tells us that his hectic schedule has meant that he has never managed to find time to attend the ceremony.
In other Dai Greene news, the council has also interviewed his parents:
One Day You Will Be Known As Dai Greene's Dad
We can look forward to lots more like this over the next week.
Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, the council has issued another story to celebrate the fact that parents, governors and children objecting to the closure of Ysgol Pantycelyn in Llandovery lost an appeal to secure a judicial review of the council's decision.
Or as the council sees it, "The delay upon the authority’s secondary education transformation
proposals in the Dinefwr area of Carmarthenshire, due to the bringing
forward of the claim for Judicial Review, has caused particular distress
to parents, pupils, governors, staff and other stakeholders as a result
of the uncertainty it has caused."
Strangely, the press office did not find time to report on the distress felt by parents, governors, pupils, etc. in Newcastle Emlyn when they read Estyn's highly critical report on Ysgol Gyfun Emlyn a few weeks ago, although it did run a story headlined Education in Carmarthenshire is Good.
Which just goes to show why that PR award was so richly deserved.