Monday, July 19, 2021


 Dear Sports Fanatics (that excludes my wife of course),

Alan Witherden

          Here’s what competitors and even judges have to go through to pass the Tokyo test for an Olympics that is like no other, as given to me by South Africa’s permanent Games canoe judge Alan Witherden.

          He hasn’t exactly been doing this at every Olympics but he would have been if he had been born earlier. He adjudicated this sport at Athens, not at the first modern games in 1896, but in 2004; at Beijing (2008); Rio (2016) and now at Tokyo if this one takes place. Alan surely deserves a long service medal.

          Although he has been a judge since 1997 until now at every annual Canoeing World Sprint Championship that is held (not in Olympic years) in various countries around the world, mainly in Europe, he was not considered for the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Lack of experience ruled him out. How ridiculous can you get?

          He also didn’t do it at the London Olympics in 2012 because he was managing Brigitte Hartley, the winner of the bronze medal for South Africa.

Alan looking his usual smart self at the Beijing Olympics

         As an international business consultant I don’t know how 72 year old Alan has found time to do any proper work because his life has certainly been international alright, but it’s been one canoeing holiday after another. Here’s a run down of his paddling life. I’m sure a lot of you would have loved to have been in the same boat.

  • Founder and Honorary Life member, Dabulamanzi Canoe Club, Emmarentia Dam, Johannesburg.   
  • Secretary, Transvaal Canoe Union. 
  • Chairman, Peninsula Canoe Club, Sandvlei, Muizenberg, Cape Town.
  • Secretary, Western Province Canoe Union.·     
  • Chairman, Transvaal Canoe Union.·     
  • Executive Member, Canoeing South Africa.·      
  • Canoe Representative, South African Sports and Olympic Committee.·    
  • Chairman, Canoe South Africa Sprint Committee (the Olympic discipline).·      
  • Manager, CSA Sprint Canoeing Teams to Spain, Italy, Hungary.
  • Honorary Life Member, Gauteng Canoe Union.
  • Honorary Life Member, Canoeing South Africa.
Brigitte Hartley

       This is what Alan sent me about what is expected of him at this very, very unusual Games:

“The reason being advanced for opposition to the games is the threat posed by the Covid 19 epidemic that will spread the infection exponentially due the influx of thousands of athletes, support staff, officials, TV crews, journalists and many others from all over the world.  Is this a valid concern?  Is there a risk? The answer is a definite NO!  The reason is that in true Japanese style, the measures to prevent infected incomers from entering Japan are detailed and surely bullet-proof.  The publication of a 69 page Olympic Playbook that describes the requirements to be met before entering Japan and conduct once part of the Olympic process in Japan is evidence of the concern to conduct a Covid-free Games.  The measures include:

·      All entrants to Japan must be fully vaccinated. Fourteen days before departure, one has to enter a daily health report (temperature, fever etc) onto a Tokyo Olympic Committee – arranged mobile ‘phone App. 96 hrs and 72 hrs before departure, two negative Covid tests by a TOC approved testing centre.

·      Covid Test upon arrival at the airport in Japan. If positive, ushered into isolation. Note: The SA Sevens team was sent into 10-day isolation on Wednesday 14 July because a passenger on their incoming flight tested positive.

·      Proof of a contact-tracing App on one’s smart phone upon arrival. Should one test positive or come into contact with an affected person during the games, immediate isolation will result. Proof of the health-status App with a preceding 14-day report is required on one’s phone. There will also be a daily Covid test.

·      While at the Games mask wearing, social distancing etc are required. Note: My co-officials and I will each have our own hotel room during our stay where we will live when not on duty. Meals will be delivered to us there and no socializing will be allowed. If we want anything else we have to ask the hotel staff and they will bring it to us in our room."

Alan with his Catamaran driver Hiryoypki Izumi at the Games Preparation
Competition Tokyo, Sept. 2019 

For once Alan will not be having his usual holiday being confined to his room when not on the water. Sight seeing will be out, but as canoeing has already taken him to most parts of the world it shouldn’t be much of a hardship. Many athletes and their support staff have already arrived in Tokyo and he will be flying out on Friday 30 July.

Regards, Jon

P.S. Apart from canoeing Alan’s other claim to fame is that he is married to our daughter Sally and we always thought he had a steady job.

   P.P.S. Here’s hoping that Alan and all the athletes and officials will have a Covid free Olympics so that we can all see the usual spectacular performances on television siting at home in isolation so we don't interrupt anything.










Friday, July 16, 2021


 Dear Readers and Bishops' Old Boys,

Richard Brasher

          Richard Brasher, who has just retired from Pick n Pay after eight years as CEO of this 1945 store grocery chain never ceased to amaze me.

          He doesn’t know me from Adam, yet when I sent him an email to his personal email address on a Saturday this year at 02.07 pm he replied less than half an hour later at 02.30.

          I asked him to pass on the following email to Raymond Ackerman as I did not have an email address for him. It went like this:

Dear Raymond,

Congratulations on your 90th. I presume you are going for your century. Thanks again for the attached. It brought back good memories of somebody like you who could fit my little triumph into your busy schedule. Well done for making your 100th – in anticipation.

Raymond Ackerman & his wife Wendy

Yvonne Cummins, who I assume is his PA, replied: “Mr Ackerman sends his sincere thanks for the birthday wishes sent to him via Richard Brasher. He really appreciates you thinking of him and he had a very special 90th


           The attached I referred to was this letter (those were the days when the postal service worked) he sent me in 1974 congratulating me on being the runner up in the Stellenbosch Farmers' Wineries' National Award for Enterprising Journalism for my series in the Business Section of the Sunday Times about crooked business. "This was a first-class effort and I think you can deserve all the congratulations you can get for your forthright reporting," Raymond wrote.

          I would never have thought that he would have been following my career like this. Alright we did go to school together at Bishops in Cape Town where we were borders in School House, but he was three years ahead of me. And that’s a life time at school. I can only assume he read about it in the paper.

          In 2017 in my role as a Consumer Watchdog on my blog I was trying to get a promised refund of R320.50 for our daughter Mandy from Aramex Couriers that has drop boxes in Pick n Pay branches, but all I got was the same run around as she was given. In desperation I sent an email to Richard asking him if he could get somebody to sort this out. The following day on the 25th working day after Mandy had been promised payment within 7-14 days I got the proof from Aramex that she had been paid.

          I then asked Richard: “Was this your magic? Just after my email to you R320.50 was paid into our daughter’s account. Thanks a lot.”

          He replied: “We are always happy to help.”

          My email to him was sent at 07.30 am and he replied at 09.39 from his iPhone the same day. How’s that for top notch service.

          After buying four stores in Cape Town trading as Pick n Pay in 1966 Raymond built them into one of Africa’s largest supermarket chains. He was Chairman until 2010 when he stepped down in favour of his son Gareth.

          I evidently didn’t pay as much attention as Raymond when I was at Bishops or I just didn't have what it takes upstairs.  

           My career was as a journalist on various papers including the Sunday Times where I did investigations and also wrote a hard hitting weekly column Business is Business for two years. My newspaper days ended when I became a self employed private eye specialising in life insurance.

          At a function at my old school to mark the 60th anniversary of my year a former master who was organising it said to me: “I couldn’t find anything about your matric.” He had evidently researched the school records of those who attended.

          On another occasion my wife and I went to a lunch for Old Boys like me at the school and on the wall inside the building where the function took place there was a list of Bishop’s Rhodes Scholars. I had a job finding it and at one stage I said to my wife "Was my Dad making this up?"

But sure enough there it was: the 1921 Bishop's Rhodes Scholar - Cecil Willoughby Abbott, who went up to Oxford I think.

It must have been rather embarrassing for him having his first born at this very expensive school where he had done so brilliantly plug his matric. Putting the shot and throwing the javelin to provincial standards was no compensation. This might explain why I never became a millionaire like Raymond.

Regards to you all and here’s hoping you can keep Virus free,